Imagine your brain as a big team of sledding dogs, of which you are the driver.
But instead of being harnessed together, the dogs are running wild, each looking at a dozen different things, each pursuing their own bunny. You keep trying to get them into line, because you need every dog if you want to pull the sled, but there’s a snowstorm hampering you, the dogs aren’t in harnesses, and half of them are deaf or act it.
It takes immense effort to coral all those dogs from the things distracting them, pull those dogs into a line, rig them up, get them going—and keep them there. In fact, it’s exhausting and hard to do for extended periods of time.
Excuse the bad metaphor but that’s a little bit what conversations are like for me. Someone’s talking, wanting me to answer. Dozens of things are attracting my attention, all of them equally or more interesting than the actual person (to me, anyway—no offense, human race!) But I’m supposed to answer and respond so I start gathering up all my dogs and roping them together in order to focus on what’s being said, and work out a suitable response.
When my dogs are in a line, I don’t want to waste that effort and I’ll be very focused on whatever I’m doing, for as long as my concentration lasts. And be very tired when I’m done.
There are exceptions. Some things really interest me. Some things engage all parts of my brain without such torturous effort. Writing is one of them; when I’m writing (creative or nonfiction) its as if every dog suddenly wants the same bunny and they fall into place without me having to do much. I can concentrate on driving and the sled moves at rocket speed. I’m happy, the dogs are happy, hurrah for us.
Of course, the downside to finding something I can get my brain in gear for is I then often want to do it all the time. It’s engaging, absorbing, I like the feeling of everything in my head working in sync, and it can be hard to focus in a different direction, or do something else. In day to day life that translates to finding a balance between what obsesses me and what needs doing (house, kids, work, etc).
17 September 2018