Saturday, January 14, 2012

Your focus determines your reality

In keeping with domestic reputation concerns from a few weeks ago, I recently had lunch with a friend.  She left work with her second child.  A few days prior to our lunch, she was with another, still working friend, who asked her 'what she did all day."  My friend was vexed at how often that question comes up as most working mothers have limited understanding of a housewife's day. I started laughing.  During some blog draft admin the previous evening, I'd run across an email I sent to her when, pregnant with her first child, she had expressed desire to stay home but worried that she would be bored.  At the time, this is what I told her:

Typing fast over nap time.  Can’t do justice to the subjects but wanted to get you thinking.
First, went to a fish cooking class last night.  Excellent class (saw JH btw).  Anyway, Ahi tuna was one of the entrees.  I was amazed at the number of people who wouldn’t eat it and the questions/whispers regarding its safety.  A side discussion ensued about living in fear of everything including one of life’s great pleasures, food, about how if you read the news everything seems scary and focus on the bad, you’ll just end up paralyzed and sour.  This does have bearing on what I wanted to discuss.  
So lots in our generation are not wanting to be our mothers, not wanting to get occupied with trivial stuff.  (I’m helping start a young mom’s group at church and this is a big theme for mom’s of little ones).  Anyway, I’m concerned that the near universal reaction is to avoid the trivial by staying busy and for most this means staying at work.  You hit this topic yesterday and in thinking later, I had a moment of clarity about why this has concerned me.  Staying busy only covers the problem.  
When you are 102 and on your deathbed you are just as unlikely to wish you’d spent more time networking, as getting to spinning, or picking out granite countertops.  Its not that success in a career, exercise, or home décor aren’t important, they are, its that they are only important as a means to what really is important.  At 102 you very well may regret that you weren’t a better provider for your family, that you had taken better care of yourself, or that you’d made a happier pleasant home, or additionally, that you’d spent more time with your family, God, or serving the community or simply relishing life more.  That is, if you think that staying busy will fix the problem then you will likely just replace one set of triviality for another--and lose your ability to smell the roses to boot.  The fix is to always focus on the really important stuff like God and family, recognize that the details of the important stuff changes all the time, and be able to adapt when the changes come.  
Also be aware of your focus in another way: what do you expect out of any situation.  I had a bit of clarity about how the boredom question bothers me.  (I know you didn’t mean it in that way, but I still had a really good point come out of it so indulge me.)  You can make anything boring if you expect it to be boring or you can make anything exciting if you expect it to be exciting.  If you assume--as most women do because it is drummed into us by popular culture-- that staying at home with young ones can be mind numbing, then you are very likely to be more sensitive to and dwell on the things that make that assumption true.  You get the baby into a routine like all the baby books say but instead of seeing how calm life is and using the time to smell the roses, you see the monotony just like Betty Friedan et al talked about and think that you need to get out of rut.     
There is a technical term for this problem used by lawyers and statisticians, assumption bias or something similar.  Back to the Ahi from last night.  If you just focus on all of the dangers of food and listen to all the mercury in fish stories then you’ll never get to enjoy it.  And you’ll feel really foolish when you finally hear about the little publicized statement by some prestigious medical group that I can’t remember right now that the health benefits of eating fish far outweigh the dangers posed by mercury in those fish.     
Oh and here’s the link to the film blog I told you about.  If you scroll down, you should find a great article one of the guys did about the Oscar nominations.  Regardless, its always interesting.
That blog is now Libertas Film Magazine.

The letter sounds like me, though it makes me chuckle.  Only two kids.  I got that all written during one nap time.  Plus, I wrote this mere days before I got the call we were moving to London; I seem so settled in Houston, cooking classes and all.  Little did I know...   

For the Geeks, the title is not a SW Prequel reference.  That's just too lame.  But even the SW Prequels have some bits of truth that are well phrased.


edgeofthesandbox said...

You found time for cooking classes -- wow!

AHLondon said...

I know! I just sound so different here, more relaxed. Makes me chuckle.