You know how it is when you suddenly keep seeing or hearing the same thing everywhere? Sometimes you think, “haha, that’s odd!” Other times you begin to get that strange feeling between your shoulders, as the Omnipotent is trying to tell you something and you are clearly being more than a little dense.
In the later category, I keep stumbling over artists, authors, arm chair philosophers and meanderings of ordinary people giving voice to their thoughts all saying the same thing: pay more attention.
Sometimes they say “learn to see,” or “you are seeing, but not perceiving” or “you aren’t paying attention” or “you see it, you hear it, you know it, but you don’t remember it,” or “you have to really look at” — but it all comes down to the same things. We’re being given far more than we’re receiving. And, leaving the habitual (and why is that?) ‘we’ behind, I am apparently being told this is specifically being directed at me in particular, right now.
One of the tangential thoughts that has occurred to me is that part of what hinders the exploring action is the deciding/choosing/judging action. I am less often paying attention to what HAS happened to my day while I am still thinking about what I wanted to happen to my day or what I still intend to do with my day. I have even noticed that the act of valuation of what happened actually causes me to pay less attention to what in fact actually did transpire. I become instead fixated on my feelings about what happened instead of noticing what has occurred. And while I can tell people over and over how upset I am that the elevator broke, that the building only has one elevator, and that all these frail old people are now struggling to access life preserving treatment — what I fixate on is that I am upset. I am angry. Why? At whom? I can describe my emotions to you, but what aspect of this, in particular, is driving me almost to tears? Is it the powerlessness? Is it the callousness of the building manager? Is it that I am feeling the fear of the old people and feeling protective?
As I pick it apart, it is curious to me to realize how much of it is once again rooted in self-centering or self-absorption vs. centering around God. Am I trying to take ownership and control of everything around me, or am I recognizing that something is being given to me and exploring what it is I have been given? (Note that while I say “given” I don’t say “gift.” This is probably because I carry around so much baggage about “positive thinking” and any feeling miserable being a problem with your perception. I think sometimes we are given very hard and challenging things, but if we are consumed with the ‘I am miserable’ it becomes harder to see the ‘why’ of God or even the ‘what.’ When I am busy valuing and judging a day as a ‘bad day’ I am so caught up in my valuation and sense of oppression that I’m not honestly considering why on earth God might have allowed any of that to happen or to put me in the middle of it. Bluntly, I don’t care. I’m too busy caring about what a bad day I had and how oppressed I am.)
Poorly organized parenthetical thought aside, what I am trying to say is that I am beginning to see a pattern in how I react to things directly dependent on whether I am attempting to put my hand on the tiller and control, or whether I perceive myself as a passenger and I believe the actual captain to be competent. When I am attempting to direct and choose and decide, I have very little acceptance and the raging runs high. When I am more willing to go along for the ride as a passenger (usually I am more capable of doing so when I am more well rested), the raging subsides as I find myself more detached and take things less personally. I don’t mean that I am apathetic and don’t care; I just mean I am more willing to accept that getting stuck behind someone slow and hitting every red light is not in actual fact a direct attempt to destroy me. It is not “everything going wrong.” The guy holding the “slow” sign is actually another human being, and what is going through his head today? — not an insult to my existence.
If I’m not paying close attention to my own argument, it sounds almost as though I just said, “I’m more rational when I sleep more.” While that’s true, that’s missing the point. The point is, when I determine how life “should” be, I become very blind to what actually is. And my determinations of “should” are invariably thin, superficial and generally meaningless; what “is” is full of complexity, subtlety, interwoven relationships, and things greater than human comprehension. I become angry at the disconnect between what I think should be and what is, but in reality, getting what I think I wanted is the lesser of the two. Is there a component of gratitude tied up in all of this? Sure. But the relenting message I keep getting is “you’re missing it.”
I’m missing what? I don’t know. How would you know what you are missing if you aren’t paying attention enough to know what you are turning away from? But I’m missing it. I’m missing important things. That message keeps being handed to me, on one platter after another. With it comes little arrows toward what might help me correct that. Rest. Stop trying to control. Slow down. Ask why. Stop handing out valuations so rapidly. Someone is pulling back hard on the reins, and I’m trying to push forward anyway. I’m not going to just gradually without noticing it settle down into the proper pace. I have to be deliberate about changing my approach, and I am in fact exceptionally long over-due to do so.
Currently reading: Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor
Currently listening to: Miracle or Not, by Alisa Turner
Currently contemplating: avian handwork, including quilting/piecework and embroidery. Why is this so fascinating to me?