Today I was rushing around all point of town, trying to squeeze in all the things, little and big, that I both want and need to do. I am realizing more and more how driven I am by (1) a desire not to let anyone down, (2) a desire to do EVERYTHING always, and (3) a desire not to be late to appointments that borders on neurosis. At about noon, I'd fumbled the ball slightly on points one and two, and point three was a total loss. I'd run two office errands since parking my car, but they'd taken me longer than I expected (despite literal running) and I was cutting personal to-dos off my list, thinking about what date or time I could move them to, and if such a rescheduling were even possible before I leave the country for nearly three weeks on Friday afternoon. I had a heavy purse full of notebooks on my right shoulder, a bag full of lunches in my left hand, and my phone in my right hand. I started to compose an apology text for the conference call I'd missed, but I only got one word in before the light changed and it was time to walk again.
And then I fell down in the street.
I fell in the middle of the crosswalk at Wilshire and Rodeo, a busy tourist intersections in Beverly Hills. My foot slid on some decaying flower petals and I realized that I was headed straight for the asphalt. Several people saw gracefully (and literally) save face by landing on one knee, allowing my purse to hit the ground as I assumed the pose of someone proposing marriage. I heard a startled "are you okay" to which I answered "yes, I'm fine" without really stopping to consider if it was true. And then I stood up, sore kneed but grateful I wore jeans that day (I'm usually in a dress). As I picked up my stuff to hurry the rest of the way, the man behind me said, not unkindly, something that sounded like "pay attention." Despite not hearing him clearly, despite his friendly tone, I'm sure I made an unguarded face at him.
My inner monologue in the following moments went something like this: Pay attention? PAY ATTENTION?! Who does this guy think he is? The problem is that my leather shoes have no tread. The problem is these damn Dr. Seuss trees tossing their damn beautiful flower petals all over the street to decompose into a slippery pink muck. The problem is all this shit I'm carrying. Sure, my phone was in my hand but I wasn't even looking at it!
And then, forced to stop and wait at one more crosswalk before arriving at work, it occurred to me that maybe I was getting angry over nothing. The truth is, I'm not actually sure "pay attention" is what the man said. The tourists of Beverly HIlls often hail from foreign lands, and this guy had a thick accent. What he said might not have been in English, and if it was English, it might not have been the phrase I heard, and if it was the phrase I heard, it might not have been what he meant to say.
Is it possible that by brain heard the remark as "pay attention" because that was the reprimand my subconcious was giving me?
Trying to please everyone is a noble goal, but it's not really feasible. Doing everything is impossible, no matter how loud the thrum of carpe diem, carpe diem echoes in my skull. And sometimes, I'm going to be late, and most of the time no one will care. They'll probably be late too.
I wasn't looking at my phone when I was crossing the street, but I was thinking about the message I needed to send, and another one after that, to another person. I was thinking about whether I'd cut through the hotel or take the sidewalk, and about how late I'd be, and how I'd fit the skipped errands into my evening. Sometimes trying to manage and accomplish every little thing, and do it all completely right feels a lot like "paying attention" to it all. But it's not. Because the very nature of "attention" requires that it can only be given to one thing at a time.
It may sound simple, but all those demands I put on myself are there for the purpose of trying to make the most of this life -- in what I do, the light I am able to bring to others, and what I can leave behind. But lately this message keeps popping up: if I'm so focused on what's next, or what could be, or what I cannot know, I will miss what is actually happening in this one life that I'm trying so hard to make the most of.
So...I'll work on it. I think that's all I can promise myself for now. I will try my best to pay attention as I walk through this life, and when I inevitable stumble, hopefully at the very least I'll be able to turn that into some wisdom for my blog. ;)