Our son has a nightlight.
We didn’t sleep much last night because the batteries kept running out.
When he wakes up through the night and sees that it isn’t on, he starts asking for “more light please.”
Sounds adorable in the light of day, but having only had about four hours sleep last night it’s … less cute.
Freshly charged batteries are normally given to the lime-green bear nightly, but yesterday our routine was thrown so we didn’t get to charge the spares.
So at 1:30am when he woke up asking for more light, I walked out and tried the barely-charged batteries we had at hand. The bear lit up and I put it in place, our son dozed off, as did I, hoping the batteries would last.
An hour or so later he woke up again. “Daddy, more light please. Mummy, more light? Cuddle?”.
The batteries hadn’t lasted. I hazily trotted to the lounge again in search of more.
I pull them out of my wife’s mouse, replaced them, returned to bed and hoped they would keep until morning.
Not long after, I wake up to a noise outside. Before I doze off I notice the normal green glow had disappeared again. But at least he hadn’t woken u… “Mummy? Daddy? More light please.”
I was getting frustrated now. Why hadn’t we charged the batteries? Why couldn’t he just sleep? Why is it so damn hard to get a decent sleep? I started to get flashbacks of the first year and a half of his life in which I would sleep barely a few hours a night, and I wanted to scream. I grew hot from the frustration, my feet itched, my head ached, my eyes burnt. I got more batteries from another mouse, put them in, hoped for the best.
But the frustration loomed, so I waited in the lounge. I hoped to relaxed, listened to a podcast, browsed Reddit, wishing to find the tiredness now lost.
An hour or so later I started to doze off and was thankful for it as it meant I might end up with a total of four or five hours sleep for the night.
I walked back to bed and on the way noticed that stupid bear was once again dark, but our son was asleep and so went back to bed.
“I think we’ve killed all the rechargables” my wife says to me as I doze off. “Hmmm” is all I can offer.
In the end I’m not sure how many times I replaced the batteries. All I know is that this morning it wasn’t fun finding that the remotes and mice around the house were all suspiciously lighter and frustratingly dead.
I slept in. Missed my usual daily-writing deadline and woke up hung-over-frustrated. A truck roared outside. I’d forgotten to put the bins out. Like I said, yesterday was screwy. Damn. More frustration.
My wife gets our son up, makes his breakfast. He’s as happy as ever, we’re tired and aching.
“You know, now that I think about it, I think the batteries are fine.” My wife says as she’s passing our son his morning bowl of fruit. “You know how normally when they’re flat the light dies within a few minutes? Well that didn’t happen once last night, did it?”
“I guess not, no, but I was too tired to notice” I say.
I start to think about alternatives. About getting an electrician in to put an outlet in a better place so we can get a plug-in nightlight that sits nicely relative to his bed. I think about forcing him to simply live without the nightlight, convincing myself he’ll get use to it. I think about how much I have to do today and how far I am, and how much more work I’ll need to do tomorrow to make up for it.
“I think he got his hands on the light and turned the one-hour timer on,” she says as I’m frantically brushing old coffee out of my coffee machine’s portafilter.
It’s sometimes hard to gain perspective on a problem when we’re in the middle of it.
It’s even harder when that problem is one that offers constant distractions. Last night it was batteries and bears and light.
That’s an easy problem to spot, and if we’d not been so tired, one perspective would have been easy to gain.
Other problems are harder to see, and gaining perspective on them seems near impossible.
What if you treated skill-building as a problem you needed to gain perspective on. What are the distractions you don’t even notice? What are the problems that aren’t really problems?
For example, we talk about killing off our social media accounts, not watching TV, forgetting about video games in the pursuit of our craft.
But … is that the real problem? Those things are simply more fun, that’s why we are attracted to such distractions.
Forcing ourselves not to indulge in such things doesn’t suddenly make them less fun. If anything we see them as more interesting as we’re forcing ourselves to do something we don’t naturally want to do.
We can get away with forcing ourselves to do what’s better for us, but not for too long. Eventually we’ll burnout and fall back into our indulgences, enjoying them more than ever, which will make it even harder to deny ourselves of their enjoyment later.
For me, the perspective I gained on solving the problem of trying to build my skills up meant realising that I preferred watching TV, reading comic books, playing video games, and doing not much of anything, was because they were simply more fun than the work I needed to do.
Once I realised this, and understood that I’m simply too weak-willed to show up and do something I dislike everyday, I starting looking for the joy in the work.
Luckily I found it. I thought about the long-term benefits to working on my skills instead of, say, excessively watching TV, so was happy to establish goals to work towards.
And considering the short-term, I started to take joy in the little wins. Small things started to mean big happiness – fixing a small bug that’s plagued my site for months, understanding new techniques I’ve wondered about for years, and simply enjoying the win that comes with scratching an “x” next to an item on my todo list.
She was right, of course.
It was obvious in the morning, after the problem was gone, after we’d gained some perspective. The little guy had flicked the sleep-timer on. If, in the night, I’d tried to gained a better perspective of the problem, I could have solved it in a moment.
So, what’s the little switch you need to flick? Have you got a good perspective on where you are and where you’re going?