Another long haul. Coast to Coast, this one, with a trailer full of children’s books. Sweat beading on his brow courtesy of the broken air conditioning, making this trip seem twice as long. Far too much time to think. His wife, Sally, is in the hospital again. Damn bulimia and anxiety just keep getting the best of her. Her mom watches the kids while he’s away. God knows three is no easy task and she’s getting tired of it. Told him flat out, “I didn’t sign up for this.”
On a shortcut between interstates, Jeff finds himself driving through the town he lived in with his ex-wife, a lifetime ago. Naturally, memories of her and their fights, epic, epic fights, dance in his headlights. Just about the absolute last thing he needs right now.
Spying the empty shell of a Blockbuster Video off to his left, his rage hits a crescendo. Damn place once charged him twenty bucks in late fees for 5 movies that were only 15 minutes late. Twenty bucks he didn’t have to donate to some corporation too big to care about people like him. He fantasizes about driving his big rig square into the center of that building, as vacant of videos as Jeff is of hope right now. Oh, to be able to have the last word and to finally win at something….
Jeff’s agitation pulls him from the confines of his headspace, causing him to stomp on the brakes and bring the big rig to a screeching, moaning, aching stop in the middle of the road. He slams the door as he climbs down and stubs his foot on a rock on the simmering asphalt. Jeff bends down and picks it up. That clerk was so smug and absolutely gloated about getting the upper hand.
At the same moment, Don is literally skipping along. On his way to surprise his girl, Kim, tonight. Ask her to marry him, he is. Fairytale visions blur his attention to the sidewalk in front of him. He’s so busy thinking about a house, all their own, with a white picket fence and a future filled with kids and, heck, hopefully grandkids someday, that he’s not giving a second thought to the balloons in his right hand. In an instant, his balloons bang off the back of Jeff’s head. Startled by the sudden, unexpected, almost static-y tickle, Jeff spins around. Upon seeing the balloons and the goofy, skipping man, he laughs. Not at the man, in particular or the balloons for that matter, but at the absurdity of the moment he finds himself in, marching towards a store that’s been empty for so long the grass is aiming to make a lawn out of the parking lot, as if he’s going to bring the law to outlaw Johnny Ringo in a high noon shootout.
Don mumbles sorry and stumbles for a second before resuming his gleeful stride, continuing down the road to his wife-to-be.
But Jeff isn’t sorry, he’s relieved and for the moment, at least, seeing the world clearly. He lets the rock drop from his fingers, gets back in his truck, turns the radio to a hair metal station he used to listen to when he lived here and hopes he can stay present enough to enjoy it.
My friends, our minds are immensely powerful. Yet, they most often don’t come with the default settings configured quite right. Far from a trusty GPS directing us precisely where we want to go, our minds have a tendency to act more like a treadmill, an endless spinning of distraction, after distraction, after distraction. Of course, there are far more efficient ways to focus our energy in moments like this. But the Treadmill of Distraction is sly. It gets us off and running, frequently before we even fully realize we’re on it. And BOY, those workouts can be intense, often filling our lives with far more sweat and challenges than necessary. Don is banging pedestrians with balloons, for heaven’s sake. Jeff almost committed a crime.
When we catch ourselves running tirelessly on distraction, it often pays to stop, take a breath and ask ourselves what we want at this moment?
Do we want the challenges of distraction or do we want to press on to something,
hopefully, at least a little bit better?
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JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “Doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.