Distractions

dis·trac·tion

dəˈstrakSH(ə)n/noun

  1. 1.  a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. “the company found passenger travel a distraction from the main business of moving freight.”

synonyms: diversion, interruption, disturbance, interference, hindrance   “a distraction from the real issues.”

  1. 2. extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.  “he knew she was nervous by her uncharacteristic air of distraction”

synonyms: frenzy, hysteria, mental distress, madness, insanity, mania

 

Distractions can come in many shapes and sizes.  Sometimes they aren’t all that pleasant – “what’s going on with my health?”  “what’s going on with my job?” “what’s going on with my money?”

Sometimes they are warm and fuzzy and very cute.

Exhibit A – Meet Mr. Masha Miguel de Cervantes Horvath (known informally as “Mickey”).

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Mickey is an incredibly delightful, wonderful, awesome, fluffball of a cat.  I am so glad that he came into my life, and into my home.  It’s not his fault that I turned him into a distraction of epic proportions, a distraction creating inertia that lasted for almost the entire month of September.  No, this had nothing at all to do with him, and everything, as it turns out, to do with me and my fears.

As I entered into the month of September, I realized that, since the first drafts were finished for both my next novel and my novella, I needed to move forward get working on the second drafts.  And I choked.  Honestly, I always choke going from the first draft to the second draft.  I’m always SURE I won’t be able to straighten out the book and come up with something even remotely decent.  I look at the mess I’ve created, and I don’t have the slightest clue what to do about it.   This time, the feeling was worse than normal, augmented by a MASSIVE amount of insecurity about the books already published.

Enter Mickey.  He’d been dumped, starving, at the house of a woman I know.  She couldn’t keep him, and I’d been thinking about bringing in a third cat, so she told me about him needing a home.

I’d like to tell you that I made the calm, rational decision to adopt this sweet little guy, and then concentrated on breaking through my anxiety and mental roadblocks and moving forward with my work.

I’d like to tell you I was a professional.

I’d like to tell you that I did not descend into madness.

But I can’t.

No, I didn’t focus on the real reasons for all of my anxiety and insecurity and doubt and fear.

I focused on Mickey.

First I had to stress about whether or not I was doing the right thing.  My other two cats are at opposite ends of the spectrum – Eddie is definitely Alpha.  Tasha is definitely Omega.  Where would Mickey fit in?  Could he fit in?  I take my responsibilities as a pet owner very seriously.  Would bringing him in be fair to all of them?

Then, once I’d visited Mickey, realized he had exactly the right personality for my house, and decided to take him, I had to stress about whether I’d made the right decision.  Had I done the right thing?  Had I made a huge mistake?  What if I brought him home and Eddie was aggressive to him?  How should I introduce them?  How could I make sure he didn’t get hurt?  How should I set up my house?  There was a delay in me getting him, so I had to stress about when to bring him home.  What day would be best?  Should I take him to the vet first?  Would he let me handle him since he hardly knew me?

When he was finally with me, I had to stress about introductions and how to ease the transition with the other two cats.  I put him in a little spare room I have, and sat with him, playing with him, stressing about whether or not he was lonely, and about Eddie, and how he seemed to be afraid, and what would happen when the two met face to face?

Do you know what happened?

Eddie hissed at Mickey a little bit and chased him once or twice.

It got better the next day.

And better still the next.

And now they’re on the way to becoming good friends.  Mickey is part of my household, and I can’t imagine life without him.

And it’s October.

And Betsy blinks open her eyes, looks around and says, “What’s going on?  What did I do in September?”

And the answer is – not much.

I stressed.

Because I stressed, I fell back into my habitual patterns for dealing with it – I ate inappropriately for my diabetic condition, and I did not sleep.

Because I ate inappropriately and I did not sleep, the stress increased.

Rinse and repeat.

I focused on Mickey, obsessed about him. I stressed, and I ate, and I did not sleep, and I did not write.  Even more importantly, I did not work on the real problem.

Because the real problem, the problem I was trying to avoid with all of this stressing and eating and not sleeping, was the fact that my first drafts were finished, and I was terrified to move forward with them.  Even when I told myself that I was working on my writing, what I was doing was more in line with dealing with insecurity about the books already finished, rather than moving to finish the ones I’m currently working on.

So, what’s the point of me sharing all of this?  Other than exposing my neurosis, what’s the purpose of this exploration into Betsy’s psyche?

It’s only to say that distractions come in all shapes and sizes and degrees of awfulness or wonderfulness.  They can crop up when you least expect them, out of a perfectly sunny sky.   Anything, really, can become a distraction – from a sweet and wonderful little cat, to the horrible presidential election, to the newest Netflix TV show.   We create these distractions, and we focus on them so we don’t have to focus on something else that might be more difficult and more important.

Yes, I had to decide what I wanted to do about Mickey.  Yes, I had to make sure I felt like I was making the right decision.  Yes, I had to deal with that situation, and I’m so glad that I made the decision I did.  Mickey IS extremely important.  But I did not need to spend the entire month of September stressing about him.  The impotent, unproductive stress WAS the distraction.  I focused on that instead of moving forward, taking the next step, pushing through my fear and the barriers set up by the part of my mind that says I CAN’T.

It happens so often, at so many points in our lives.   We’re sailing in our little boats, and then a current comes and knocks us off course.  If we don’t notice what’s going on, we can sail around in circles.

The trick, I guess, is to see it, and steer back into the stream again.

I’m going to go hug Mickey, and Eddie, and Tasha.  And then I’m getting back to work.

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Comments

  1. Oh, yes. I *get* this. Just, yes.
    But? Hooray for the new family member!!!!
    I’d focus on him, too. 110%!
    In fact, feel free to e-mail me all about him. Maybe I will focus on him and avoid the stuff I’m stressing about to avoid the important things! Oh, wait …

    • Betsy Horvath says:

      @KC: He is just so incredibly sweet…but he is a distraction! Especially since the other cats aren’t exactly sure they think he’s as sweet as I do! LOL

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