Archive for the 'Distraction' Category



My Eyes

Sketch done for a project in the book Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson

Well, the Lord seems to be helping me out with my blog/news reading intemperance. Which is nice, considering I asked Him to do just that. As usual, I am not surprised that He answered, merely by the way in which He chose to do so.

I’d been having great success with my plan of getting in at least 2 hours of writing time every day, and giving myself a star on the calendar when I meet that goal. I had six straight days the week before last, two this last week. In fact my writing block had just begun to give last Monday and I was excited to get to work Tuesday.

But then on Tuesday, for some reason unfathomable to me now, I decided before I got started to just take a quick look at Drudge… and Diplomad… and then Powerline… and then… there I went like the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

Several hours later, my eyes by then burning, throbbing and itching, I finally managed to convince myself that I wasn’t going to get the answers I sought from the news that day and likely never. For awhile I think I was looking at the scandals of Benghazi and Petraeus as part of some sort of riveting spy thriller, and was eager to get to the end of the story, were all would be revealed. But it wasn’t a novel. Or a movie. And in real life things don’t get revealed. At least not to the general public, or if to them then it’s decades later.

In any case, there I was, my thirst for closure thwarted with my eyes tired, but I still wanted to get in some more work on Sky. I did that — fulfilled my 2 hour goal, and then left to walk the dog.

By the time I returned home my eyes were burning like mad, feeling scratchy and even like something was in one of them. They hurt for the rest of the evening, and that night woke me up at 3am hurting. I got up to put some drops in, and went back to bed, wondering if I was going to be able to sleep at all – I was, eventually — and what I should do the next day if they continued to hurt. I was pretty sure it was eyestrain by then, but it still felt like I had something in my left eye. What if I did? And how would I be able to get in to see anyone on the Wednesday Thanksgiving?

Well, they were just as bad when I work up in the morning and I ended up calling the Nurseline that UHC provides. The nurse recommended I go straight to Urgent Care. Well, I had already somewhat triaged myself. There was no redness in my eye, no swelling, no discharge, no pain in my temple, I didn’t have a fever, wasn’t dizzy, and didn’t have double vision. The book I was using recommended rest, cold compresses and eye drops for dryness, not a trip to NextCare. When I asked her why she thought I needed more than that,  she said, “Because it’s your eye and we don’t know what’s wrong with it.”

Well, that was lame. So I called my optometrist, whom I’d just seen the previous Monday. He wasn’t there, but the optician who’d help me Monday was, and she agreed it probably was just overuse. When you spend hours staring at the computer, you tend not to blink your eyes, and they get dry. Then if you rub them, there’s the potential for scratching them. She’d heard these symptoms from many people and recommended I get some OTC gel eyedrops and use them that day and Thanksgiving, If it wasn’t better Friday I was to give them a call and get an appointment with the doctor. In the meantime, along with the drops, I should rest my eyes as much as possible and stay away from the computer.

So I did as she suggested. The drops helped a lot, and by Friday the pain had reduced considerably.  So I tried to use the computer, setting the timer for 25 minutes to make sure I stopped before too long. No need. After 12 minutes of reading just headlines, my eyes were throbbing and burning again and that was enough of that. They were uncomfortable for the rest of the day.  I didn’t try again until today, after Church. And even now as I’m typing this I’m closing my eyes.

Today, I tried earlier to read my blogs and news, and could feel everything heading south, so I quit. The discomfort arises to the point it’s not worth it to me to fight on through it just so I can read…. what? Some person’s opinion of the dire/messed up/stupid state of something? It’s the devil’s world. Of course things are going to be dire, messed up and stupid.

In any case, the result is that I haven’t really read any of my usual stuff, and the inclination is going away. I think I’ll be able to work on Sky tomorrow, especially if I do a lot of stuff with hard copy. Which is what I usually do.

For now, my eyes have had enough of even the partial staring at this screen I’ve been doing, so I’m going to quit and get this posted.

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Vulnerable to Distraction

In the middle of when I was supposed to be writing last summer, I saw these bees and decided to run out and try to get a picture!

Well, today, I’m sorry to say that in the middle of doing an “Open Ended Writing” about the book, my hands suddenly went AWOL, started typing the keys to open my email and the next thing you know… I was checking email.  Even as I asked myself what in the world I was doing.

Worse, they went on to type in the commands to open Internet Explorer and…. alas.

Half an hour later I recovered from my fit of rebellion. Even then I had to ask myself if it was really bad. I am very interested in the news these days, and I’m not exactly sure why. If it was just some military guy committing adultery I know I would not be interesting. But this thing with Generals Petraeus and Allen and the Lebanese socialite who has a psychologically unhinged identical twin sister, and the FBI and drop boxes… all erupting three days after Obama was elected to his second term… is so weird, so bizarre, so… unbelievable on the surface… there just has to be more behind it…

But I digress. Sort of. Because all this is perhaps an example of behavior the post I’m about to reblog gives explanation for. Finally!

I was searching my old blog to see if I’d already posted something on a related subject, and found the following post, dated 2007. Since it specifically applies to the need to reduce the distractions in my life, I found it helpful to revisit and decided to put it up again, as another step in the movement I’m making back to seriously working on the book.

Vulnerable to Distraction

Over the vacation, my friend Ed Willett’s science column noted an article on how older adults are more vulnerable to distraction from irrelevant information. Well, being an older adult, that caught my eye at once, though I don’t think it was irrelevant information!

Aha! So there is a reason why I’m so distractable these days. The study, conduced by Canadian scientists at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest and the University of Toronto, “has identified changes in brain activity that begin gradually in middle age – and which may explain why older adults find it difficult to concentrate in busy environments and filter out irrelevant information.”

So it really is age that allows my son to concentrate with music blaring, and me to be totally distracted by it. I used to be able to write with music, but only if there were no words. In the last few words I’ve had to go to total silence, because even the notes distract me. Or worse, sometimes the music generates “scenes”, which seems like it would be a good thing, but isn’t because it’s usually not a scene anywhere near to what I’m currently writing, and it’s always the same scene. So even if I write it down, every time I hear the music, I go back to the same scene and whatever I was doing breaks off.

I digress. Apparently there are two regions in the brain’s frontal lobes that shift into a “seesaw imbalance” (not sure what that is) — causing older adults to become less efficient in inhibiting distracting information.” Instead of focusing on the task at hand — reading, for example, or, writing one’s book — we are unable to resist the sudden thought that we need to go check the mail, or we should see what is on so and so’s blog today, or how dare such and such reviewer make those comments about my books last year.

As younger people concentrate on a task, activity in the region that is associated with concentration increases while activity in the region associated with thoughts about yourself, what happened yesterday, or what’s going on around you decreases. As people age, the activity in the second region doesn’t turn off so easily, and the activity in the region that governs concentration decreases.

By the time we reach 65, it gets really pronounced. So the researchers recommend that “Older adults should try to reduce distractions in their environment and concentrate on one key attentional task at a time. It may be as easy as turning down the radio when reading, or staying off the cell phone when driving a car.”

A cell phone would be a disaster. I can’t even talk to my passengers when driving a car, because I get way too engrossed and who knows where I’ll end up. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself driving home when I’m supposed to be driving somewhere else.

But this does affirm the importance of reducing external distractions and internal ones as well, since it’s not just external monitoring that happens in the region that won’t turn off. Which fits right in with my decisions to start simplifying my life again.

You can read the full article about the study here.


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