“Attend!” barked my 10th grade French teacher.
“Wisdom! Let us attend!” cries the deacon.
And I got F’s in attendance throughout all my schooling. Including grad school.
The whole world is red flagging my lack of attendance.
I feel like there’s a theme here. The new year is approaching and everyone seems to be choosing a “word of the year,” and while I usually rebel against such trends, sometimes they actually do represent a good idea. A word to focus my attention on for the year, one to center my efforts around. A theme to…attend to.
In English I hear “be attentive.” In French it means “wait.” In Latin it actually means “to stretch toward.” Sort of like you do when you’re waiting and being super attentive, listening so hard you’re about to fall out of your chair? Ah. That’s the word I’m looking for then. Because I’ve noticed a glaring lack of this in my life.
I am a doer, an early riser, a marker of benches, a measurer of accomplishments, a writer and checker-offer of “to do” lists. When I feel bad about myself I remember a handful of my proudest accomplishments and they genuinely make me feel better. For a minute. But then I remember that in reality those accomplishments represented me only for approximately the moment in which they were happening. I want to think that as a person who finished several marathons with reasonable times that this means “I am a person who completes marathons!” And I did probably take away something valuable from the experience. But is that the most important quality in me now? Do I really have to throw myself back 13 years to find my most redeeming quality? Isn’t there anything more to me, now?
Only if I stop and look at now. Only if I…attend. But I’m usually way too busy for that. I’m changing diapers, feeding children, cleaning a house, milking goats, worrying about the budget, cooking the food, pursuing a side gig for some extra money, writing a blog. Right now I do not have time.
And yet it’s a truism that right now is the only time I have. Right now is when I can watch my little people unfold, like little presents daily unwrapping themselves, into the people they are. Right now is when I can be thankful for the food, the home, the sufficient income, the useful work.
I thought about choosing the word “present,” like be present, but the fact that “attend” is an imperative verb is helpful to me. When I hear it, usually it’s somewhat shouted. Deacons don’t whisper and neither do high school French teachers. And I probably need it shouted at me. I am not good at hearing it.
Step 1. We are losing our TV. If you’ve known us for any length of time, we’ve been TV free three separate times. Each time, after a year or two, someone has kindly corrected our lack of electronics. We are about to uncorrect.
Step 2. Limit phone time. I love my phone to death, no joke. I love sharing pictures of my kids with family we left in Oregon two years ago. I love texting with friends, since as a rural stay at home mom in a one car family I don’t socialize a lot. I run an Etsy business that I publicize through social media. But I shudder at my habit of turning to my phone in times of stress or boredom. Once upon a time stress and boredom were a source of creativity. Time to return them to their rightful throne.
Step 3. Attend! Be present. Anchor to reality through five senses, radically accept this current moment, be here, now.
Those are the goals and that is the word for 2020. Attend. I imagine it will greatly improve everything it touches.