Singleminded

My oldest son loves video games. He loves them so much that he turned his sixth-grade geography project from “Japan” to “The History of Video Games in Japan.” We’ll sweep his room for his DS and iPod before he goes to bed, but often still find him in the morning with the handheld game clutched to his chest (yes, we need to be more creative about hiding places). A few days ago my husband was studying vocabulary words with him. “What’s an estate?” he asked. My son looked at him blankly. My husband gave an example to help him out, “Luigi’s Mansion” is an estate– a big house with lots of land.” Pretty soon they were relating every vocabulary word on the list to some aspect of Super Mario Bros. and within ten minutes my previously reluctant kid had the words memorized and could use them all in sentences.

I see the same tendencies in myself– I am a serial monogamist when it comes to obsessions. For a long time I read everything I could about pregnancy, childbirth, and child development. My husband is a doctor, and he joked that if someone had a question about obstetrics or pediatrics, they should ask me instead of him. When we stopped having babies, I flung myself into blogging (charting my page views obsessively) and learning about running, reading dozens of books about how to improve my times. I’d go to bed thinking about running, wake up thinking about running, and think about running when I was running.

These days, I still run, but I’ll do just about anything not to think about it when I’m doing it. My first preference is to run with friends, but if I can’t drag anyone else out of bed at 5:30 in the morning, I listen to a book. Over the last year, since we started researching the possibility of international adoption, many of those books have been about Chinese history or adoption, and my running friends know that I’ll spend our hour together talking about visas and the one-child policy and who’s going to watch my kids when we go to China in March. In fact, it reminds me of the way my boys come running to me to tattle on each other– the older one will complain, “He’s talking too much about Legos.” And ten minutes later the younger one will come rushing in to whine, “He won’t stop talking about Mario.” My husband wakes up enough to groan at me when the alarm goes off in the morning and I reach for my phone before I get out to see what’s happened overnight on the adoption boards.

So what about you? Do you find yourself to be a serial monogamist in your obsessions, or are your mind-consuming relationships more long term? Are you able to fall asleep and wake up in the morning without potential dates at the US Consulate (or any other obsession, for that matter) running full-tilt through your brain?

About Shelah

(Managing Editor) doesn't know how to say "no." That's why she's training for another marathon, throwing together a Sharing Time, writing a blog post, and trying to get a batch of cookies in the oven before the kids get home from school. If you ask her to write an article or bring dinner to someone, she'll be sure to say "yes" to that too. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids.

13 thoughts on “Singleminded

  1. I think there have been times in my life of super hyper-focus on something. Lately, though, I feel like I lack focus, and wish I could be captivated by something, anything, that is worthwhile, because it feels like I’m idling away my life without a passion to pursue. I admire your passion and intensity ♥

  2. Shelah,
    I too was so into everything childbirth and baby and toddler when that was my season. I thought I would never outgrow it, but when my children did and that season ended–so did my obsession with it all. I’m not sure if I’m as single-minded these days.

  3. Yep. I’m another single-minded person–sort of. (I majored in Humanities b/c I couldn’t decide on just ONE thing to study.) A year and a half ago I bought a dslr camera and then spent the next six months COMPLETELY immersing myself in all things photography–it was all I thought about. I’d fall into bed at night after having poured over photography blogs and tutorials for hours. When I’d wake up to roll over in my sleep, I’d find I’d been dreaming about photography and it was the first thing on my mind again in the morning. Then, once I’d learned all I’d set out to learn, I switched to something else.

  4. I can definitely relate to this post! I also go through serial obsessions (some longer lasting than others), although I don’t think I have quite your singular dedication.

    I can see my oldest son (age 6) turning into your son when he’s older. His current obsession is Ninjago and we hear about that all the time. That, or Mario Galaxy, on the rare days he gets to play the wii (there’s a reason we put limits on him!).

    I think this kind of hyper focus is a dual-edged sword. It allows you to get good at something–and to accomplish a lot. But sometimes (for me at least) it means I overlook or ignore things I should also be paying more attention to (like my spiritual life or my children!).

  5. i have a number of friends who are adopting from foreign lands so it’s completely normal to me to hear the words “potential dates at the us consulate” on a blog. :)

  6. I recognize my son in this. As I look back, it was rapelling for a couple of years, then bicycling for a couple of years, now it’s fly fishing. But the problem is that nothing but the best, most expensive equipment will do.

  7. When I was pregnant I was absolutely obsessed with pregnancy and baby reading. Now that my son is almost 8 months old, I still read baby and child development stuff, but I have really felt the need to branch out and remind myself of other interests.

  8. Oh yes, I relate to this completely. Running, knitting, WWII history, childbirth, Chinese history, quilting, beekeeping, photography, etc. I actually think it’s my super power. :) Yes, I often leave unfinished projects along my path but I’ve also acquired dozens of new skills.

  9. Yes, yes, and yes, running and charity work were the last two. And like Michelle, “I often leave unfinished projects along my path but I’ve also acquired dozens of new skills.”

  10. We tend to have a lot of obsessions at the same time and there are a million things racing through our brains at the same time. We spend lots of time talking with each other about trying to pick a focus and do one thing at a time. Does that make us obsession polygamist…lol.

  11. I get obsessed now and then about certain topics, but I feel like I have the ADD version of what you’re talking about. I wish I could be as interested in something for as long as you have. Like Rosalyn said, obsessions are good–they’re motivating, inspiring, and the perfect way to educate yourself–as long as we strike the right balance, which I imagine you’ve done. Good luck with your trip in March! Look forward to hearing more about the adoption!

  12. With my recent move I realized that my obsession, I mean.. single minded pursuit, had become part of my identity. I immersed myself in foster care. Reading up on it, being the best foster mom I could be, blogging, etc. Then we had to stop to move.

    For a short time I focused on the move, but once all the crazy of it was over I realized that I liked who I was as a foster mom and didn’t want to give up that part of myself. Our situation now doesn’t allow for it and I’m still sulking over it. Weaning myself off foster blogs and forcing my blinders in another direction is difficult.

  13. I can’t have just one best friend and I can’t have just one obsession. But I love lots of friends and when it comes to many things, I am obsessive. I like to think that if I channel my energies to these things that good might come of it. I do things with hope. So I may be off in some ways, but I am lucid enough to know a good thing when I see it and share it. :) I like that you reach your son where he is. I saw a good interview by Brad Wilcox who promotes literacy and is a professor at BYU. He said to talk to youth about their interest whether it be video games or skate boarding to help build the bridge. He said the first inclination may be to think that they spend way too much time on that activity and the last thing that you want to do is encourage it more, but it really is important that we show that we value what is important to them to open up those walls of communication.

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