Frittering. That’s the word my daughter uses to describe what she does when she’s actively trying to avoid doing homework, but so caught up in feeling guilty about not doing it that she doesn’t instead choose something she actually enjoys. In other words, frittering is how we pass time before and after the stuff that’s important. Qualities of frittering include partial attention, semi-numbness and low level satisfaction. For her, this includes staying on Facebook too long, watching shows on her iPhone and texting.
Now, just to be clear, before I started writing this newsletter I heated up a cup of tea. And watered the plants. And refilled the dog’s water bowl and put on some chapstick and googled how much fat is in a Starbucks scone. But that’s not frittering. That’s settling. (It’s amazing how helpful language distinctions are when one is rationalizing). So what’s the big deal, you may be saying as you read this. A little frittering never hurt anyone. The problem is that when we look at “what we don’t want to do,” the list includes everything from cleaning the toilet with a toothbrush, to things we actually do enjoy once we begin, like writing.
In other words, everything that isn’t simple and pleasurable and easy to begin. So outside of eating ice-cream, that leaves pretty much everything else. And if we fritter between these activities… well, you get the point. If we look at how we want to spend our lives and put it in two columns – on one side, things that are meaningful and on the other, things where time passes with barely a blip on the aliveness scale, most of us would want to have more things on the first side.
So, given our proclivity to fritter, what’s a human to do?
As I write this, I’m noticing my dog lying down by the window, his breath fogging up a corner of the glass. He appears to be resting, but when I look closer I see that he’s actually eying a squirrel out the window. His body is relaxed, yet his attention is focused. Although it doesn’t appear to be the case, he is engaged.
So when we look at these normal frittering activities, perhaps a small step in the right direction is some degree of engagement? There’s surfing the internet in a way where we are checked out and time is passing, and there’s surfing in a way that perhaps we are still noticing the feel of our bottom on the chair, or the way the tips of our fingers both hit and slightly hug the keyboard at the same time. We may not jump from full-out frittering to full-out fabulousness, but we can take a moment to be conscious. To notice, without judging, what’s going on. And who knows, maybe when we do that, we might surprise ourselves and close the keyboard and get on the phone to book salsa classes because we’ve always wanted to. You never know where one step towards engaging with ourselves might lead……
As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, Carolyn Scarborough helps people tap into their inner wisdom, then share it with the world through books, blogs and articles. As a Writing Wisdom Coach, she supports you through the journey from inspiring idea to published piece in a way that’s joyful, effortless and profitable.
She’s done almost every kind of writing imaginable, including magazine features, newspaper columns, books, journaling — even ghostwriting for Donald Trump! Her favorite sort of writing is the kind where she has to be really present to find the story, so her life and writing are both a constant awakening to a deeper, richer way to live in the world.
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