I’m declaring a holiday today. And I’m going to call it Distraction Day.
Now, this holiday will be different from most holidays, at least those in American culture. Here in the U.S., holidays tend to be a time to take off from work, eat excessively, laze around (unless you’re the one cooking for those excessive eaters), and abandon one’s usual schedule of activities. But Distraction Day will be different – it’s a day to get things done, empty the figurative inbox, eat less (because I’m too busy with other stuff) and … well, and still abandon the usual schedule, so that part’s similar.
Maybe I’m the only person this happens to, though I suspect I’m not. Or maybe it’s just my personality type, which is more likely. But give me one or two big projects and I’ll dive into them, happy as a clam in mud. Give me a bunch of little tasks and I get rattled. Charles Colson, the former White House counsel and current prison reformer, used to say the same thing about his old boss, Richard Nixon – and I know that Nixon and I share a Myers-Briggs profile (ISTJ, if you’re curious. And yes, knowing that you share a personality type with Tricky Dick can be very humbling).
Regardless of the cause, I’m a little distracted at the mo, because even in my unemployed state, I’ve got a lot of little things piling up. (Anselmo’s First Law: Activities always multiply or expand to fill the available time.) So I’m proclaiming Distraction Day, and clearing the decks! The celebration will include:
* School clothing shopping. This has been hanging over mine and the Supermodel’s heads for a while, especially since our son starts school next month. Our daughter, going into third grade, already has plenty of duds that meet the ridiculously restrictive school-uniform code (white or blue shirts, blue or khaki pants/skirts/jumpers), though she’s outgrown some and will need more. Our son has … three pairs of shorts. That’s all. So this afternoon, we’re going to hit the discount clothing stores, see what we can find, then tackle Target for the rest. If nothing else, it’ll be out of our hair for a year.
* Swinging by the bank, because the $1000 contest check from Promotion Mechanics arrived over the weekend, and school clothes don’t pay for themselves. Not to mention tithing, which I believe in rather strongly.
* Writing a thank-you note to Promotion Mechanics for the check, because, hey, it’s $1000! I think I remember the e-mail address; if not, there’s always snail-mail.
* Finishing reading an anthology of short stories put out by a Sacramento ‘zine called FlatmanCrooked, because they’re holding a short fiction contest and I want to see if maybe something I’ve written can compete with what they’re doing. (I’m halfway through it, and the jury’s still out.)
* Writing a letter to my friend who’s gone into rehab, which I’ll deliver to the facility so he can read it when he completes his “blackout period” (their term) in mid-August and know that a friend is out here and still cares about him. You’d be amazed how many people, including “Christian brothers and sisters,” will abandon someone at the first sign of weakness. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t be amazed …
* Stopping at two different local libraries (the public one and a university one) to look for short stories I’m trying to hunt down as part of my own little sci-fi research project.
* Getting my new MP3 player (also arrived over the weekend) up to speed and loading it up with up-tempo music suitable for working out, as part of my plan to get back to the fitness room at the community center and try to trim back this boiler of mine.
* And if I have time after all that – ha ha ha – maybe I’ll be able to go over to Hulu.com and catch up on the episodes of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien that I haven’t seen yet. (Conan is probably the subject for tomorrow’s blog; stay tuned.)
Doesn’t all that sound like fun? Maybe, maybe not. So why am I calling it a holiday?
Well, several reasons. One is that anything sounds more enjoyable if you call it a holiday, and I need all the boost I can get. Another is that to a certain extent, we are taking a break from our usual schedule – the clothes shopping, for instance, will usurp the kids’ normal “school time” where they practice writing and science (my daughter) or letters and numbers (my son). Plus there’s the whole “wheeee, we’re going out to this place and that” aspect, which is kind of fun in and of itself.
But in addition to all that … the whole concept of “holiday” stems from “holy day,” and there is something holy about completing a task. One of my own heroes, the baseball writer Bill James, has joked about some of his statistical work that “the creation of data is a holy act,” but I don’t know that it’s a joke. We were made by God to do things. The first thing He told the first man and woman was to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). He expected them to be active, to accomplish things, and that desire to do is built into our bodies and minds.
Also, the “holy day” originally referenced the days the church has traditionally set aside for remembering important events in the life of Jesus and the church They were times to set aside all the business of day-to-day living and focus on God and what He’s done. We’ve gotten away from that somewhat in American culture, helter-skelter as we’ve become these days, but the need to get away from all the busy and reconnect with Someone greater than ourselves is still there in our psyches. And we ignore it at our peril.
In declaring Distraction Day, I’m basically saying, “I’ve got all this stuff that’s turning my head from connecting with God more fully. Okay, stuff, you want my attention? Well, you’ve got it in spades! I’m going to finish you off so that you’ll simply not be around to unfocus me anymore, and I’ll be free to spend that time being with Him instead of being rattled by you. How ya like them berries?” I’m breaking out the mental broom to sweep my brain clean, in the hope that God can come in in greater measure.
So there it is. Right now, I’m taking that FlatmanCrooked book with me to the park for the kids’ morning outdoor play time. Afterward, I have some letters to write and lists to make. Let the Distraction Day celebration begin!
(And feel free to declare your own Distraction Day – and let me know how it comes out.)