Have you ever noticed how easy it is to distract a toddler by handing him a toy in exchange for the dog bone he just picked up? Distraction is a time-honored parenting technique—one that works so well we really ought to try it on ourselves, especially when we start becoming frustrated and irritable.
Say, for instance, that you are feeling energetic enough to tackle your monthly bill-paying responsibilities. (That would be me a while back.) But before you begin, you remember the TV is on the blink. You fiddle with it for five minutes, concluding that you need to call your service provider. You hold the phone for five more minutes until a lovely, lilting voice comes on the line with the promise of help.
Over the next forty-five minutes, you do everything she tells you to, answering questions, pushing buttons, checking connections, and observing blinking lights on modems while she tries to find a fix from eight thousand miles away. Then you’re put on hold. You glance at your watch to discover that fifteen more minutes have elapsed. Then the woman comes on the line again, telling you she may need to schedule a technician. She asks if it would be okay if she sent you a new receiver. You say yes, and it takes a mere ten minutes to arrange. By now you know that with everything else you still have to do, there is no way you are going to get those bills paid tonight.
Normally I find situations like this frustrating. But that night I was able to distract myself by asking the woman where she was located. Her answer: the Philippines. I expressed concern about recent flooding there. She told me it was still raining hard and a few of her coworkers hadn’t been able to get to work. Then it occurred to me that I am fortunate to have a phone, a TV, and a dry roof over my head. When we finally hung up, I felt at peace, though the bills hadn’t been paid and the TV hadn’t been fixed.
We all face unexpected problems that eat away at our precious time and energy. If we want to remain peaceful at such times, we can do so by distracting ourselves with gratitude. Positive distractions can prevent negative thoughts from growing and festering. Feeling edgy? Go ahead, distract yourself!