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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


The end of the school year is in sight, and I haven’t finished arranging summer camp, let alone the writing work I planned to do this spring. It’s going well, just not at lightning speed, so I’ve been making special efforts to stay focused. Of course, life is getting in the way a bit, which I guess is good because it gives me something to write about.

A few weeks ago, when one of these “distractions” came along, a wise writer friend of mine said, “Whenever something like that happens, try to see how it is really is helping the book, like maybe it is something you need to write about.” That afternoon someone send me an article they had written and asked for my feedback. Now writers often hate this sort of request (especially if the person is not a good writer), but I kept my friend’s advice in mind and said, “Sure.” Turns out the article was not only well written, but it was about the same topic as the chapter I was working on and (with the author’s permission) gave me the perfect example to fill in one of the holes in my chapter.

Last week something similar happened. I was working on a section about “projection,” the psychological term for denying our own qualities or emotions and seeing them in someone else instead. I was thinking, “This would be a really good spot for me to share a time when I’ve projected onto someone else. I wonder when I’ve done that?” After several minutes of drawing a blank, I thought, “Either I am so self-aware and spiritually evolved that I never project, or I am so un-aware that I can’t even see I’ve done it!” I few hours later I got an email from someone who months ago read an essay I wrote about racism. She said at the time that she wanted to have coffee to discuss it with me. For months I’ve been assuming that she hated my essay, or found it offensive, or found me offensive. Her email, and our subsequent lunch, made it clear this was all in my mind, a classic case of projection. The incident has helped me see other times when I project my anxieties onto others, which I’m sure will help me write the chapter, whenever I get time to do it.

So it’s with gratitude for these recent distractions that I’m facing my newest hurtles, namely the alarming behavior of my computer, which yesterday started shutting down inexplicably about two seconds after I’d restart it. I was beginning to panic a bit about it yesterday afternoon, realizing that I hadn’t backed up Chapter Two recently, but it was time to go get the kids out of school early to bring them to their annual doctor’s appointment. Then Megan needed new sneakers, preferably before the baseball game at 6. In the same hour and a half slot, we also needed to do homework, walk and feed the dog, prepare for Luke’s talent show audition this morning (which involved some equipment we never did find after considerable searching) eat dinner, and change for the game. There wasn’t much time to fix my computer, though I did try restarting it eight more times while Luke took the dog out to pee. Then I needed to let it go during an interminable baseball game, which our team lost, making one of my children (I won’t name names) cranky during the ride home, though the fact that it was bedtime and homework still wasn’t done probably didn’t help. “So how is this helping my book?” I asked myself at the top of the sixth.

The obvious answer is to show me that I have not quite mastered the serenity thing yet, even though I’m writing a book about it. I also haven’t mastered simplicity, despite the recent retreat I co-led on the subject. I am doing better this morning, however, and so is my computer. The Internet program is still on the fritz, and I may have lost my collection of emails and addresses, but I haven't yet lost my composure. There are several more distractions on the schedule for today, but I’m remembering to breath, to accept the ones I can’t avoid and to try to learn something from them. I'm sure something about this will fit nicely in Chapter 2.


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