I’m too busy. I don’t have time. There’s so much going on. Life is crazy. I can’t go. I have too much to do.
These are things I think nearly everyday and I often hear others saying them, either in passing, or specifically to me.
I took an online yoga class this morning and the teacher, Jen Pastiloff, talked about the excuses we all make and questioned “where are you so busy that you’re missing your life? Take a look at where you’re not paying attention.”
Paying attention. Being attentive. It seems like these themes have been running around in my head over and over again this week. Both in the sense of paying attention and wanting attention from other people… and paying attention and wanting attention from myself.
I’m not a big poetry person, but I try to do a class with Jen every day; she reads poetry in her classes that is so poignant with the mantras and themes of class, I find the profound words of the poetry settle in my heart either at the beginning of class or during shavasana and speak to me long after I’ve rolled up my mat. Last week, I repeated a class I had done already and heard the poem “Mockingbirds” by Mary Oliver read again. I am in love with the line, “how the old couple had almost nothing to give but their willingness to be attentive.”
I read a blog by Lindsey Mead yesterday morning talking about friendship. She stated, “Friendship is made of attention.” I wholeheartedly agree. I think sometimes friends get so hung up on making plans and going places and seeing things that they forget why they are friends in the first place. My closest friends are people I just want to spend time with. The people I respect the most in life (and gain the most from) are those who are just willing to be attentive. To listen. To give their time. When I see these people, I just want to hang out. To spend time with them. To talk. To laugh. To cry.
I saw my best friend this summer for the first time in nearly three years. The time zones coupled with our hours of work make it really difficult for us to connect as much as we’d like to. I began planning this trip to see her: planning stuff for us to do and places for us to go every day that I was there visiting. And then I stopped and took a breath and a moment to reflect: Yeah, there were a few places I wanted to go when I was visiting but the main focus of my trip was seeing my best friend. Spending time with her. Catching up. Hanging out. Meeting her new boyfriend. Spending time with him. Spending time. Being attentive. Paying attention. That’s what friendship is. That’s what love is.
In this morning’s class, there was also a question of love: “Are you too busy to love who you want to love?” This image graciously appeared on my yoga mat when I opened my eyes. My mind was immediately brought back to another time of similar reflection.
A few years ago, I finished reading the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series for the first time. For whatever reason, this overarching theme of friendship and being there for your friends really spoke to me when I read the books. I often found myself craving attention from people who didn’t give a shit about me and not being gracious with my time and attention towards people who would do anything for me.
I changed my attitude. I realized that I have some pretty amazing friends who would walk through fire for me. Who would spend thousands of dollars to get to me if I needed them. Who would sneak into my room and leave a Dairy Milk and a Camp Rock musical card on my pillow the night my family had to put my cat down when I wasn’t really able to say goodbye. Who text me every single morning to wish me a good day. Who don’t have to say they love me for me to feel loved by them.
I really started to put my time and attention into relationships with these people. People who gave me the time of day. People who made me a priority in their lives, not an option. Because we make time for the people we want to make time for. We pay attention to what we want to pay attention to. Being too busy is a choice and there is always going to be something else to do. There is always going to be work, family, holidays, travel, other friends or obligations. Always. That’s life.
Slowly though, I’ve started slipping back. Striving for the attention of people who don’t want to give me their attention or who choose not to have time to give me their love. People who say one thing and demonstrate another. This is probably how I’ve found myself in the situations I wrote about yesterday. I’m grateful for this morning’s yoga class and some amazing women who choose to be authentic and vulnerable in their words and writing for getting me thinking about this again.
Another Mary Oliver poem read by Jen this morning… and a blog read shortly thereafter by Nicole Markardt… made me realize that I also haven’t been paying attention to myself. “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention… how to be idle and blessed” (The Summer Day). We, as a culture, don’t really sit well with being idle which is often resultant in us not having the time to love who we want to love. Before we can even think about giving our attention to other people, we need to turn our own attention inwards.
Nicole wrote, “By tuning into our thoughts and the flow of our body, we are stepping into awareness of the true nature of our intentions and patterns.” She goes on to talk about strain in the physical body and in relationships, which is exactly what I’ve been talking about. It’s funny, because earlier this week I was asking Nicole some questions about some pain/discomfort I’ve been feeling during yoga, worried that I was going to injure or already was injuring myself. I left the conversation with a notion that I needed to be attentive and figure out whether I was experiencing pain or discomfort – because they’re different. The next yoga class I took, I really tuned into my own body and mind and realized some things that I never had before about my own practice.
I paid attention. And I learned from it.
Really, this part is self-love. We can’t meet the needs of others until we’ve met our own needs. And we can’t know our needs unless we’re really paying attention to our bodies and minds.
Right now, I will give myself and the people I love almost anything… it is only my attention that I pick and choose where it goes. But I want to be someone who is free with my attention. I want to be the old couple in the poem. I want to be willing to be attentive to myself, and I want to be attentive to the people I love.