Sara Kirschenbaum
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Full Distraction Living

Posted Tuesday, Jul 07th, 2009 at 6:44am

When I was recovering from the postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder that sent me to the psych ward in 1991, the child psychiatrist that I insisted my infant visit, recommended a book to me: Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. I read some of it. The bookmark is still stuck at Commitment, Self-Discipline and Intentionality. The book talks about Dr. Kabat-Zinn's work with people with major medical conditions in a stress clinic. It is a call for living with mindfulness. But what stuck with me throughout the years was the wonderful title - welcoming that which we dread. (His name is cool sounding too.) It's taken me full 18-years to come up with my own answer to Full Catastrophe Living. Now the baby is 18 and is going off the college. And I've discovered a new code to live by: full distraction living.

I found it in the garden. I was on my way to weed the basil plants (which I got for $2.99 at Trader Joe's even though I don't think they market it to gardeners) when I noticed that the fava beans were falling over into the rainbow swiss chard. So I turned around and went to look for the twine. As I neared the tool-table where I keep the twine I saw that the planter box by the kitchen door, with the peppermint and fuchsia, was dry. So I went over and turned on the hose and put the end in the planter box. Which reminded me that I hadn't let the chickens out. I walked over to the coop and let the chickens out and saw that some marionberries that were growing next to the coop, were ripe. I stood by the ten-foot-long vines putting one fat plum-sized marionberry in my mouth after another. While I'm stuffing my checks, I see the invasive purple campanula blooming away where I didn't mow it. I go to the kitchen to get a knife to cut some blooms to put in a vase when I see the dishwasher full of dirty dishes, gapping open and staring at me. I pour the new goopy liquid dishwashing soap in the dishwasher and get it humming. Now what was I doing? Was it something with the fava beans? I go back in the garden and look around. The corn needs to be weeded and I start on that. When I put the weeds in the compost I see a half-used ball of twine and remember that the fava beans need staking. I remember now that I needed a knife. I go in the kitchen and momentarily open up the dishwasher and get out a knife and head out to cut the campanula and put it in the vase...It looks pretty. I set it on the sill and look for my camera. I find my camera and take two pictures of the purple flowers in the blue vase. A bee is buzzing around inside. I remember that the bee hive has been eerily silent and I had wanted to check inside the hive. I go upstairs to find a white long sleeved shirt to wear with my bee netting...

And thus goes my afternoon. It's deeply satisfying: how liberating it is to follow one lovely diversion after another, how much I eventually am getting done, and how much snacking seems to be involved. This addresses both my work ethic and my rebellious forays of dilly dallying. The rout is circuitous but pleasant. I am plugged into impulse and curiosity like a toddler. What would it look like I wonder if I dared Full Distraction Living?



  1. Rachel Wrote on Tuesday, Jul 07th, 2009 at 1:20pm

    I love yoru discription of "Full Distraction Living". I am prone to FDL in the yarden but also in my sewing room. It feels like an indungence of the right brain.

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