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We all have obsessions. Some folks live for Wendy’s Frosty’s, other’s may be addicted to the series “24“. (I hope hubby isn’t reading this!) Sometimes people become obsessed with a person, a movie star, music, weight loss, or blogging. (gulp)

Obsessions are actually an unhealthy preoccupation with something. It’s perfectly normal to have preferences, and to enjoy something in which you have an avid interest. Unfortunately, our interests sometimes become… obsessions. Obsessions interfere with living life in a normal way. Some people argue that what is “normal” for one person is not “normal” for another, therefore, one cannot dictate what is an unhealthy obsession or preoccupation. The truth of the matter is that if any ONE thing, person, or activity, keeps us from living a life that makes a difference, then that “something”… that “obsession” has become something that interferes in a dangerous and toxic way.

I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m a person of faith. I have a relationship with Christ, and almost everything I do hinges on the question that reverberated through our culture in the mid-90′s, “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD). I believe Christ lived to make a difference. (He died to make one too). So I periodically, take a look at my life and see if I can find any “red flags”… and obsessions that are getting in the way of making a difference.

My assistance dog, Chloe, is a highly skilled and diligently trained working dog. I habitually attend follow-up training sessions with her in order to maintain and sharpen her skills. It allows me to address weaknesses with trainers who are “paying attention”, and it strengthens the bond I have with Chloe. However, Chloe is obsessed with bunnies. As a matter of fact, if I’m sitting near a window and nonchalantly voice, “Oh, look. There’s a bunny“… she comes running to the window to get a look herself! When we walk in the evenings, Chloe’s obsession with bunnies has actually put me in danger. If my Meniere’s has my balance in limbo for the day, it doesn’t take much to put me flat on my face. If my highly trained dog’s obsession with bunnies has her forgetting and disregarding everything she has learned, I’m likely to find myself face first in the sidewalk with a straining, whining, hound at the end of the leash!

Chloe loves me. She works hard and loves to please me. I’m not pleased when I’m face down on the sidewalk, feeling every bruise from having an out-of-control hound – one whose obsession is bunnies! I’ve been looking for some ways I can enjoy our walks better. I recently read about some great assistance dog training tools at one of my favorite blogs “Service Dog Sawyer“. I plan to measure Chloe for one of these harnesses… soon! I happen to know the “trainer behind Sawyer”, AND his partner. I’m going to bug them to help!

Until then, I have to just be careful that I am more attentive to my surroundings than she is. As a matter of fact, I many times notice clover-eating bunnies that Chloe doesn’t spot. As long as I see the bunny first, I can work hard at distracting her and “bracing for impact”.

People have obsessions too. I have a 17-year-old son. The “gaming” industry knows their audience. Most “gamers” are guys. I think God created men to be “goal reaching” achievers, who are proud of their accomplishments. They work hard at “winning”, and at “being the best”. Competition does them good. It motivates them, and adds “fuel to their fire”. It’s part of what makes them an eventual “provider” and “head of the home”. But young men today are obsessed with gaming. All those God-given tendencies are being used to “go up a level”, to be able to buy “more stuff” to enable their virtual “warrior” to excel. I currently have a summer-time contract with my son about his technology and games. If I didn’t set limits, Chris would literally play ALL DAY on days he doesn’t work. I’ve been setting limits on his gaming time since he was 10-years-old. I would like to think at 17, he can now set his own boundaries. But the “draw” is too strong, and when he’s bored he could play all day and not even realize he has. At least at 17, I am able to discuss and compromise… working towards a contract we both can live with!

I know young men who play all day long. Even those who work summer jobs, tend to be gaming on their days off. Why aren’t they signing up at libraries and volunteering to help teach someone to read? Why aren’t they volunteering at hospitals, camps, and churches? Why aren’t they reading? (I recently had a discussion with my husband about reading. He’s a psychologist and has studied this topic a great deal. Bottom line, “readers are leaders”. Not the greater percentage… not those who make a lot of money as well… every single GREAT leader is a “reader”). I wish young men who play a great deal of games would ask themselves, “Whose life have I made a difference in today? What have I done “for eternity? In what ways have I grown who I am today?” My son is reading Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris. He’s actually enjoying the book and he and hubby are attending “The REBELution” tour in July in our area. Chris LIKES being challenged to do “hard things”. He even sees how our culture has “dumbed down” what a life with purpose means for young men. (At least he sees it thanks to mom and dad bringing it to his attention!)

I believe people with hearing loss (and likely other disabilities) can become obsessed with technology. I have many online friends. It’s very easy for me to communicate online through email, IM, message boards, blogs, and forums. I “hear” great online! But if I’m not careful, I can spend most of my day online “working” and “investing” myself through the internet. The things in which I accomplish can be “good” things. However, if I push my keyboard back and take a look at my life closely, I can readily see the damage and void in my life caused from not being with people face-to-face.

Don’t get me wrong. Many wonderful things are accomplished online. Relationships can be strengthened; advice and support can be given and received. Information and education can be gleaned from being online and interacting with others who are as well. I like to think I’ve made a difference in other’s lives through spending time online. I like to believe this, because I am VERY certain others HAVE made a difference in MY life through “reaching me” online!

However, I really believe that there are people in our realm of influence who are in contact with us physically, emotionally and LITERALLY. We can miss opportunities for making a difference in their lives if we are distracted by our internet “world”. Although the internet has opened up many doors of opportunity… even opportunities to minister and make a difference… it can also make us oblivious to the needs of those breathing the same air we do.

Obsessions aren’t problematic for young men and hound dogs alone. Anyone can become preoccupied with something and end up “starving” another area of their life. May we all take breaks in order to evaluate whether we are living unbalanced lives!

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

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