Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pay Attention

Pay attention. One of the messages this morning: Pay attention.

It's difficult to pay attention when you are distracted by the fragmentary underpinnings of loss.

The present is ~ well, present. This week-end marks the transition from Thanksgiving to Advent, with people talking and blogging cheerfully and gratefully about family gatherings, about preparing food and decorating for Christmas together. It's just about intolerable. My husband put Christmas lights out front yesterday, and they hurt my eyes.

The past looms large. There are all the things that take months to do in the aftermath of someone's death. When the phone rings, it might be a friend preparing to stop by with soup. But it might instead be a creditor of your beloved, calling with a stern reminder of an unpaid bill owed by someone no longer here to pay it.

The future hangs ominously in the balance. Can you do what you had planned to do? Should you? Will you? How?

Paying attention is difficult under the best of circumstances. This morning I listened to a sermon by someone who has paid attention to others for many years, and that was one of his primary observations: Paying attention is difficult. He pointed out that we know when we are talking with someone who is really listening, that we recognize that the quality of the listening differs when the hearer is truly paying attention.

Paying attention is almost impossible when loss is fresh, when grief has splintered the pieces of your life into a puzzle no longer recognizeable.

And yet, it is the task of Advent. Pay attention, even if you have no idea how. Pay attention, even if you don't want to. Pay attention, even if you can't.