I wonder if you’re reading this when you first intended to. I wonder if, on that laptop that’s only ever asleep but never actually off, this page is one of many open in a 2-day-old Chrome window, packed with tabs belonging to other things you’re definitely interested in but have inexplicably put off. I wonder if, at work and at play, trying to focus or trying to wander, you’re as distracted as I am.
Never before have I been so aware of the energy it takes to focus. That’s become a headache for us all, but lately, I’m realising that distraction is malfunctioning too. I know there are others feeling the same thing: Ideas beginning to form while you daydream, but then fizzling away before you can grab them. Abruptly losing your train of thought mid-sentence, even when you’re just thinking aloud. The fun buzz of brain activity that typically accompanies a shower or a walk has gone quiet, and the silence that isn’t peaceful; it’s just weird.
Maybe our somewhat loosened grasp on time plays a role, though it’s just as likely that fatigue is simply catching up with us, as it might have done around this time of year even if this wasn’t 2020. Whatever the cause, it feels like a glitch in my system. Distraction and focus have played a nail-biting tennis match in my head for as long as I can remember, with curiosity as their indecisive umpire. The downside is obvious (and exhausting), but the upside is that together, they help me notice things. Obsess over a shiny idea, chase it down and hold it up to other people, over and over. Until now.
This distraction seems less the result of something shiny catching one’s attention and more the result of everything losing a little lustre. The fun things that shine like glitter, the important ones that gleam like glass — it’s all dimming. It makes this a strange state to be in: Not focused enough to accomplish something but not satisfyingly distracted either. If it sounds like I am describing a pointless cycle or television static, welcome. Grab a seat if you, too, are not jaded, just confused.
I would be happy to be 100% distracted right now. It would at least be definitive, and it wouldn’t last forever. I would be happier to be focused, efficiently powering through my day and hopefully crashing into a sound sleep at the end. The old status quo is okay too, bouncing back & forth between those two states. The in-between, however, I don’t do. I don’t think anyone does, not well. It has no characteristics; I can’t tell how long it will last, whether it’s here to help me or not, what damage it may leave behind or what lessons it may teach.
I may have finally reached the kind of issue I cannot solve my way around with introspection and conversation and desperate googling. So far that all feels pointless, beyond sharing to confirm that I’m not losing it. I hope the answer is somewhere, even if it’s in the doing, the bit I’m not great at. It may very well be that the only way through is through, that annoying catch-all for everything they forgot to tell us is a part of becoming your own person, problems that don’t have solutions and must simply be experienced in their messy, seemingly senseless glory.
(Image by Michele Bisaillon @michel_e_b)