I had one of those tiny physical moments yesterday that explodes into a psychological OH YEAH DUH … that was a moment, literally an otherwise meaningless moment in the shower, of refocusing.
Life is powerfully, powerfully distracting, especially as you slam into full adulthood and all the filters that kept out various influences are removed. This isn't oops-too-much-RSS-browsing distraction; this is full-on fight-or-flight-level hardcore psychological distraction.
- Faced with the insecurities of providing for yourself and others, of economic wibbly-wobbliness and the suddenly finite number of years before retirement, you throw yourself into working and saving money (easily 80h/wk, all told)
- Faced with the heady freedom of being allowed to do anything you can legally get away with, you wind up "trying on" hobby after hobby, filling your free-time and emptying your wallet on lessons, equipment, outings, and materials, all for things you'll probably hardly ever do again;
- Faced with the daunting task of raising a child "correctly", you throw yourself into planning activities, events, and lessons into every possible moment, as well as into cooking and cleaning things into an acceptably perfect childhood environment;
- Faced with the sudden relative lessening importance of social activities (what? I'm old enough to party all I want and now partying doesn't mean much anymore??) as well as, for some people, the sudden ease of actually pulling it off (wait, I used to find this scary? ha!), you grab any opportunity to go to a gathering, eating up your evenings and killing your attempts to wake up early and do stuff;
- Overwhelmed by the 80-hour work weeks, the pile of clamoring social engagements, the kids, the house, the classes and outings, you retreat into television for hours or days at a time, often finding yourself too exhausted to even get dressed if you don't absolutely have to.
…And welcome to adulthood. ;)
When I was young I thought, of course I'll be a writer, writing comes easy to me and I love it. But then…was I going to write instead of working and saving money? Hmm, no. Write instead of parenting? No way. Write instead of going out and doing stuff? Well, that one was easy when I was a bored and scaredy kid, but this weekend I can literally go to three parties and a SolidWorks design class and free-diving in the ocean if I want — all with people I like.
When I found taiji I thought, oh, THIS is the thing; this is the perfect physical component to my philosophic life, the mental components of which are of course reading and writing. I love taiji like I've loved few other things; I often think that if I had nothing else but a life of constant taiji, space to write about it, and some pretty trees to look at, that'd be great.
But when to practice? At home, with the kid bouncing around and things begging to be cleaned? At work, in the five minutes between meetings? Making the time to get to class once a week is epic difficult, though I do it, doggedly, but far too often without having practiced at all in the in-between.
And when to write? I get up around 4:30am, but the writing, it turns out, takes more than just getting up.
More often than not I surf blearily, drinking coffee and trying to gather my thoughts and the day's plans, until it's time to head out for work.
I never wanted to admit that I couldn't do everything, that I was going to have to say no even if something sounded awesome, involved a really cool person, or I'd never done it before. But you just can't have everything all at once; if you want that nice retirement plan and health insurance, it's going to cost you big-time, as is the perfect kids' lesson-plan and the clean house and oh yeah, the novel and the black-belt. There are sacrifices, and some of them really suck. Welcome to adulthood.
But the important thing is to make these decisions as consciously as possible, I think.
So this weekend, that's what I'm doing — I'm refocusing things. I'm putting some recurring plans in place, for writing and practice, that will get absolute priority…even from work, and cleaning, and parenting. (To clarify regarding a common misconception: no, more parenting is not always better; kids need time and activities to themselves too. It's just up to the parents to schedule that so that it gives us time as well — and that's no mean feat.)
This weekend I re-remember what's most important, and I state clearly to myself what I'm willing to bend for (work emergencies? Sudden opportunities?) and what I'm not. This weekend I re-invent my Super Picky Schedule to be super picky about the things I want out of life too, not just the things I feel responsible for.
And there's another element to Refocusing: The Present. By acting intentionally rather than responding to pressures (i.e. all the "faced with"s from the list above), you bring your focus into the moment more. …Make no mistake, this is probably why a lot of people don't do it. Swimming naked in the Now can be a lot less comfortable than a nice ride in a pre-built boat that just goes where the waves push it.
But this is life. It's not about being comfortable. We all get to sleep sooner or later… ;)