Following up on my blogs about getting a balance in my life with all the different sources of distraction, especially related to the election, I’ve had to be more strict in what I let into my mind. With an average of at least 100 emails, 15 phone calls and messages, and the same for regular mail each day over the past two or more weeks, it’s been a real exercise in trash bin disposal. Once I decided to just delete everything without opening it, I reduced the opportunity for distraction significantly. I just wouldn’t let them get their foot in the door. So there.
Except for the occasional one that, well, sort of got into my walled-off sense of guilt about not being a good citizen, an inhabitant of the planet, or whatever could be sucked out of me. So, I would assuage my rising guilt and throw a few dollars at the clamoring crowd to mend the guilt wall and keep my peace of mind. You see, the distractors weren’t just political but also from domesticated animal, wildlife, environmental, human rights, and welfare focused organizations we belong to. I think they all thought that this would be a good time to get on the contribution band-wagon and seek their share.
So, it has been tougher than it might sound to carry out my clear-cut control effort of trashing them all. I suppose if I were never to have given to anyone, ever, then it would have worked completely. But, I have never been that way, and I suppose never will be. Which leaves me with the next level of control—adapting. Well, that’s what it’s all about anyway. We can never control everything we desire and have to make adjustments. OK, I can do that.
Hence, I still do my trashing and will continue to going forward since I think it’s a good idea in general (and have been working up to it over the past year or so anyway). Yet, it’s not just the above sources of distraction that were making me wake up in the middle of the night and not get back to sleep. No, there are more gremlins out there to restrain and keep in their cages.
One of the biggest is stuff I’m writing or reading about—mind stuff that involves thinking, a lot. I get into trying to clarify things or solve them by doing some more reading and also writing, since writing it down forces me to organize the ideas, which is one of the two purposes of language (the other being sharing it: communication). Of course, doing this is a good thing to do—at least I have been educated to believe so—but it does occupy a chunk of your mind’s attention.
One saving grace of our brain’s organizing ability is that it is able to take thoughts and move them off the front burner and onto the back, where our subconscious can continue working on them. Now, that’s a pretty neat trick, I think. Except that the back burner can get too full of thoughts to simmer, and they start to overflow back onto the front, our conscious state of mind. And that’s where the problem shows up in the middle of the night, when your subconscious back burner says, “Hey, I’ve got too much to cook back here,” and shoves it back to the front. And blink, you’re wide awake trying to solve your problems from bed. Not good.
How do you control this situation? Yeah, I’ve been working on that too, and it seems that it comes down to the solution used with emails and so forth—cut ‘em off, though not with a trash can but with time. Actually, that is what I was doing with the trash can because that action controlled amount of time my mind was exposed to those intrusions. So, I started to monitor the time my mind was involved with the reading and writing I was doing, particularly material that was oriented toward ideas that needed solutions.
I allowed myself to indulge in reading and writing, thinking in general, about solution-oriented material early in the day. Mainly anytime before about 5:00 pm worked for me. Then I would shift to taking care of preparing something to eat and other household and personal chores that could be done out of habit and with not much thinking. Then, it’s a good time to do some general reading and catching something interesting, but not problem-oriented, on TV.
Remember the previous “Observing vs Acting vs Watching” blog entries? Well, here’s where they fit in. I do my physical exercising and yardwork “acting” scattered amongst the day’s “deciding” so that the evening can focus on “watching.” By the time it comes down to sleep time, my subconscious has had the time needed to get its work done or put on a slow, unobtrusive simmer.
And it works . . . as long as I keep my control discipline and don’t give in to temptation during the evening. In fact, I don’t go anywhere near news or email (the biggest gremlins) even in the late afternoon, and not watching PBS News which I always enjoyed. I guess it’s a gradual tapering off that I do, depending on the day’s load of “deciding” thinking. This way I get to do my more serious thinking, which I like, as well as getting much sounder sleep at night.
Being retired and no longer having kids or a job, it’s easier for me to make these adjustments. But time spent daily is time spent, regardless of what you call it, and I believe that it will work for anyone seeking to control the balance they need in their day. The key is the timing of exposure, to all kinds of activity, and timing is something we can control. We just have to make the effort, or else the outside exposure will do the job for us.
Well, how long do I keep up this control regimen? I think it depends on the results achieved. As my total daily deciding activity decreases, I can probably risk exposure to more outside intrusions. However, if I start to get short on good sleep, I’ll have to go back over my routine for the day, look for overload, and adjust my access to outside intrusion and timing for when I do my deciding, acting, and watching. Of course, a huge improvement in pressure will be when the results of this election are finally set, and I can quit ignoring the news and risk some exposure to it again. So, if you would, please wake me when it’s over.