Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ramblin', ramblin', ramblin' back in the salt mines...

It's always tough to get back to work after a vacation, of course. But for some reason I seem to be more aghast than ever at my daily and weekly schedule. It's Thursday night, but I literally feel as if it can't possibly be any later than Tuesday because when I get up, go to work, work late, come home, eat dinner, go to work, rinse and repeat, the week just flies by.

While vacationing out there in California, Monique and I had a few good discussions about the value of travel outside of just the fun of seeing new things. One of the great things about travel is how getting out of your home turf and out of your comfort zone gives you a new perspective on your own life.

This is also one of the great advantages to reading books. Somebody else's perspective on the world lends you a new perspective on your own life. I never get that sense of an entirely different perspective from movies or television shows, no matter how well done.

The point of this isn't just to bitch that I'm not settling easily back into harness this week. And there's lots and lots that I love about my daily and weekly routine. I guess it's just to say that I'm feeling a bit philosophic about the big picture this week. Where am I going and why? I generally do useful and interesting things, but are they the most useful and interesting things I could be doing?

One thing I had already noticed the last few years is that I very seldom get several hours in a row for genuine uninterrupted thought, especially during the day when my brain is fresh. I know we're all supposedly living in the age of multitasking, but sometimes it really does take my brain a while to set everything else aside and concentrate deeply on something. As a result, I often feel as if I've contracted some form of attention-deficit disorder. But I know that I actually have a darn good attention span when I have time to relax and concentrate on something.

I sometimes wonder if the apparent outbreak of ADD/ADHD throughout our society is really just a matter of bad scheduling in most cases. And I sometimes worry that living the daily routine that I do will eventually ruin my own ability to concentrate at length. Right now, I felt as if I had mostly recovered that ability by the second week of our vacation. But what if one day that skill just doesn't come back?

I can't write shorter poems than haiku, no matter how much worse my attention span gets. Watch:


See, that's not a poem. That's a word.

One other thing I noticed during the vacation was that by the second week, I was beginning to feel more and more like "myself" again. What does that really mean, though? If most of my life is spent in my usual overscheduled frenzy of problem-solving alternating with snippets of loafing about, is that actually who I am? Is it who I am becoming? Is it who I am in danger of becoming? If you spend five days a week, forty-eight weeks a year doing or being something, is that who you are?

And what does that thought mean for my tombstone? "Here lies John Magee, cubicle dweller with a short attention span. You can still try to double-book him into meetings, but you better hope he doesn't show up, 'cause he won't just be unshaven and distracted from trying to be two places at once. He'll be all wormy and gross." There are worse epitaphs, I suppose, but it's hardly inspiring stuff.

And what does all of this have to do with Carrie Fisher's key ring? (<-- Foreshadowing, a common literary technique used by those writers who have a sufficient attention span.)

Eeesh, maybe it's just better to just look at the pretty pictures and not think about the broader psychological underpinnings of vacation.

Look, pretty picture:


  1. I think you really have some excellent points here. Sometimes, it seems oooooooooh- look! Shiny!

  2. How about a long, quiet walk tomorrow? There must be a way to hold onto that relaxed sense of self while carrying on an active life, don't you think?

    Lets try.

  3. Listen to your wife, basically don't sweat the small stuff, and its all small stuff.