The Struggle to FocusApr 27, 2022
Blog by Gem Fadling
Over the course of the last few years, Alan and I have set aside times to get away and focus on our writing. Thanks to generous friends with homes near Duck Creek, Utah, and Avila Beach, California, these getaways have been fruitful times of thinking and composing. We were able to sink down into the work and focus.
After our second writing getaway, I began to ask myself, Why can’t I focus like this in my home office? Why is it so hard to slip into these spaces in my own home? Do I really have to go away to feel away? That doesn’t seem realistic, and I can’t easily get away that often. Am I really destined to have that kind of focus only when I’m hundreds of miles away from my everyday life?
It’s easy to have boundaries and let go of things when you are literally not at home. The boundaries are obvious. I only have the clothing, books, and technology that I brought in my suitcase.
It is difficult to feel the boundaries at home because everything happens there. Relationships, jobs, rest, and housework. And, whether I want to or not, I carry all of it with me all the time. Not everything is at the same volume, but I still carry it.
So, is it possible to set the boundaries and live within them (like I do in Duck Creek and Avila) even when I am at home? I can feel both a yes and a no rising within me. Well, it’s not really a no—it’s more a feeling of, “Man, that would take a lot of effort and would be very difficult.” I’d have to learn to put everything aside as though it weren’t there, even though it is there. I would still have physical proximity to it.
When I’m away I feel lighter because I am not in proximity to the other people, work, and responsibilities I carry. When I’m away, there are no dishes or laundry to do. Depending on the location, there may be no internet on my computer, so no temptation to watch videos or browse the web. I also understand that I’ve set this time aside to focus on God, on my own soul, or on the work at hand. So lots of other things simply take a back seat. To do this at home I would have to choose to mentally cut off everything that is a natural distraction.
The work we do at Unhurried Living takes a distinct kind of focus. Preparing content that is meant for transformation and not merely passing on information means I must pull from somewhere deep inside of me. That takes presence and focus.
I’ve been practicing this for quite a while. Actually, right now, as I compose this, I’m acting as if there is nothing else to do but write these words—and it’s working. I know that some people can compartmentalize more easily than others. For some of us it takes real effort to hunker down into this space. For me, it takes becoming aware, being mindful, and making decisions about where I direct my focus. I don’t do it perfectly, but I am definitely getting better at this.
Whether you find it easy to compartmentalize your life or you carry everything in your life around with you everywhere, you know from experience that “being all there” is the most effective way to get things done. What might that practice look like for you?
- How difficult is it for you to focus these days?
- What influence do your location and proximity to day-to-day cares have on your ability to focus?
- How might you practice focusing in new ways?