What a Second-Degree Burn Taught Me About Focus, by Chloe Idris
Chloe Idris writes about losing focus and the searing pain of regret.
I’m writing this right now as I sit in bed, with my leg elevated and wrapped, nursing a second-degree burn. This is in fact my second second-degree burn since I left my home country to seek sacred knowledge, which seems oddly poetic – my first burn was in Jordan (where I was studying Arabic), and now my second has happened in Egypt (where I am studying the Islamic sciences). And although they’ve both been extremely painful, it’s clear that sometimes our most important life lessons come from that which hurts the most (and there’s nothing like sharp, searing pain to really drive a lesson home).
For this to make sense, I’ll have to tell you the story of how I got this latest burn. Since living in the Middle East, my husband and I have always had troubles with our kitchens and bathrooms. Blown fuses and exploding light fixtures that don’t get fixed for months, periods of no running water, periods of no hot water (always fun in the middle of a cold Jordanian winter)… I could go on. At the moment, we’ve been lucky enough to get the bathroom lighting repaired and the water running again, but the hot water seems to be gone for now. We’ve learned to take things in our stride and just have fun with it (it is an adventure, after all).
Which brings me to tonight, when we were doing the washing together – my husband was pouring the hot water (which had been boiled on the stove) and I was pouring the cold water into a single container to use. Of course everyone knows that any time boiling hot water is involved, you have to pay full attention. And we were paying attention, that is until the fifth round of water-pouring.
It was late, we were tired and joking around as we normally do, so it’s no surprise what happened next: something got bumped, the boiling water that was supposed to be pouring into the container was now pouring down my leg, and I was crying in pain.
My husband, being the quick thinker that he is, had me bundled straight into the bathtub and had cold water running over the burn in no time. And I know at this point you’re probably thinking ‘well that sounds painful Chloe, but I’m not really sure what you getting burned has to do with life lessons and seeking sacred knowledge.’
When You Least Expect It
We were discussing later how it had happened, because even though it was an accident, my husband felt terrible for even having accidentally caused me pain. And the reality is, it happened because we both stopped focusing. We took our eyes off the task at hand, and became distracted. We had nearly finished up with the washing, we felt like we were all done, so we stopped paying attention. And then I got burned.
As I was laying down later that night nursing my wound, I reflected over this incident. I believe everything always happens for a reason, that God has planned our lives perfectly, and that in hardships there are always lessons to be learned. And I realised, what if my distraction that lead to my burn, was really a reflection of my current state in life?
I mentioned earlier that I’m currently studying the Islamic sciences in Egypt, and I have exams just around the corner. But the process is being delayed and dragged out, and I could feel myself losing focus. It’s hard to maintain the same level of discipline and focus over a long period of time, whether it’s a university degree you’re working towards, your own private Islamic studies, or even just your personal ibadah (worship) that you are wanting to improve in.
Eyes On The Prize
So here’s the lesson: if you have a goal that you’re working towards, it’s essential that you keep your eyes on that goal, especially when you’re close to the finish line. It’s easy when you’re close to achieving your goal to start slowing down, to relax a bit more, to start looking around at what else is going on. But the final stretch isn’t the time to lose focus; that’s the time to renew your intention, fix your eyes firmly on your goal, and double down on the work that will get you there.
If you need to take the breaks, take them. If you need to recharge, do it. Do what you need in your daily life to keep yourself healthy and well, and then get back to work with focus and intention.
Because I can tell you from experience, there’s nothing like the sharp pain of regret (or a second-degree burn…) to make you wish you had paid more attention when it really mattered.