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February 2014
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Applying Changed Focus in My Life

This changing focus thing is hard. I started the day feeling happy and ready to continue being happy while doing the work in front of me. I was going to do what I could and not blame myself for the rest. But then my intentions met my To Do List and The Schedule. The sad truth is that The Schedule got ahead of me while I was sick and while I’m trying to accept and adjust, there is still a large part of my brain which does not want to fall behind. It tells me I should hurry because there are dire consequences for falling behind and for disappointing people who are depending on me. The voices from that portion of my brain are loud and there were several points in my day where they were ready to take over my worldview. Some examples:

Over the weekend Patch when into hardcore avoidance mode over reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a book assigned by his teacher. Eight times I told him to go read. Eight times I found him ten, twenty, sixty minutes later having done anything except read. It isn’t that he dislikes the book, it is because there are some active reading assignments that go along with it. The easiest way to avoid the assignments was to avoid the book. This morning I sat him down and made him read where I could watch him. I then spoke to him about avoidance and how sometimes our brains will try to avoid things without even letting us know what we’re doing. It was a good learning experience for him. I’m not sorry it happened this way. He’s the one who has to deal with the consequences. (His teacher scolded him.) Yet part of my brain kept measuring chapters read against due dates. It wanted to calculate out a schedule and force Patch to stay on it. It was angry with Patch because his failure to follow through on his assignment meant that I had another thing to track, and I have too many things to track (insert moaning wailing sideline about the impossible nature of my to do list). Changing my focus meant letting all of that go. This assignment isn’t about me, my stress, or my list. It needs to be about Patch and his learning. Incidentally, that focus removes stress from me and allows me to experience more happiness.

Link went back to school for a half day today. He felt great afterward and plans to do a full day tomorrow. I’m glad. Even better, Link is smiling and being cheerful in a way that I have not seen for a month. I remember this guy, he’s clever and fun to be around. In the car on the way home from school, Link told me about his plan to do three assignments. He’s taking charge of his life and his work. He did it too… sort of. One assignment proved impossible because the online resource wasn’t available. He needed to ask questions about a different assignment. Naturally I suggested that he do some different assignments, but that wasn’t how he’d pictured the day. This is where I cue the frantic voice. It knows how much work Link needs to make up. It is frustrated with him that he doesn’t use every minute, or at least a large chunk of time and energy, working to catch up as fast as he can. He doesn’t use lists they way that I do, and he resists my attempts to schedule for him. He has so much to do, and I have to keep track of it all (cue wailing moan about the impossible nature of my to do list here). Truth be told, I was struggling with this with Link even before he got sick. Link’s ways are not my ways and I have to back off and let him learn what works and what doesn’t. But that is hard when I have a worst-case-scenario scene generator running on overtime in the back of my head. I have to let this be his challenge, not mine.

This afternoon Howard was working on his last push to complete Marginalia for LOTA. He got to The Keep and called me because he was missing a preliminary sketch he’d done. We both remembered where it should be, but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t in any of the other places either. I activated my full finding-things capabilities. This usually results in finding all the missing items. This time, nothing. I was coming up blank. I was ready to feel bleak about this. It was all my fault. I should be better. I should search harder. I should not have misplaced it. (Though I didn’t. In no way was this my fault, but that voice does not use much logic.) It was so very hard to do a reasonable amount of searching and then say “Sorry. I can’t find it.” Then leave it be. Truth be told, I did a little bit more than reasonable searching before I said it. When I did, Howard shared some frustration with me. WITH me. We were both frustrated together because somehow this one paper was missing. We could be annoyed without having to blame anyone in particular. Howard wasn’t blaming me and, for once, I refrained from blaming myself. And my day was less miserable than it could have been. Howard found a perfectly good solution and the work got done even without the missing sketch.

Paying attention today made me realize the quantities of miserable noise that want to take over my brain all the time. No wonder things have felt so hard for so long. Today was good, but I had to work at letting it be good. Hopefully as I clear away the back log of things, and as I practice, then having good days will come easier and easier.

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