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Getting Focused

I keep ducking out of the task before me today to cruise celebrity gossip web sites. Partly because I've worked too much lately and partly because of the disaster in Haiti.

Here's the Haiti connection: when something huge is going on, it feels wrong not to be somehow involved in the moment. It reminds me of the feeling I had once in the early 70s when I was working as a reporter for the local afternoon paper, The Raleigh Times. Some big local story broke; I have a vague memory of a hijacking attempt at the airport. I was working on another story and wasn't shifted to the big news of the day. In the newsroom I was surrounded by people madly working at deadline on this one overwhelming event. It made what I was doing feel trivial, or disrespectful, or just beside the point.

Curiously the opposite was true during the 9/11 morning. I was creating a set of book club questions about themes in my novel Sister India. I learned that one tower had gone down. Then I went back to work. Somehow the impulse to find a TV to watch felt like prurient interest. (It somehow didn't occur to me that another building might fall. I foolishly optimistically assumed it was over.)

In any case, the fact that my novel was about Hindu-Muslim clashes in an Indian holy city made what I was doing feel intensely relevant.

I have no such feeling about my schedule for today and any connection with the collapsed city of Port-au-Prince. And I'm distracted.

The bold thing — the right thing — is to send money, say a prayer, and go back to doing the stuff that is mine to do. Certainly my dawdling at Page Six Celebrity Gossip isn't going to help anything.

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