There’s this idea that the things that trigger you about the people around you tend to serve as a mirror for your own personal challenges and deficiencies.
I have a friend who will often get fixated on whatever new or exciting venture grabs her attention. She becomes obsessed, dreaming up all kinds of elaborate scenarios based on her newfound passion, until suddenly — she’s on to something new.
I think the so-called experts call this “shiny object syndrome” — the tendency to become easily captivated (read: distracted) by the next greatest idea.
I’ve often wondered how my friend can regularly abandon one thing in hot pursuit of another. Unfinished business drives me mental, to the point where I’ll easily run myself ragged trying to get it all done (not a great attribute to possess).
But then, I was recently reflecting on the sense that there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I wish I could, because there’s literally oh-so-much I want to get done!
Wouldn’t it be nice to spend an hour on the yoga mat and maybe prep some snacks for the week, and man, I’d really love to do some crafting and watch the latest “Married at First Sight” and get out for a hike and GAH!
It dawned on me, as I contemplated wishing I had time for all the things: I’m an obsessor.
I, too, am a sufferer of shiny object syndrome, which is precisely the reason I’m sometimes secretly annoyed by my friend’s seeming inability to see a project through to completion. I’m harsh on her (albeit privately) because I’m harsh on me.
This affliction is particularly challenging for someone with Type A tendencies like myself because of the fact that not only do I regularly abandon projects for the next promising venture, but because I then berate myself for failing to follow through.
Here’s a weird-ish example: this past winter, I started gathering fallen mosses and lichens from the woods around us and using them to adorn wreaths and boxes and other whimsical, woodland-inspired creations. As I sat hot-gluing clumps of dried detritus to grapevine wreaths, I imagined how well-loved my creations would become. I’d open an Etsy shop and start vending at local markets and gosh, I’d better think of a name for my burgeoning business, and fast!
I spent a solid two weeks bent over my kitchen table, surrounded by a mess of leavings, until suddenly, I was over it. Totally, one hundred percent done.
Instead of doing the rational thing and stowing away my supplies for another moment of inspiration sometime down the road, I considered the whole endeavour over. Finished. Exhausted.
Shiny object syndrome.
Instead of playing and experimenting and approaching my grand idea of “woodland inspired whimsy” with a sense of curiosity, I hit the throttle and went barrelling forward straight to saturation point. No more, no good — on to the next thing!
I’m realizing, perhaps more acutely than ever before, that I consistently let myself get obsessed with something, dive in head first with unbridled enthusiasm, push myself relentlessly in an effort to “master” said thing, then swiftly refocus my energies if I can’t make it work.
Another example: I decided a couple weeks ago to try 30 days of clean keto eating this fall, once the last camping trip was over and done and I was ready to get back into a more disciplined routine.
So I started reading keto books and listening to keto podcasts and obsessing over everything keto, and I decided yesterday that I was ready to properly begin.
I drove the half-hour to Costco after work and stocked up on keto-compliant groceries, then hauled my butt over to Superstore after to find the specialty items not carried by Costco — things like stevia drops and full-fat coconut milk — and two and a half hours later (how, even?) I was finally home, and I was exhausted and starving, but alas!
I couldn’t possibly start cooking dinner! Not until I had cleaned and organized the fridge and cleared and classified the pantry, because obsessed!
I finally — FINALLY !— sat down with my dinner at 9 p.m., practically delirious with fatigue, simply because I couldn’t bear to break my focus. Because obsessed!
And I suppose recognizing the problem is half the solution, but I’m telling you, it’s no easy feat to overcome the compulsion to throw myself hard into every new undertaking.
This fact dawned on me with writing, in particular, as we prepared to head off for the long weekend and I realized I hadn’t produced anything in a number of days.
I hadn’t produced anything because I was busy and tired, because I wanted instead to practice the beaded earrings I’d just learned to make, and because my mind and body were unwilling to lend themselves to the rigour of sitting in front of a screen for an indeterminate number of hours trying to churn something out for the sake of productivity.
Instead of accepting this fact as is — accepting that it’s okay not to feel 100 percent zealous 100 percent of the time — I let myself believe that I had failed. That my effort to write more regularly was wasted because I didn’t have the energy to commit to doing it obsessively all the time.
And then I spent three and a half glorious days in the woods, and even though it rained torrentially more than half the time, I savoured the opportunity to be fully offline and far from it all.
And then I returned to civilization, and to the frenzied sense of wishing I had time to do it all, and realized quite suddenly, I don’t have to do it all.
That I can do some now, and I can save some for later.
And that doesn’t make me a failure.
It means that I’m learning, finally (and it’s about time).