Fight the Distraction: On Redirecting Thoughts and Redefining Values

These past few weeks I have been returning to what matters in my life: God, family, friends, and work that matters. As such, I have been more aware of the distractions that tempt me away from these foci. Not surprisingly, the distractions are ubiquitous and destructive. To name a few:

1. Material envy.

My husband got a new car: a 2015 Toyota Fusion Hybrid. We haven’t had a NEW car (not just “new to us”) in YEARS. In fact, my husband totaled the last one we had. Although he works extremely hard and has to drive much, much more than I do, I still felt bitter about the fact that I am stuck driving a 2004 (yep, that’s more than the 10 years ago, people) Camry with a scrapped up bumper and wheel well, a faulty trunk-release button, and a tape-deck. When I want to listen to music, my front dash turns into an early 20th century switchboard as wires connect my devices to the stereo. It’s baller.

2. Physical envy.

Every time I see another mama with a svelte body, I want to pinch her. Just a little. Like under the arm where you know it will sting. Why? Because after childbirth and a stressful doctoral program, this body ain’t so svelte anymore. Or thin. It’s got curves in all the wrong places, which is only exacerbated by the current fashions. On a good day, I say f*** it. On a bad day, I cry.

3. Fear of the future.

Searching for jobs in academia without having the freedom to move is a nightmare. There are a limited number of full-time jobs, and I am desperately trying to avoid the hell of being an adjunct (read: university bitch). I’m trying to apply for jobs in several other fields, but that PhD makes it hard to break out. Do I have everything I need and much, much more RIGHT NOW? Yes. But I still have a mini-panic attack (or four) every day.

These distractions undermine my more important pursuits, like loving everyone (including myself) and showing that love in tangible ways. When those distractions seep into my speech and actions, I have no love to give; furthermore, I become the worst possible example for my daughter. If I don’t want her to be consumed with envy (and thus ingratitude) and anxiety, I have to avoid these behavioral patterns myself. Some of the most confident, happy people I know came from parents who guarded their speech and actions in such a way that the values that matter–God, family, friends, meaningful work–were highlighted. In fact, my best friend’s mother never said the word “diet” for the entirety of her childhood. Just another reason why Joy Coble is my hero.

I write this blog today in an attempt to consciously defuse the power of these distractions/bad behaviors/sin traps. I do not want to be envious or anxious; I want to be grateful and hopeful–literally full of gratitude and hope. I’m not perfect, and really perfection isn’t even a good goal (<–huge lesson for me). I do want to be loving, though, and continually live out the values that I claim to hold dear.

So, today I’m going to drive my car–which thankfully still runs very well–to a store and attempt to buy pants that don’t make me cry before calmly looking over my dissertation which needs one last polish. As I finish my work for the day, I am going to say a silent prayer that God will grant me his abiding peace that allows for greater love for all, even me.

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