When you lack focus, use a wide lens

I was talking with my friend Phil Solem the other day. He is one half of the band The Rembrandts; best known for the song, “I’ll Be There For You”, the theme song from the NBC sitcom, Friends. He asked me how things were going with my music. Most people know me as the bass player for All The Pretty Horses (if they even know that) so I’m always flattered when someone asks about my music. I’m also embarrassed because there is not a lot to say. I have a collection of songs that I’ve written going back thirty years. Most have never even been played live, even for friends, and none have been recorded for release. I told Phil, “I just wrote my first song in over a year but I still haven’t done anything with any of them. It takes time and focus. I guess I have the time, I just lack focus.” His response was, “Then use a wide lens.” Initially I was confused as to why he was talking photography when I was talking songwriting but after some time to ponder his words I’ve decided that it may be the best advice I’ve ever received. I’m still not sure exactly what he meant but the best advice is open to interpretation. I have a feeling I know where he is coming from though. I know a number of musicians who have “made it” in the music business and I know what it takes to sustain that kind of success. It takes complete focus and dedication. You wind up missing out on many of the other things that life has to offer. It’s easy to lose the big picture. From what I can tell, most people are happier after their life “under the microscope” is over. I have felt pretty unfocused lately but perhaps that is not a bad thing. Being productive requires focus but to gain perspective you need a wide lens. I have been going through somewhat of a wide lens period. As a result I’m still working on this post that I started a week ago. You may have noticed that I’m not posting as often these days. I actually have a number of thoughts knocking around in my head but they don’t actually produce anything up there. I still need focus for that. I began to feel like I had lost my way but maybe all I  lost was my focus. I used to have a family and that was my focus. I used to have a best friend and she was my focus. I used to have a job and that was my focus. I used to have a band that rehearsed regularly and it was my focus. Over that past year all of these things have gone through dramatic changes. In order to find my place in the world again I needed a wide lens. I am on a path of discovery and what I’m discovering is that this is my path. All of these other things that I do are merely tools I use to help me understand the path. I thought that music was my path. I thought that this blog was my path. I thought that my friends were my path. I thought that my kids were my path. I thought my job was my path. All of them are important and I don’t want to understate that in any way. I would be nowhere without them but my path is not what I do. It is who I am and I’m still trying to discover what that is.

I didn’t see that cliff on the map

This whole year I have been running. I have been running to keep from falling down. I have been running because I am afraid to stop. Like a shark, if I stop moving I will die.

While not literally true, this is what it feels like to be me. For the most part, this approach has worked well for me but I have survived enough pitfalls to see it’s limitations. I am convinced that the reason I got sick back in 1999 was because it was the only way for my body to get me to slow down.

I have been on a path on constantly thinking, feeling and doing. I have accomplished a lot. It has been a full life. I honestly believe that if I seize every moment as it comes and make the most of it, when my final moment comes, I will know that I lived the best life I could.

But I also know that I need to take time to just be. But how do I do that? What can I cut out of my life to make room for nothing?

I’m not going to cut out time with my kids. I’m not going to cut out friends. I’m not going to cut out writing. I’m not going to cut out music. I’m not going to cut out working. As it stands, I don’t even come close to doing everything others want from me. I don’t even come close to everything I want from me. I barely, barely have time to do what I absolutely need to do for survival.

Perhaps I could just keep going like this indefinitely but the pragmatist in me says that it is not sustainable. I could just bury my head and keep forging forward but the cautious person in me fears that I may be about to run into a brick wall or off a cliff.

It’s time to get some perspective. It’s time to step back and look at the big picture. I know that I do that from time to time but I don’t know how I do it. What I do know it that one factor that allows me to keep going, even against my better judgement, is alcohol.

I’m going to spend the next two weeks not drinking, just to see what happens. I know that two weeks is pretty much the minimum time needed to assess the effects of a behavioural change. So far it’s been two days and it’s been a mess. I’m sleeping more but when I’m awake I’m running more, thinking more and feeling more. I’ve been doing more but accomplishing less. I have no focus. Basically, my life is in chaos. So the experiment continues…

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