Adventures in Concentration

I’ve never been confident in Math, which is why I always carry around this portable abacus:


Fingers: more than just chicken-wing holders

I can’t tell you what 18+6 is without asking my fingers for help, but there is one equation that I know with certainty:

Summer = Vacation

That one fundamental equation, reinforced through a lifetime spent in the Canadian education system, is part of the national psyche. When summer arrives, vacation starts; it’ll be gone again soon, so you’d better make the most of it.

Okay, it might not be a strictly Canadian phenomenon, but I do love that for 2 months every year, Canada comes alive. Really alive. The kind of alive that allows your toes to run around sock-free, and makes you think that sunscreen smells awesome. The kind of alive that convinces you that if it can’t go on the BBQ, it’s not worth eating and eating outside makes everything taste better, especially if you’ve just pulled it out of the garden and rinsed it off with the hose.

Sure, some people complain about Heat & Humidity, as though the words are a pair of villainous twins bent on siphoning off all your energy and hoarding it until September. But even the nay-sayers know, we’ve never strained our backs shovelling humidity, nor numbed our fingers scraping sunshine off a windshield in the morning.

I know I’m not alone in this, because every summer my Facebook feed lights up with photos of friends enjoying lakes and tents and picnics and ice cream with fervent exuberance. Why? Because it’s in our DNA. From our very first summer as a grinning red-headed toddler in a cute yellow dress – okay that part might just be me – we’re taught that Summer is Special.


Lovin’ Summer Training: The Early Years

Unfortunately, this deeply embedded Canadianism has been causing trouble lately. It’s been one continuous, non-stop, never-ending August for the past 3 years! Ever since moving to Thailand, every fibre of my being has been in vacation mode. I find it very difficult to concentrate.

Most of the time, I just roll with it, because – well, that’s what you do when you’re on vacation. But now, it’s crunch time.  I only have about 2 weeks before I fly home to enjoy a genuine Canadian August with my family, which means I only have 16-ish more days to finish writing the 1st full draft of my thesis.

It doesn’t help that both my work and research allow me almost unlimited flexibility in my schedule…like when you’re on vacation. It really doesn’t help that even my humble living room looks like a cottage…like where you might spend your time relaxing when you’re on vacation.

Summer sunshine beckons...every single day.

Summer sunshine and beckoning breezes…every single day.

You get the idea.

In theory, finishing this draft shouldn’t be too difficult. I am a writer, after all. The tough stuff is already done, so I should just be able to let my fingers fly and finish up, right?


Nope. I’ve spent the past (You can insert your own ridiculous number of days here, because I’ve lost count. I only have so many fingers, you know.) days trying to concentrate on my thesis. It’s like my brain has stopped listening to the lifeguard, and refuses to get out of the pool. It’s on vacation, don’t ya know.

I’ve even scoured Google for advice on improving concentration, only to find impossible suggestions like, “Clear away all distractions.” Even the freckles on my own arms can be distracting. I recently discovered that one of them is shaped like a tiny tulip…and now I’ve just spent the past 3 minutes looking at it. Wait…um, what was that about clearing away distractions? I don’t see how ridding myself of skin pigment will help here folks. Sheesh.

I have a feeling that the only way to truly kick-start my ability to concentrate is with a pile of crunchy autumn leaves or a slushy snowstorm. Since Thailand is unlikely to deliver either of those in the next two weeks, I’ll need to find another solution. (Hopefully something better than blind panic 24-hours before my flight.) I’m afraid even my trusty travelling abacus can’t help me figure this one out.

How do you concentrate when there’s work to be done, but summertime beckons?


7 thoughts on “Adventures in Concentration

  1. Hey, we should re-create the family picnic photo someday!! Your dad wouldn’t mind a bit, I’m sure. And I’m right there with you on the draft for your thesis thing – except that I AM in Canada and it IS summer and the bbq and patio and parks are calling my name! I’ve got until the end of August… yikes!! Feeling your pain!

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