Sweet Distraction

Nik Davis, one of my peers at BIZCATALYST 360˚, wrote an astoundingly candid and courageous contemplation on the psychological implications of the isolation we’re all enduring during the coronavirus pandemic. Nik called her piece, “Life in Lockdown: The Real Ramifications”. In its penultimate paragraph, she wrote this:

It’s not the isolation, the fear, the panic, the uncertainty that’s the real problem. It is, of course, sitting with ourselves – naked, raw and unfiltered.

Those two sentences recalled a 26-year old poem: “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. The poem concludes with this stanza:

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,

and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

I don’t know if Nik is familiar with the poem. But she’s clearly familiar with the state of mind, with the unfamiliar challenge of self-reflection, with our new reality in the absence of mindlessness and distraction. But I hope Nik can find a way to be gentle with herself. I hope all of us can find a way to be gentle with ourselves.

Another Take

In his 1992 book, Sweet Ruin, Tony Hoagland published a poem called, “In the Land of Lotus Eaters”. It’s a miraculous evocation of the horror and necessity of distraction. An excerpt:

That’s why the newsreels of Cambodia must be divided
into slices
by deodorant commercials,
why the lipstick shades to choose between in
equal the number of remaining whales.
That’s why the demolition of the rain forest
is directly proportionate to the number of couples
entering therapy in Kansas City.

We can’t possibly face the horrible and the brutal, the cruel and the obscene, the diseased and the dying all the time, without relief, and hope to keep our sanity. That’s why God invented distraction. It’s why he gave us laughter and family, friends and neighbors, talent and creativity. It’s why he gave us relief from the unendurable.

Be Charitable

If we’re all in this together (we are), then it’s incumbent on all of us to be courteous and helpful to each other, to be kind. Grandpa O’Brien loved to say, “Charity begins at home.” Let’s take his advice and the advice of every attendant on every flight we’ve ever taken — “Put your own mask on first” — and be kind to ourselves.

If we were born to be cold, we wouldn’t have hearts.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Mark — Great writing as usual. If C-19 has given us anything – if there is, indeed, a silver lining – it’s that we have to take a mandatory pause. What a gift! We get some time to look at ourselves, to take stock of ourselves.

    Some of what I see in myself, I like.

    Some of it, I don’t.


    • I think we’re all in that boat, Jeff. There are aspects of me I’ve never been crazy about. As you suggest, that’s the gift of the virus: time to take stock and change.

      Thank you for the strokes on the writing and for joining the conversation.

  2. Oh, I love this so much, Mark! Yes!! “If we were born to be cold, we wouldn’t have hearts.” YES!! I think this is such a rich opportunity to blow our hearts wide freaking open and let all the love inside pour out into this world, to one another, to our pets, to ourselves. How important to connect deeply with our inner worlds to flow away past unresolved hoohaa and let the imagination, inspiration, and grace to expand into all those freed up spaces. It’s time to live vibrantly well, to create in contribution -for the pure joy of creating-and to be tender and gentle with ourselves. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my friend!!

    • You’re so right, Laura. As the world is pausing to be re-born, so can we. And once we find the courage to take the first step inward, the rest will follow, even as we blossom outward to be more kind, patient, and generous with others.

      Wow! What a gift.

    • Thank you, Laurie. Being with ourselves is definitely learned behavior. While we’re all born with the peace necessary to do be alone with ourselves, most of us grow out of it. I’m so happy you’re kind to yourself.

    • Kimberly, considering all you do to make the world a better place and all of us in it more fulfilled people … speechless. Can you imagine that? Me speechless?

      I’m so grateful to you and for our connection.