The importance of being gentle and occasionally idle


In spite of my best efforts, my studio is not much of a productive space. It’s strewn with all kinds of distractions: guitars, bells, books, trinkets, notebooks, magazines, scraps of paper, and a wi-fi connection. As I’m sure many could sympathise, it’s the latter distraction that causes the bulk of the problems, with an uninterrupted line to social media, useless information and bad news.

I’ve always been very easily distracted, which I’ve largely attributed over the years to mild dyslexia and a personality trait that’s engineered to hop from one thing to another within an alarmingly short span of time like my life’s depended on it. As a result, this creates all kinds of problems: in a creative sense, I’ve got fourteen half-baked projects on the go at once; in the domestic sense, I’ve got a home that’s perpetually half-cleaned with pockets of OCD-ish cleanliness and surrounding pockets of total disorder and (non-life threatening) filth.

This hasn’t always been the norm, but when I’m in the thick of this pattern of distraction (as I am currently) this wreaks havoc with my brain, leaving me scattered, unfocused, irritable, gloomy and disgusted with myself. Given my recent struggles over the past year with mental health I should really know better than to get myself into these situations.

One of the key insights with my psychologist was to identify when I’m spreading myself too thin and to find a way of breaking away from it by engaging in something less intensive. And here’s the ridiculous part of the conundrum: I don’t have to be working constantly at the moment; in fact, I could spend most of my time doing far less intensive things than – for example – writing six essays at once, working on an electro-acoustic composition, attempting to learn three guitar instrumentals, alternating between four books and writing new songs. All of these things happened today by the way. Mentally, this amounts to complete havoc and the metaphysical reality has manifested itself in the studio: cables everywhere, notebooks, bad posture, frowning for hours at a time and consuming way too much coffee.

But I haven’t lost it completely yet. Maybe the dopamine inhibitors of the medication are doing an exemplary job of holding my brain chemistry together, since I’m able to form reasonably consistent thoughts and string these sentences together. Still, my Brain Sea of fluids is choppy and the electrons overhead are sparking wildly. Following on from near-catastrophe as 2017 closed out, I resolved to get better, and I did; yet familiar patterns are reemerging and this past week it’s felt like I’m caught up in the feedback loop of varying peaks and troughs – which, last year – felt like it was going to kill me.

* * *

Sitting at my desk, I occasionally look to the left and briefly acknowledge the door ajar to the balcony which is letting a mild breeze in. It’s a lovely day outside and nothing is preventing me from going for a walk. I could go for a walk completely unencumbered. I could leave my wallet and phone here and simply do a loop of the neighborhood. Doing this, I’m certain that I would feel much better about things and I’m sure that my brain would agree, since it’s been flashing the DECOMPRESSION sign since about 10:30am today.

So that’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to wind up this writing, put the laptop to sleep, leave the guitars idle, put the notebooks to the side, silence the infinitude of Spotify, put some trousers, socks and shoes on and go for a walk.

Another series of steps hopefully going some way to (gently and idly) working through this complicated business of living.

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