I used to have a motorcycle. I joke that I traded it in for my son, but that’s not entirely true. I kept if for a couple of years after he came along, but once he did, I wasn’t able to enjoy my bike the same way. My focus had changed. My ability to be completely in the moment on a ride (because I had to be) was lost. Once my son was born, I discovered a little voice that kept nagging me, What if something happens? The only way to shut that voice down was to sell my bike.
The problem was that riding my Harley provided real healing for me. Once I got out on the road (hopefully) riding the long sweeping turns, all problems melted away. Any stress was replaced by bliss. And, a real sense of calm washed over me. It didn’t matter if I rode for five minutes or five hours, the result was the same. A return to self. And, when I sold the bike, that healing space was lost.
It’s no secret that if I don’t get enough of the time like I used to have on my motorcycle, I snap. I find myself needing to hide under the nearest rock in total darkness. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to be near anyone. And I certainly don’t want to talk to anyone. Those that do talk to me do so at their own risk, as I’m likely to respond to any comment with the kind of sharp, biting tone that makes grown men cry. In other words, I become a total asshole. I’m not proud of it, but I own it.
Because I don’t particularly like being an asshole (sometimes all evidence to the contrary), and in the absence of the motorcycle, I had to discover a new way for me to “heal myself.” I’ve had to find new ways to avoid my version of the transition to The Hulk. And, you know how you can feel a cold or flu coming on? Or The Hulk knows when it’s green time? I can feel the shadows approaching. The bike chased them off. So, what to do?
Although it’s been years since I sold my Harley, I’ve only recently learned that it wasn’t the bike. It was focus. I keep finding myself coming back to focus as a major underpinning in my life. More specifically, it was the concept of being forced into one and only one moment. Maybe it’s not so surprising, but what I’ve also learned is a key element to my ability focus is the importance of “stepping away.”
I hit walls (though, fortunately, that never happened when I was on my bike). Now, however, instead of getting overly frustrated by what I perceive is a lack of forward motion (which was a root of many snapping episodes), I simply step away. Instead of getting frustrated that I wasn’t writing as well as I wanted to, I can just take a week off from writing (did anyone notice?). If a project hits wall after wall after wall? Step away. Put it in a drawer. Get away from it.
By doing so – I gain the perspective of distance. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, I think it also makes the brain grow creatively. You know the feeling – when we’re looking at something too closely, we lose the focus. The image gets blurry. Stepping away lets me regain the ability to, once again, see things clearly. It allows me to (re)gain clarity.
There are several projects that I kept trying to work on – despite the fact that they had obviously stalled. I needed to get away from them. After a week, I picked them back up and each has flourished in some way (some big ways…some small ways). Most notably, a book proposal has taken serious shape. (Hopefully, more on that in a future post.)
But there’s another element at play here, as well. I also think it’s important to use the “downtime” productively. I’m fortunate that my schedule is reasonably flexible. So, I used my recent “stepping away” time to work on a budding passion – standup paddle boarding. Instead of staring passively at flashing cursors, I got active and moved. Science has proven that movement, exercise, activity, etc., sparks creativity. And trying something new adds to that spark. For me, it creates a wildfire of potential creativity.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my motorcycle. Every single time I hear the roar of a Harley, I have to look. But I also know that those days have passed me by. I don’t think I’ll ever ride again. The potential downside far outweighs the upside for me now. So, I’ve found new ways to find my focus. And, in doing so…I’ve found ways to chase off the shadows and create.