Paying Attention


Oh hi there folks.

It’s been a minute.

Or two.

Or a month.

Or a year.

We’ve had a pandemic. All of our lives have changed and shifted in fundamental ways. My communities have had riots and protests and murders.

I feel like I’ve circled back on myself and relived moments of college and high school and depression, then skipped through time and found myself somewhere new entirely. I don’t think this blog will keep being what it was. It will probably be weirder and more self-reflective and more stream of thought.

Because here’s the thing: writing has been my Thing since I was about 8 years old. It has saved my life a thousand times over. It has given me a career. It has helped me through the few hours of a dark and awful night when I thought I wanted to die, and has helped me to make plans a year or two or three into the future, full of hope.

I haven’t written just for me in years.

I write for my job. I write to freelance. I write to work on a book that I intend to sell. I write for other people. But I don’t write to let out that insistent, ever-present hamster-wheel of thoughts that lives in my head all day long.

Last week I started to have a slip in time. My brain reverted to the moments in college when I couldn’t find a foothold of joy. I didn’t know why I existed. I didn’t know what I brought to the world. After being in social isolation for nearly six months now, spending every day in the same place in the same room, I started to feel like that again. Everything felt like an oversized treadmill: I just keep running and never going anywhere.

But I had a few things hit me in the face since then. My therapist (because hey, it turns out therapists are actually really wonderful) listened and engaged and saw through that ruse to the part of me that was just feeling isolated and unmoored and disconnected. I felt like my work didn’t matter. My hobbies had become pointless time fillers. I didn’t live out my values anymore.

Fact 1: meaning is important to me, and when I lose meaning I start to pretend that I have to find a meaning that will satisfy some kind of cosmic importance.

Over the weekend I started listening to Dear Hank and John, a wonderfully earnest podcast in which two brothers answer questions and share facts about humanity and science and the world. And I remembered that once upon a time the media that I consumed was far less about nonprofit fundraising, or organizational strategies, or even the very important work of dismantling systems of oppression, but instead was about the impossibly endless joy of exploration.

Fact 2: I am curious. Learning all the wild and poetic things that our universe has to offer makes me feel connected.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to address this disconnect in me, this yearning. And it seems obvious to me: pay attention to different things. Attention is both overappreciated and underappreciated in our world. People act as if focusing your attention to be productive is the greatest thing you can ever do, but they ignore how impactful your attention can be in the more passive moments. The attention you give to TV and music and media. The attention you give to learning or simply existing. The attention you give to yourself or the rest of the world. Where attention leads, time and energy and values follow.

Fact 3: I want to give my attention to the small beauties. I am a painfully sincere person. I’ve never really been ashamed of it, but one of the things that I believe I’ve lost is the sincere wonder of finding out cool damn things about existence. We don’t really know how eels reproduce. Isn’t that fucking wild? Or when you stop to think about it, all our cells are held together by the energy of sunlight. So that’s fucking weird.

There’s a big difference between learning skills and learning about. I miss learning about. I miss the excitement of uncovering the ways in which the universe falls towards order and joy.

We have a lot of work to do to continue that trajectory, but right now, for me, I need to spend a bit of time basking in it.

So let’s get weird.

One thought on “Paying Attention

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