Things Undone

It is really getting to me how many things I have undone. It doesn’t help that I am big on making To Do lists. I need those lists to keep track of things, but they also act as reminders of what I have not gotten done.

And lots of things never make it to the lists. The books waiting unread and the stack of books with bookmarkers in them that are partially read. Magazines unread. I even started to tear out articles that I wanted to read so that I could recycle the rest and have less confronting me. Now, I have a wire basket full of torn out articles.

monkeyMy mind is always wandering. The abbot at a Zen monastery that I used to attend told me that I have “monkey mind” – a mind that is like a monkey hopping about from limb to limb in the jungle.

Usually, we can blame a lack of concentration on being too busy, feeling stressed out or being overtired. But lately I have been less busy, not very stressed and better rested and it hasn’t helped the attention or the To Do lists.

I’ve tried things. Yeah, medication. That was a bust.  I tried meditation and mindfulness and ways to increase my awareness of the world around me. I really do try to pay attention whether I’m typing something for a blog post or on one of many rambles through the woods.

I was a kid in a time when there was no such diagnosis as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). You were just a kid in school who was talked too much and didn’t pay attention. Later, the term “hyper(active)” come into use, but it was often diagnosed as a kid who ate too much sugar.

Symptoms? Impatience, distractibility, forgetfulness, impulsiveness, and having trouble finishing tasks.

Sounds like you? Go rate yourself on the World Health Organization’s Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale. If you get a high score, you go go to a doctor and get some meds. You can try cognitive behavioral therapy. You might find that focused attention meditation helps.

It’s easy for me to hide my deficit of attention. Actually, a lot of friends and co-workers have said “I don’t know how you get so much done.”  So, why do I feel so much is undone?

There are plenty of self-help pages to tell you why we can’t focus and how to boost your brainpower and ways to keep your mind sharp and even the right kind of breakfasts that jump-start your brain so that you can handle a brain-power workout.

I know that I’m supposed to shoot for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity three to five times a week. My walking doesn’t cut it because I am so distracted by passing sights and sounds that my speed is inconsistent.

I see these phrases like how to “reboot” your brain, as if it was a laptop and all you needed to do was hit the power button. You need to “rewire” your brain. Focus, organization, time-management and follow-through. Life as business practice.

A diagnosis of ADHD is a nice thing to blame instead of blaming your own inadequacies that make it impossible to get organized, to stick to a job, to keep an appointment, to concentrate. But it doesn’t make things get better.

I actually have found blogging and setting myself deadlines to write here and on a few other blogs to be a great focusing exercise. But this post is done. Time to click “submit.” Then I can focus on my breath and jump from limb to limb like the good little monkey I have always been.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

3 thoughts on “Things Undone”

  1. Mr. Monkey. Rest in the monkey mind. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You get more done than you imagine. There will always be things to do. We will never get them all done. However, be sure you paid your electric bill. Sucks not to have AC in dead of summer.


  2. Thus in order to keep these ideas organized, attention is necessary. Otherwise we will confuse these ideas. Malebranche writes in “The Search After Truth”, “because it often happens that the understanding has only confused and imperfect perceptions of things, it is truly a cause of our errors…. It is therefore necessary to look for means to keep our perceptions from being confused and imperfect. And, because, as everyone knows, there is nothing that makes them clearer and more distinct than attentiveness, we must try to find the means to become more attentive than we are”.


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