Anyone who has kids knows they have a tendency to fixate on certain things. And I don’t know if it’s all boys or just my boys, but they can fixate much more intensely and persistently than my daughters ever did. (They also are distracted at the drop of the hat. That’s the parenting paradox for you!)
Case in point: Satchmo (the seven-year-old) interrupted our grammar lesson yesterday to ask which video game he should choose: the computer game or the DS game. They aren’t allowed electronics during the week, so he was asking for Friday afternoon at the earliest. I guess having a plan more than three days out is important. I also heard him ask his sister the same question, so maybe he’s just soliciting information. He’s also fixated on his future move to Africa, so any subject of conversation or education must also be examined as how it pertains to Africa. It makes things interesting.
Bulldozer is even more extreme in his fixation. When he gets an idea or desire in his noggin, it is almost painful for him to stop pursuing it. Whereas Satchmo can set aside his question and return to the matter at hand with a little encouragement, Bulldozer has a really hard time stepping away from his obsession. Recently, he’s decided he really, really wants a video camera. We have an old one that MTG told him he could use, but I couldn’t find it. When I finally found it, I couldn’t find the charger. Then MTG found the charger, but I couldn’t remember how to work the thing. During all of this, meltdowns galore. Some of those were even Bulldozers! (Okay, about 50/50: His “I must video all the things!” meltdown and my “This is totally screwing up my schedule!” meltdowns.) The good thing is that I’m able to use his fixation to my advantage. When your work is finished, you may experiment with the video camera. But when things go wrong? Holy guacamole, is it unfun.
But as much as kids can get fixated on things, adults can go even further. Our fixations keep us up at night, ruin relationships and sabotage careers. I’ve noticed that I’ve been fixating on things a lot lately, particularly on things that are wrong or even just not perfect. Like my aforesaid schedule getting royally messed up. And the various nicks and bruises my house has that I really want fixed or replaced. I have a lovely, comfortable home, but all I can see is my broken stove top and garage door or #$@% hall bathroom. I fixate things that haven’t happened and may never happen — potential outcomes of current situations and potential outcomes of potential situations. I fixate on things long past. I fixate on what ought to be and what never can be. And holy guacamole, is it unfun.
I wonder if it’s not the human condition to fixate on things, good or bad. There’s so much going on that we can’t possibly pay attention to it all, so we pick something to focus on. The problem comes when we focus on things to the exclusion of everything else or fix on things that gnaw at our minds and our souls. Ironically, the verse that has been my “go to” verse for the past several years has an antidote for my unhealthy fixation: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” You (I) just have to fixate on the right things.
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My problem is I tend to wait until I’m drowning in my preoccupations before I’ll look up to fix my eyes on God. Much better is Brother Lawrence’s counsel to remain in the presence of God at all times. Instead of living fixated on the troubles and trials of life, stay in the presence of God and deal with the circumstances as they come. But don’t live in the presence of your problems — past, present, or future. And yes, this is one of those “preaching to myself” things that I’m not anywhere close to having down. But it’s still good advice.
What do you fixate on? How do you refocus your attention on better things?