paying attention: take two

The second half of this new series. Following each author’s insight on How We Spend Our Time, I’ll offer another perspective on the same theme. Ginny got us thinking about paying attention. Here’s my take.

How does he already need new shoes? September 2012 122

Didn’t I just cut their hair?

When did his sweatshirt shrink so small?

They’re growing all around me, my wild young weeds. I shouldn’t be surprised. Isn’t helping them grow our goal as parents? We try to stuff them full of good food, let them run around in fresh air to breathe deep, love them up fierce so their bones stay strong.

But they grow so fast, and then the time of now is gone. In the busy present I can forget to pay attention and watch them unfurling in front of me, my own time-lapse images of seeds sprouting, seedlings shooting up out of the damp soil, green leaves popping apart to stretch up towards the sun.

When my husband flips back through a photo album or I pack away another pile of clothing, we often call to each other to come witness the change we hadn’t realized in front of us: How were they ever that tiny? Didn’t we just pull out this box of clothes?

We barely recognize the babies they were a year ago. Time flew but in the moment it felt like a breeze fluttering by.

Only when I see them with the wistful eyes of yesterday or the nostalgic eyes of tomorrow do I pay attention. Only then – when the too-small shoes or the too-long hair or the too-tight shirts grab me by the shoulders and shake me awake – do I see how much the present moment holds.

There is so much for me to pay attention to here and now. Not to worry about tomorrow’s to-dos or next year’s plans, but the fullness of all I have: the right-now cupped within my hands.

What makes my boys laugh today, what they’ll gobble up at dinner tonight, what they’ll request to read before bed – all of this will have changed before I know it. But if I see it, if I celebrate it, if I give thanks for it knowing it will pass, then I will have spent my time well.

When I practice the art of paying attention, I see their beauty: the baby-boy-ness of almost-two, the curious child of almost-four.

When I practice the prayer of paying attention, I realize this grace: the sacrament of seeing God right before me.

When I practice the love of paying attention, I celebrate this truth: the joy of imperfect enoughness as a mother.

Their fingernails need clipping (again). And the toilets need scrubbing (again). And that work project needs editing (again). But in the midst of everything that clamors for my attention, there are truths that simply ask me to pay attention.

To invest the gift of my focus on what’s important.

To spend most of my hours on what matters most.

To pay attention.

. . .

Today I’m posting at Catholic Mom about seeing poetry in the communion line. On the days I do pay attention at church (and believe me, with two antsy kids, those days are few and far between), I’m astonished to see what I discover: glimpses of myself in bored teenagers, antsy kids, frazzled parents, wizened elders:

I watch them all in the communion line, a long trail of those who belong to God, who come each week to remember and receive. For a flash of an instant, I see us as God sees us: so different, so similar, all wrapped in love and forgiveness.

Here we are, I remember. We become what we receive.

Read the rest at Catholic Mom

What do you see when you pay attention to what’s around you?

One thought on “paying attention: take two

  1. This is such an important truth,and you share it so beautifully here. This is one of the reasons why I am sort of glad I still have a dumbphone: if I carried the Internet around in my pocket, I feel that I’d be so much more distracted than I already am 🙂 Thanks for the lovely post and the celebration of paying attention. .

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