The mental state I enter when I am “off task,” without any particular focused activity going on. If caught, a friend will kid me (“Anybody home?”) or a boss will corner me (“Your phone’s ringing; have you gone deaf?”).
I got fired once from a good‑paying job, with a family to support and a short commute and great health insurance. One of the reasons stated was that I was not proofreading my output. And me, an ex-English teacher. Go figure! Why couldn’t I discipline myself and proof better? Why couldn’t I stop spacing out? I was guilty, ashamed, and defensive for months.
Now, years later, it’s easy to see a lesson: Bad Fit! I couldn’t be cynical (“just take the money and run”), I couldn’t do politics, I didn’t remotely belong in that situation.
True, I had a family to support, but even that wasn’t enough to justify my cowardice and unconsciousness. At the time, “spacing out” didn’t seem a choice; I was burned out, not owning up to a new direction required of me, not listening to my “inner voice.” The warning light had been flashing for months, but I thought I was being a grown‑up, sucking it up in a dead‑end job so the pension could pile up.
The Tale Wagged
At its best, “spacing out” may sometimes be a little like what Zen Buddhists call no-mind or not-thinking: it may balance the task-wiredness for which they give us money. At its best, spacing out may provide time for the “battery to recharge” or let the computer “Empty Trash.”
More frequently, it’s big red warning light: Overwhelm Ahead. If I can’t choose when to space-out, I’m already overwhelmed, and in harm’s way.
Something’s got to give.