My DH and I joke about metaphorical “squirrels,” those distractions that keep us from things like writing, finishing tasks and staying on task.
One of our metaphorical squirrels is looking, feeding and watching literal squirrels.
We live in Denver, as does a large population of squirrels (called a “dray” or “scurry” of squirrels in collective names parlance). We enjoy putting out seed for the birds and also seeing the squirrels eat the left-over seed that hits the ground below the feeder. (I have also been known to put out sunflower seeds and other treats for the squirrels).
This is considered a “secret” hobby in my neighborhood, as there are two types of people: those who think squirrels are cute and adorable, and those who think they are vermin. (Okay, they are technically rodents with tails, but . . .)
We enjoy all kinds of wildlife (except possibly snakes and I’m deathly afraid of Mountain Lions), and so I consider this a guilty pleasure. I won’t brag about my squirrel-feeding on our Next Door site, my not even admit to it, and will continue feeding the squirrels.
Good Book: All Creatures, Great and Small (series 1-5) by James Harriott
I confess to watching more television while in quarantine than before. I do have work to do; writing, housework, gardening, etc. Movies and book provide a comfort to me (not guilty, but sometimes guilty).
I currently ordered a couple of William Kreuger books (which I find a little heavy and so only read a bit a day). I ordered Anna Kavan’s book, ICE which is a bit of sci-fy. Of course, my ultimate guilty pleasure books are of the series mystery variety (which I happen to be “trying” to write these day–always learning from what I’ve read).
As for television, my favorites:
- Good Girls (now on Netflix)
- Resident Alien (Syfy channel) very funny (if you have a weird sense of humor)
- Grace & Frankie (waiting for final season)
- NCIS reruns from season 1/episode 1
- The Sound of Metal (heartbreaking & very good story about a drummer who loses his hearing)
- Contagion (very scary now, and is at least 10 years old)
- Outbreak (also scary and old). Wait–why am I watching pandemic movies?
- Bird Box (also scary and good)
I refuse to feel guilty about television and movies, however. I try to take every lesson about writing from the scripts, the actors (characters) and the settings and research.
The term “Social Anxiety” is a relatively new one, and even though I’ve suffered through it for many many years, I’ve only recently come to terms with it.
Mine went beyond just being afraid to walk up to a person and say “Hello.” It changed and morphed over the years from being afraid to speak up in class (and developing what I now know is selective mutism), to being afraid to tell anything to my parents, to being afraid of friends, to being afraid of exchanging anything at the store for fear of judgement.
The causes for me are obvious (I was a teen mom and a target for bullying and scrutiny) and underlying extreme shyness.
But now, there are groups. There is medication. There is the ability to come out in the open.
I quote one of my favorite singers (Paul Simon):
“A man walks down the street
He says, “Why am I short of attention?
Got a short little span of attention
And, woe my nights are so long”
I’ve probably read literally a hundred articles and/or books on productivity. Seems it all boils down to attention span I’ve come to believe that I may have some version of A.D.D. or something similar. Sometimes sitting down and devoting a couple hours to research or writing is like pulling teeth. Is that true for everyone? My husband seems to get lost in a project intently for hours. I seem to only do that if really pressed about a deadline. It’s obviously easier to read what others have written than write my own, but I want to have my own voice, to be heard. (Most people describe me as quiet–and I am–but I still want a voice as I’m not quiet inside). Though I am not sure how much difference productivity declarations make, here are some from various authors:
If you see distraction externally, you end up creating an internally distracted state.” — Tim Ferriss
“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “ The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” — Napoleon Hill
I had to pick up a small dead bird today–it had taken seed from the feeder on my porch, turned and slammed into my front window. It’s happened a few times, even though I no longer keep that window squeaky clean, put out decals to help the birds to see. Still, did my “feeding disorder” do more harm than good?
My husband came up with the name for my disorder–the urge to over-feed people at gatherings, my fear of running out of food (not for myself, but not serving enough to others), my urge to over-feed him, to feed squirrels & racoons & birds.
One summer we discovered we’d developed an eco-system in our back yard. The bird feeder attracted pigeons. The pigeons attracted hawks and owls. The hawks and owls attracted coyotes and foxes. And, on it goes.
I’ve dialed back slightly, putting out bird feeders and hummingbird feeders only when it’s too cold for birds to find food easily, putting any squirrel food far from the house, and hopefully feeding myself and my husband only what we need.
Another way to use a feeding disorder–Food Bank of the Rockies & No Kid Hungry.
No longer young (that ship has sailed), retired, semi-retired–how productive should I be? Do I feel I’ve done all I’ve come to this life to do? I have many blessings (I consider my children –2 daughters & grandchildren to be the most important successes of my life), but many of us wonder if we’ve done enough in this life.
I see young people now starting successful businesses at very young ages (under 18, for instance), getting ahead and successful with no college at all (while I thought my only way to success was college). I see young women becoming doctors, surgeons, politicians–when all this didn’t seem possible when I was young.
We’ve entered an exciting and scary new world (at least in America) where young people truly can have it all, do it all. I still believe in the power of education, especially self-education, & I am conversely afraid of the dark corners of the internet, where lies & fables exist to take our young people off-course.
I do think balance is key–I can be productive & still enjoy retirement. I can be proud of my grandchildren, happy for them, hopeful for them–and still worry about their future.
I’m going to be productive now.
I never thought I’d read a novel about Chess, a game I know nothing about, and a game I most likely will never play.
I was encouraged to watch “The Queen’s Gambit” and then did so reluctantly, expecting to hate it. Instead, I watched the entire series in three days and then ordered the book.
It turns out, the book is about Chess, but more importantly about life; the twists and turns, the calculated and accidental moves, winning and losing, and human instincts.
Nothing like an unexpected book or movie to make me ponder life and its experiences. And, my choices.
It’s hard to get back to work–and back to a routine–after a “break in the action.” Between COVID (haven’t gotten it and hope not to) disruptions, caring for a dying aunt, and just plain giving in to movie and series binging and binge-reading (not to mention binge-eating), I’ve fallen off my routine. I suspect many of us have.
So, I’m rebooting and getting back to work deciding what to write next and exactly how to get back into a routine. I have faith that the country and the world will normalize and soon we’ll all be back to work and healed. That’s the optimist in me.
In the meantime I’m thankful (as this is published directly after Thanksgiving) for a supportive husband and family, my house, my many blessings, my health, and whatever the future may bring.
Read. Write. Binge-watch. Try not to binge-eat. Be kind. Accept kindness from others. Pet a dog. Watch a cute animal video. Scream into a pillow. Kiss your partner. Come from love.
As a self-professed introvert, I have to confess a satisfaction at being forced to stay inside, to bake cookies, to read endless books, to watch endless shows such as NCIS & Hallmark Murder Mysteries & movies that I missed in the theater. Some things are not so fun; wondering when and if it will end, worrying about things we didn’t worry about before (no masks available, toilet paper hoarding, many more meals at home instead of eaten out, worry about young people, old people too).
As a writer, I should revel in the extra time but it seems to be eaten up with “little things” (more house-cleaning, more dishes, more time taken to find groceries, extra care taken to get to doctor appointments).
The worst thing though is the thought that I might be wasting this precious time that has caused us all to slow down our frenetic lifestyles. Am I using it to my advantage, or am I frittering it away on old television shows, on books that might not be teaching me anything?
Food for thought. I’m going to make popcorn now.