When Thistle was a puppy, she had a penchant for chewing things. Sticks, shoes, area rugs–whatever. Once, while out for a walk, she spotted a green, plastic cup on the side of the road. I’m not sure what qualities she looked for in shreddable trash, but whatever it was, that cup passed muster and she grabbed it.
Thistle’s standard mode of walking on leash is to rush ahead, find something interesting, and stop to give it her full attention. It’s not the smoothest, steadiest way to move down the road. Many times I have to draw her attention away from a stick, bit of trash, or remnant of unfortunate critter in order to make any progress at all.
Not so once she had her cup. Cup in mouth, she pointed her nose toward home and did not look to the right or the left. When a squirrel crunched through the leaves in the woods nearby, she barely gave it a glance. When I spoke her name she shot me a look over one shoulder and kept on moving toward her goal.
Focus. Work to do. A purpose. That’s what Thistle had. My normally scattered puppy suddenly acquired Zen-like focus when there was a task at hand.
I think what happened to Thistle when she found just the right bit of trash is what happens to people when they find just the right work to do. The normally distractable person suddenly has focus. She gets in the flow. Time passes without her noticing. Squirrels run right in front of her and . . . oh wait, that’s Thistle.
I think this is one of the best clues to finding your purpose. What holds your attention so strongly that normal distractions fade into the background? The way it does for me when I get in the flow of writing . . .
Oh, it isn’t always that way. Sometimes I write for an hour without stopping and when I do stop it’s like waking up. Other times, the writing comes in drips and drabs that I have to squeeze out like the last bit of toothpaste. But the flow happens often enough that I think writing must be the thing. The gift. The irresistible work that gives me purpose.
So how about you? What utterly captures your attention?