The Challenge Of Paying Attention Is Not Lost

The Challenge Of Paying Attention Is Not Lost

Being able to be present, truly present, is a phenomenon that has lost its appeal with all of the stimulation and temptation that the modern day brings.

A few Sundays ago, I met a dear friend for dinner. We were looking forward to catching up and rambling on as we usually do until we both felt a slight shift in the evening. For whatever reason, that Sunday night turned out to be one of those rare nights where you feel perfectly in sync with the universe and all of its wonderment and energy. It was one of those nights where the fortifying feeling of youth makes you feel this immeasurable amount of joy and bliss but at the same time, years of experience and growth lend you the eyes to understand why a moment like this is so special. It was one of those nights where the candlelight from the dinner table flickers across the familiar face of a friend sitting in front of you. It was one of those nights where you feel as if you’re celebrating absolutely nothing yet everything at the same time. And if nothing else, you’re surely celebrating friendship because as time has shown, a true friendship is a ship that doesn’t sail into harbor often. It is in these moments that you suppress the knowledge that though many more of these beautiful moments lie ahead, there are an equal amount of hard, sad and lonely moments as well. However, the notion of the sad and lonely moments is fleeting and you find yourself back in that present moment, enjoying a random Sunday night, in the warmly lit ambiance of your favorite restaurant, accompanied by a matured friendship. You find yourself enjoying the act of tearing and sharing a freshly baked pastry that the waitress randomly dropped off at your table because they happened to make “extra” that night. “As if the night couldn’t feel anymore blissful” you think to yourself. “If only we could swim in this moment a little while longer” your friend says to you.

I believe the company in which we share these moments is what makes them so profound. We want to swim in the feeling of reveling in fact that for once, things seem to be okay in every possible way, even if just for a moment. We then experience this repression of a faint voice of reality floating in the back of our mind, tempting us with our obligations, responsibilities, sadness and schedules. However, if there is one thing that I’ve begun to tag as my “lesson for this year” it is that the best place to be at any moment, is nowhere.

Going nowhere is going to a place where you are able to be present, truly present in any given moment. This is a phenomenon that has lost its appeal with all of the stimulation and temptation that the modern day brings. Being able to listen, truly listen with intention, when partaking in a conversation is now a challenge rather than an instinctive action.

There’s a quote I heard earlier this week that has stuck with me and I feel it is immensely relevant to the depiction of this feeling. Pico Iyer wrote in his book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere: “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

Ernest Hemingway also attests to this delightful feeling when he writes "Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive."

I suppose that after experiencing that Sunday night and hearing this quote, I realized that there was no true physical shift in the evening itself. There was nothing truly remarkable or out of the ordinary happening either. The "shift" in the night was internal. The "shift" was caused by a dear friend, along with myself, subconsciously choosing to "pay attention" and that made all the difference.

Cover Image Credit: Sophia Winter

Popular Right Now

Why I Broke Up With My Bestfriend

Toxic people can be the closest to you

I know people say that breakups suck. Matter of a fact, they do totally suck. Do you know what sucks worse though? Best friend breakups. Here’s why.

Your best friend is supposed to be your spiritual or vicarious wife or husband. They support you, love you, give you a nice kick in the butt when you need one and call you to tell you how this girl tried them in class today. They are everything you need them to be and usually more at times, especially on bad days.

Until things go sideways.

I’m going to tell you about my break up with my best friend of 8 years, Sarah. (Her name isn’t really Sarah but I appreciate privacy so right now that’s her name.)

We went through middle and high school and a little bit of college together before I broke it off Christmastime of last year. They were an awesome 6 and a half years before the dumpster fire of a “friendship” started.

You see, after going through heartache, breakups and family problems together; after helping her through juvie and her helping me come to terms with my sexual assault and rape, Sarah got pregnant at 19.

Being pregnant at 19 is in no way the end of the world but for her and her boyfriend of a few months, it was. It was hard on everyone, especially her, with trying to figure out if she wanted to keep the baby or not.

This put a strain on our relationship because of all of the stress. I was fine with that. Every person goes through stress and as a friend it is your job to make sure they know you have their back. I was more than prepared to be with her every step of the way.

I was. With her every step of the way. She decided to keep the baby and stay with the father and I was so proud of her for taking it head-on. I supported her, talked hours on the phone from Ball State while she was back in my hometown and tried to let her know that she was not alone. She cried hours with me and I told her it would be okay, that she would figure it out. However, as the months progressed, I was worried.

As she changed I could see that she wasn’t happy. As a best friend, I knew it was my job to make sure she could talk about the way she felt. I told her that and she admitted that this wasn't anywhere in her life plan. I told her I understood, it was okay to be scared, and she could always give the baby up for adoption at the end of it all. Her life, her choice.

Her next choice was marriage. The father of the baby was going into the Air Force and because of the way things worked out, he and Sarah had to marry to share the benefits and cover the baby. I supported that. I was asked to be the maid of honor and of course, I said yes.

I got sick. And I mean, can't make it to the bathroom sink with a 103-degree fever. I told her I couldn't come, I wouldn’t risk getting her, a pregnant woman, sick with the stomach flu and everyone else at the wedding. My doctor also advised against it and my mom was the only one even coming near me. It was bad.

She said she was fine with it, promised it was okay and she understood. But she really didn't because this is the rift, and the other little fights with it, that started the dumpster fire.

Her baby girl was born on a rainy May day of 2017. I held her hand while she pushed, I watched the beads of sweat roll down her forehead. I can still remember the light cries of the baby and how we both cried together, hand in hand.

She went home with her, was an awesome mom and we saw each other frequently. A couple months later, two to be exact, her husband got stationed in New Jersey and she needed a favor.

A favor that was not in my mind a safe idea and I told her so. She didn't like that at all.

