I’m writing this blog for me more than anyone else. Like many of you recent events in American politics have been all consuming for me over the last couple of months. I obsessively watched cable news and I can’t remember the last time I felt this invested in an election outcome. Even as a Canadian woman, the U.S. election felt very personal and historic. Yes, I was shocked and disappointed by the results.
And it is now time to move on from the intensity and stress created by constant speculation over events that I’m powerless to change. How do I know this? Because I was getting distracted, agitated and demoralized and there is absolutely nothing I can do to alter the election outcome.
Knowing when it’s time to shrink my perspective back to my own life is harder than it sounds. Accepting reality as it is – not the way you wish it were – is usually accompanied by some grief. The drama of it all can also be a powerful distraction from your own daily life. It can be very seductive to stay in the turmoil even though it creates stress.
And aren’t there all sorts of things that go on in our worlds that don’t make sense to us, aren’t fair and that we don’t have the power to stop? The truth is, in the various ways we engage with the world as a parent, partner, family member, friend, professional, worker, leader, citizens of the world, are there not endless invitations to get distracted by situations outside our control?
Distraction can manifest itself though worry, negative fantasizing and fretting taking up free rent in your head. In short, it is being preoccupied by problems you can’t solve, you don’t own and yet can’t stop thinking about. If I get too caught up in any drama or spectacle outside my control there is a danger I get distracted from my own responsibilities and what I do have the power to change.
As I spend precious time preoccupied by other adult’s self-created crises and fretting over their oncoming trains – what warning signs meant for me am I missing that I’d be best to heed? Focusing on what’s not in my control provides a convenient distraction from what I don’t want to feel or face.
This is true whether it’s playing out on the world stage, on cable news, my work world, or in my family or personal life. The symptoms are stress, worry and feeling stuck and drained. It’s a creativity killer and not very productive.
This is why this kind of distraction is dangerous for me. What is within in my jurisdiction can seem pretty small and insignificant and mundane compared to the drama of world crisis and other people’s chaos.
When I’m overly focused on what’s out of my control, what I’m actually responsible for today does seems pretty lame and easy to ignore. In the face of the apocalypse – does it really matter whether I work out today and say no to French fries? Isn’t this also the kind of thinking that keeps people from voting and from showing up all in all the humble ways that make a difference in our communities, workplaces and businesses?
So I need to keep striving to stay awake in the world yet detached enough not to lose sight of what is within my power to affect and then taking action. Daily chores, “left foot, right foot, breathe,” and just doing the next right thing, is what gets me back into the flow of life again. In my experience change is a series of small choices over many ordinary days and requires my full presence and daily participation. I can’t afford to be distracted.