I’ve been attempting to concentrate recently. Possibly you’ve got, too.
I’ve been considering how consideration has felt so completely different this previous yr than in every other yr of my life. The pandemic—its monotony and its disruption—appeared to wreak havoc on my skill to concentrate.
First, the monotony. Life in lockdown, for me and perhaps for others, has made it frustratingly troublesome to be distracted from no matter home and every day annoyances I’ve prevented addressing or resolving for the previous thirty-some years. However the sudden rhythm of a quieter life meant these tensions—unresolved frustrations, unhealthy communication habits, unstated hopes—have been tougher to disregard. To my dismay, these every day realities stored developing…like, on daily basis.
The monotony, the small annoyances, the work calls that all the time begins three minutes late, the creaking of that chair, the only dish my husband leaves within the sink on the finish of the evening, the rehearsed and transactional methods we transfer by the day to “get by them” as an alternative of get pleasure from, delight, or indulge in them—I labored laborious to concentrate to all these habituated realities.
I stored considering of Ernest Hemingway, who mentioned we should write “laborious and clear about what hurts,” and wished to ask a follow-up query: positive, sir—however how are we to attend, laborious and clear, to what bores? About halfway by this previous yr, I spotted that in case you stare at monotonous realities for lengthy sufficient, you could go cross-eyed*—a lesson all of us realized ~the laborious means~ from the again of the Teddy Grahams field again within the day. (*Otherwise you would possibly obtain enlightenment; in my case, it was the previous.)
The place the monotony narrowed my visual field, the disruptive nature of the pandemic appeared to zap my mind’s capability to make any sense of no matter I used to be watching.
Which leads me to half two: the disruption. For all of the methods my consideration has narrowed, kind of, to the issues at hand, it has additionally felt, concurrently, like I can’t fairly give attention to something in any respect. The place the monotony narrowed my visual field, the disruptive nature of the pandemic appeared to zap my mind’s capability to make any sense of no matter I used to be watching. Sure, I’m nonetheless counting on the Teddy Grahams imagery. Go together with it.
Consideration fatigue. Exhaustion from the pressure on my eyes and thoughts of focusing so lengthy on the blurry sameness, attempting to glean which means from it day after day. Attempting to take care of the issues at hand regardless of the monotony and attempting to take care of what issues most regardless of the disruption.
Buddies of mine within the medical career (although it could very properly be true in different roles) inform me they’ve been experiencing consideration fatigue in an excessive means: such concentrated attending to the wants of others that after they’re lastly “off” all of them however collapse, as if holding their breath for everything of their shift.
Others, many who’re mother and father and dealing from dwelling with small babes and tots, discuss feeling that their consideration is totally diffuse: by no means as soon as fairly touchdown on a single object, thought, or individual. Simply flitting from one pressing scene to the following, with a psychological record perpetually rising of issues to do when the basket of laundry is ready down and the timer goes off and the youngsters go to sleep (and so forth).
Along with merely naming this stuff (in case the articulation may also help you gauge the place you or your family members are at), I wish to share one thing that’s helped me determine what to do about this consideration fatigue.
I used to be studying a e book of essays by Simone Weil, a Twentieth-century mystic, activist, and thinker, whose writing on consideration places this quick reflection to absolute disgrace. However who’s judging. (Me, and perhaps additionally Simone.)
I’m desirous about consideration as a psychological school that’s not nearly cognitive understanding however about presence—not simply one thing however taking it in. And extra importantly, that no matter I’m attempting to absorb, I’m additionally attempting to be taken in by it.
She writes that “Consideration, taken to its highest diploma, is similar factor as prayer. It presupposes religion and love. Completely unmixed consideration is prayer. If we flip our thoughts towards the great, it’s unattainable that little by little the entire soul won’t be attracted thereto regardless of itself.”
You don’t have to be the praying sort to understand her level. Once I consider consideration as prayer I’m desirous about consideration as a psychological school that’s not nearly cognitive understanding however about presence—not simply one thing however taking it in. And extra importantly, that no matter I’m attempting to absorb, I’m additionally attempting to be taken in by it. Isn’t that what actual focus looks like? A sort of deep consideration to one thing that, over time, solely absorbs us extra? An exercise, individual, place, or concept that sustains our focus such that we don’t ever actually end discovering which means, regardless of how lengthy we attend to it?
Once I learn this essay from Weil in December, instantly I had a sort of intestine data of the sorts of actions that assist me listen on this completely absorbed means: taking part in and writing.
Particularly: taking part in with my toddler, and stream-of-consciousness writing, the sort that helps me course of, title, bear in mind, or vent about one thing that’s been rolling round inside me for some time. Don’t get me mistaken, it’s nonetheless utterly uncommon to really feel myself paying consideration properly—however once I do, it’s once I’m doing these sorts of actions that permit me to take one thing in whereas additionally really feel I’m, myself, taken in by them. I believe this should be a part of what Simone Weil means by prayer. I believe that’s why these acts really feel sacred to me. I additionally suppose it begins to make sense of a few of my consideration fatigue this previous yr. I’m undecided, for all of the makes an attempt to concentrate, I used to be attending to the sorts of issues that fill me up and make me really feel current and rooted, relatively than perpetually scattered.
I additionally suppose it begins to make sense of a few of my consideration fatigue this previous yr. I’m undecided, for all of the makes an attempt to concentrate, I used to be attending to the sorts of issues that fill me up and make me really feel current and rooted, relatively than perpetually scattered.
I’d be curious—have you ever been experiencing variations in how, what, and whether or not you’ve been ready listen properly this yr? What sorts of actions assist you really feel absorbed—and never simply entertained or distracted (or productive, for that matter)—whenever you attend to them? What knowledge do you’ve got for paying consideration, whether or not you’re fatigued or stuffed up?
Ellen likes studying and writing and thinks homebodiness is a advantage. She has her MA in faith from Yale and works as the top author & editor at a analysis institute devoted to understanding the interior and outer lives of younger individuals. She has one plant, one tattoo, one child, and an equivalent twin. Opposite to all typical knowledge, she usually brings up each faith and politics on the dinner desk.