Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Friday, October 1, 2010

Honing My Tunnel Vision

Wikipedia defines tunnel vision this way:

Tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like field of vision.

Like it's a bad thing.

Among the medical and biological causes listed for this affliction are:

  • Alcohol consumption 
  • Hallucinogenic drugs
  • Glaucoma
  • Panic attack
  • Severe cataracts, causing a removal of most of the field of vision
  • Intense anger, due to the body being rapidly flooded with adrenaline and oxygen
  • A bite from a Black Mamba and other snakes with the same strength venom
. . . and a whole host of other frightening conditions and circumstances.  The prudent author provides this caution:
When combined with piloting an aircraft, driving, crossing roads or operating heavy machinery, the consequences can be fatal.
For my purposes, however, I am most interested in the second of Merriam-Webster's definitions, particularly the last segment:

extreme narrowness of viewpoint : narrowmindedness; also: single-minded concentration on one objective 
As I move into my day with the trepidation that has become second nature recently, I am aware that the wide-angle lens that is my default provides too many hooks--what Buddhists call shenpa--to permit progress, let alone serenity.  I go into the kitchen to make my morning coffee, and I am greeted by my half-completed kitchen reclamation project.  I take up the New York Times puzzles that are supposed to stave off Alzheimer's, only to encounter a plethora of movie reviews that call me to cinematic retreat.  (And Friday is worse, because it involves hunting through two Arts sections to locate the elusive puzzles!)  I check my email and am reminded that I need to help save Senator Feingold, to renew my library books, to view my bills online, to send birthday greetings to my brother-in-law. . . . I wander into the bathroom and am greeted by the chaotic housekeeping of my sons.  Darn!  I forgot to raise them to be responsible citizens of a household.

And then there's my to-do list, growing like Topsy of late.  My husband intones, as he has been intoning for all the years that I've known him, that if I want to write, I have to do it first, and put it first.  He's right, I'm sure.  But then who's going to stock the fridge, clean up the dog barf, meet my work obligations, figure out why my car is making a throat-clearing noise, complete the shower repair that will get the kids to stop using our bathroom as they have been for the last few weeks, and . . .?  And when will I have time to finish reading the books I've started and the ones he's added to my pile?

My divergent thinking is getting me into trouble again, as is my ubiquitous respond-ability.  And the hooks of all my attachments.  So I aspire to tunnel vision, or maybe to the blindered state of horses in parade mode.  I had planned to spend part of yesterday devising a schedule, or as The Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell (on Spaghetti Sauce and Happiness) would have it, schedules that would allow for all my have-tos and my need-tos and really-really-want-tos.  But I had mistakenly calendared my birthday lunch with my sister for today, when it was really yesterday.  Luckily she called from the road to tell me she was running a bit late--since I would otherwise have been about 24 hours late for what turned out to be a really special occasion.  So the work I ran out on, and the scheduling retreat are rescheduled for today.  

Now if I can just find my blinders in the rubble that is my happy home, without tripping over too much shenpa on the way. . .

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