This is where the dumpster fire grew to a blaze.

We got into the ugliest fight of our friendship with us both saying horrible things. I apologized and so did she but I knew that was strike two on my side for her.

She then went to New Jersey and we didn’t speak that much.

After about a month, we put all things aside and started talking again like normal. As a teen stay-at-home-mom in another state and married, she was stressed and would call me frequently to vent. I understood and listened to everything, trying to encourage her to live her life the way she wanted. Being a mom wasn't the end of the world unless she made it that way.

I started to notice every time she called, that I would know exactly what her problem was. It all revolved around her not being happy and it started to annoy me because she wasn't actually putting in the effort to do anything about it. She was just complaining. It was not only stressing me out but constantly putting me in a bad mood.

Around Christmas, I posed the question that if I got married, would she be in my wedding.

She never answered. I assumed she was busy.

She wasn't. She went on Facebook and ranted about me. She didn't use my name but did mention that I was selfish for not coming to her wedding. As I read it, I realized she had never actually forgiven me and had held it over my head. I realized, at that moment, that I deserved better.

It was hard. She tried to argue but at that point, I was so emotionally spent with trying to get her to want to fix her life instead of complain about, I couldn't do it anymore. She even tried to say that I hadn't been a friend at all, that I was never there for her, never supported her the way she wanted. I then realized that no one would ever support her the way she wanted until she figured out what she wanted.

I broke up with her. I told her I loved her, I told her she could text me if she ever needed me, but I couldn't do it anymore.

I cried for a whole hour on my boyfriend. And not a normal cry. The kind of cry where you feel like you can't breathe and your eyes burn and it’s like no matter how hard you try to stop you can’t. She called me 17 times that night. I never picked up. It was over.

She tweeted about me 11 times the next day on Twitter and I realized just how far gone she was from me. Never had she stooped so low as to attack someone on social media because she was mad. That was the first time I felt okay about what I did.

It was after this, a few weeks later, I realized I was happier. I realized the new friends I had made were awesome. I realized my life was better without her.

You see, you are not required to be someone's emotional tampon. Despite years of friendship or whatever else, you are not required to do all of the work, say all of the advice and try to make them want to fix their own life. The only person that can fix their life, is them. Not you. You are not their mother. You, as a person, deserve so much more than a half-ass friendship.

I deserved more than a half-ass friendship.

If you love them, let them go.

I loved her. I let her go. I set myself free.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To The Lifelong Best Friend I Will Love For A Lifetime

Where one was, the other wasn't far behind.

Dear Clueless,

It’s crazy, isn’t it? This year, I’ll be 21 and you’ll be 22. We were nine years old when we met. God, that makes me feel old. There aren’t many people in this world that are as lucky as we are. Most people don’t even leave high school with the same people they started it with let alone still be best friends with someone they went to elementary school with.

It was fourth grade. I was the new girl at Lamar Township Elementary, and you were returning from a year of homeschooling. In a school that was only one hallway and our 25-people class was the largest they had ever seen, it was hard to go unnoticed.

I was quickly dubbed as the weird horse girl.

But I wasn’t alone. You were a weird horse girl, too. And so, our friendship grew throughout the rest of elementary school into middle school. Through horse riding and 4-H and running.

And finally, through high school where we got closer than we ever were.

By our sophomore year, you and I were up and coming running stars and two-thirds of our inseparable trio. Our other third doesn’t speak to us anymore, but we both wonder about her all the time.

Just one of the many friendships that didn’t make it past high school graduation.

And for a while, I was worried we would become one of those friendships. I was going to school near Philly, and you were being shipped off to Colorado Springs to the Airforce Academy. We were going to go from seeing each other every day to a couple times a year.

But we didn’t.

We wrote each other every week when you were at basic, and when you got back we picked up right where we left off. My best friend wasn’t going anywhere, figuratively speaking. Now we are almost halfway done with our college careers.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to fly out to watch you graduate.

And then we can go to whichever country is calling our names. One last hoorah before we have to be proper adults. You’ll go wherever the Air Force is sending you, and I’ll probably be coming back to Philly.

If they send you to some cool country, I’m coming to visit you.

They always say that if a friendship lasts more than seven years, it’ll last a lifetime. We’ve already passed that point, and now you’re stuck with me. You know too much now.

You’re the person I’d call to come help me hide the body. You are my person ("Grey’s Anatomy" reference that you don’t know because you don’t watch it).

I’m going to end up planning my wedding around your schedule.

You and your family have been there for me when I was at my lowest. You guys took me in at a moment’s notice when someone kicked me out. I stored some of my stuff at your house after I moved all my things out of their house.

I stay at your place when you aren’t even there.

I’ve been a lost cause for many, many years now, and yet you choose to stick around. You could have easily just walked away because I was too much drama and brokenness, but you didn’t.

You had no idea what to do except be there for me.

When I broke down in class our senior year, you and Laurel just sat on the bathroom floor with me because neither of you knew what to do. We sat there in silence while I cried, and then we all went back to class.

I still call you bawling all the time.

We Snapchat every day and, usually once a month or so, we call each other to just talk and vent. I cherish those phone calls. I saw you in December and probably won’t see you again until next December, but that’s OK.

I will continue to cherish those phone calls and ugly Snapchats you send me.

I feel bad for people who don’t have a friend like you. In today’s world, there aren’t many people you can trust. Society is full of two-faced, fake people that look for any chance they can to stab you in the back.

And I truly feel sorry for those that don’t have a best friend like I do.

Because at the end of the day, I know I can call you and you’ll pick up. I know I can go back home and always have a place to stay with my non-biological family.

I know that until the day I die, I will have a best friend that loves me for me and everything that comes with me.



Cover Image Credit: Aliyah Mallak

Related Content

Facebook Comments