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The Action of Distraction

Without getting into too much detail—because, truthfully, I’m no longer willing to miss the forest for the trees, or in other words, I’ll get real lost in the details real fucking quick—I’m going on ten years in one way, ten months in another, and even just ten minutes in the here and now.

I’m as present as I can be. Right now. Writing. Not even “writing” yet in the literary, a-comma-or- a-dash kinda way—just typing on a computer, sitting on my couch, coffee on the coffee table.

To say I’d be lying if I was here right now claiming I’d reached some next level, that I’d had some profound catharsis about my life and its purpose, that I’d lived the best way I could, helping the most people I could, believing the ideals I could (and should)…

That couldn’t even be called a lie—it’d be called a fiction, a fantasy, Don Quixote aiming his lance at one of those windmills, or Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.

It didn’t happen, it hasn’t happened, and to think that it will is the first step in going down a road that only leads back to me. So, no way. No thanks.

No, like I was saying, my ten years, my ten months, and even my ten minutes has almost nothing to do with any of the idealistic stories and fantasies we tell ourselves to make life livable.

It has to do with the very essence of what’s in the now, of what connects moment to moment, idea to idea, hope to hope, truth to truth, person to person, human power to Higher Power.

It has to do with Action.

And in all truth, and in the most positive way—as I hope I’ll explain—it has to do with The Action of Distraction.

Long story short:

In 2007, when my dad convinced me he’d help me pull a Trainspotting by locking me in my childhood bedroom for three days to get through withdrawals, I remember I asked him what the hell I could even try to do after.

He looked me in the eyes and said he had no idea, that it was up to me, but he knew one thing… It wouldn’t be about me thinking or saying or hoping or believing.

It should be about me doing. In fact, it should be about me doing something—any-fucking-thing—that’d distract me from thinking, saying, hoping, or believing.

And that was the first time I thought to myself… The Action of Distraction.

So what did I do? Two days later I walked up to a man named Josh at the second meeting I ever went to without a court card (at the first one the night before I walked up to a man named Frank and asked him to be my sponsor) and told him I’d like to get involved. I may have even said, “I’ll do anything.” And my sponsor definitely said, “He’ll fucking do anything.”

“Butt cans.”

So for the next six months—and for my first six months—I cleaned up every cigarette butt before and after every meeting. Period. That’s all I did. It was up to me, and my purpose was to keep the meeting grounds clean. Again, period.

And there were always tons of cigarette butts because there were tons of cigarette smokers.

So really long story really fucking short:

I’m alive today because a man named Josh—who’d become a friend, a brother, and my family of choice—said to me, “Butt cans.”

I’m definitely not saying The Action of Distraction is necessarily noble or poetic or lit with warm light on some movie set or happens at the magic hour on an island in the Pacific or makes your dreams come true or ends with the words, “Happily ever after…”

Far from it.

But you know what The Action of Distraction does do? It keeps you here, it keeps you awake, it keeps you clear, it keeps you active, it keeps you living, or like my dad said, it keeps you doing.

Above all… It keeps you alive.

I’ll get into how The Action of Distraction has made all the difference these last ten months next time, I promise. Given my life-changing diagnosis, surgery, recovery, and rehabilitation, it takes my breath away just thinking about it as I type. But like I said… Next time.

The last ten minutes? Yeah, that one’s quick and easy. A while back I read a story about a Navy SEAL, Admiral William H. McCraven, who told his soldiers, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Well, I’m not even gonna fucking pretend I think I can change the world, not even close. Let the ones who think that, think that. That’s their business, and mine is mine.

But that making the bed part? That? That I get. And it’s not because I want to change the world.

It’s just because I want to make it through the day.

And no matter how I feel when I wake up—happy, sad, hopeful, cynical, forgotten, lost, calm, or cool—the first thing I do is make my bed. Every. Single. Fucking. Day. It’s The Action of Distraction I learned when I was five.

It’s The Action of Distraction I completed just ten minutes ago. And at least today, it’s one tiny, momentary, seemingly insignificant, yet profoundly meaningful example of The Action of Distraction that keeps me alive.