I love the use of preoccupation as a noun. We use the word more commonly as a verb, “to be preoccupied,” but as a noun it has more teeth. “I have a preoccupation with Victorian-era sea shanties” is significantly different than “I am preoccupied by this Victorian-era sea shanty.” As a verb, the word can be temporary, fleeting, but as a noun, it denotes something that is long-lasting and defining. I like it.
Distraction, too, is a lovely noun. “You are such a distraction,” works beautifully as both a compliment or an exclamation of aggravation, depending on the context. But whether it functions as a verb or a noun, it is quick and transitory. It is less heavy and more momentary than a preoccupation.
So here we have two words, one enduring, another more temporary. Our identities, too, have facets that are enduring, and those that are more temporary, changing with a day, a season, an event, a mood. Can you see where I’m going with this? The task I’ve set myself is to describe my identity through my preoccupations and distractions.
I have a preoccupation with literature. Good books, bad books, novels, novellas, classics, science-fiction, fantasy, theology, quick reads, long reads, poetry, songs. The art of words on a page fascinates me and pulls me in to places my mind would otherwise not know to explore. Literature in all its forms is one of my enduring preoccupations, something I have never and will never release. The knowledge to be learned, the emotions to be felt, the ideas to explore, and the revelations to experience through literature is a gift to the world, one that I relish unwrapping day after day after day.
I am distracted by clutter. My bedroom is a mess, but I don’t work in my bedroom. If my workspace is cluttered, my mind is even worse. Nothing is completed until the clutter is cleared.
I have a preoccupation with perfection. This is a tough one to own up to, but it’s such a force in my life, to ignore it would be untrue to myself. Sometimes my preoccupation with perfection helps me to do jobs well, work with precision, and see things through in the best possible way. Often, it cripples my ability to finish something, it draws out projects into days and weeks and months, and it seeds self-doubt, destroys confidence, and paralyzes me into inaction. It produces extreme anxiety and fuels depression. My acknowledgement of this preoccupation, however, has also produced a desire to embrace imperfection, love myself, and fight the demons brought forth from within.
I am distracted by people. What they say, how they move, who they’re with, why they’re there, what they want, why they want it. People are interesting, their personalities and decisions are unique, they are guided by such varied goals, dreams, fears, and passions. Don’t mix this up with the idea that I like talking to people. I am an introvert through and through, and while I like the one-on-one conversation as much as the next introvert, the crowds of people in a busy city or push of people against me at a crowded party are not on my list of favorite things. But put me on a park bench with a cup of tea, a good book, and a few people scattered throughout the park? I love those people. They are fascinating.
I am distracted by cute puppies, hot beverages, and loud music. I am distracted by uncomfortable clothes that fit too tight, soy candles that smell like the past, and that one person who won’t stop texting at dinner. I am distracted by birds perched on my backyard fence, the sound of running water, British television, reapplying sunblock at the beach, and beautiful old houses that look like they could be haunted. My list of distractions goes ever on. It must stop somewhere. Here it stops.
I have a preoccupation with dreams. Dreams of all sorts: daydreams, lucid dreams, nightmares, average dreams, dreams for the future, and unrealistic or unobtainable dreams. I see nothing wrong with staring out a window and daydreaming about how my life would be different if I were a warg, or what our marriage is like from the perspective of my husband, or why God created ticks. I wake up from a particularly scary or inspiring dream and consider it for the rest of the day. Dreams, no matter what they are, have meaning to the person dreaming them. They represent, in all their forms, our fears, aspirations, emotions, fantasies, relationships, anxieties, and affections. They are beautifully odd, and truthful, and sometimes incomprehensible, but I think that human souls are all those things too. They are worthwhile of a preoccupation.
Here, then, is a small piece of me, through the lens of distraction and preoccupation. It is an incomplete, but still solid, beginning. A start. It is imperfect in many ways; and I will admit that it makes me uncomfortable. But discomfort is a sign of motion, of action and change. It can be distracting too, yes, and some people may become preoccupied with it. Let me not be that person. Not today, at least.
Today, I am present.