My attentions

Today I turned 67. That number says neither old nor young to me. But I can say emphatically that my mind feels a lot younger than my disappointing body. I write that smiling broadly.

As I was musing about this latest turn around the sun, I thought to do an inventory of the key areas that get my attention.

Why do this? I believe we live in an attention economy. As social beings, we pay attention, get attention, or seek attention …in all spheres: news, social media, entertainment, commerce, politics… as well as what’s going on in our personal domains.

Yet our time (as we experience it) is finite. Each of us is given 24 hours a day. We can only give our attention to some things, not all.

When we choose to put our attention on certain things, it means we have less or no time for others.

Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.

Howard Rheingold, culture critic

It’s both a blessing and a curse that I’m a multipotentialite, meaning I’m curious about a lot of things. But besides the issues that truly interest and inspire me, there’s also much noise vying for my attention. This is where I have to be judicious and mindfully decide what is valuable and what is noise to me. Your valuable could well be my noise, and that’s okay; there’s no life to live except one’s own.

Looking back roughly twelve months, here’s what’s been on my radar:

The pandemic

By May 2021, we had already been on lockdown for over a year. I dove deep into credible news sources and the evidence (science, not conspiracies). I became increasingly alarmed by the politicizing of this global health crisis and the growing body of disinformation that led to further social and political divisiveness. While no longer on complete lockdown (see below), I still don’t venture out of our home often.

My health

As friends and regular readers know, in August last year, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. After lumpectomy surgery in September, I learned the tumor was “triple positive,” requiring additional medical interventions. Needless to elaborate much, as it’s been the principal subject of this online journal, but that was the start of my major allocation of time and energy to medical research, monstrous treatments, and self-care. I sleep a lot, and fortunately well. My honey encourages (nah, pushes!) me to go on nightly walks around our subdivision. I give myself credit for instantly pausing my marketing activities for my business that up to then had taken a significant portion of my daily focus.

Family and friends

I allocate ample time to relationships. It starts at home with my honey, of course. I can’t imagine what the past year or two would have been without his love, nurturing, and support.

Blessed with family and many friends around the globe, staying in touch with them matters to me, even as I fail to connect with each person as often as I’d like. Some friendships span over 45 years; others are new—I treasure them all.

This past year almost none of the communing was in person, obviously; all of it was online on social media, through chat apps and email, and on zoom. I’ve especially valued our book club turned into a weekly zoom-meetup to hold space for each other as the raging pandemic compelled us to stay home.

I got on Facebook over a dozen years ago for the primary reason of keeping in touch with nieces who had young children (now in their teens), on their terms. I cherish that.

Work

Another thing that kept me on social media (until the monstrous treatments started) was marketing my coaching and consulting services. Again, good fortune showered on me as former clients and others referred new clients to me. Hence, a good chunk of my time has gone and goes to supporting my clients to achieve their business or non-profit goals.

Another (unpaid) side of my business is staying on top of the trends of doing business online. Or learning new skills. Webinars, podcasts, courses, trainings, summits, and newsletters all can suck too much of my time if I don’t pay attention to where I’m paying attention. This is definitely one area where my curiosity gets me into time trouble.

World events

I also admit to being a news junkie, and I often take time for deep dives into topics that interest me. They include democracy, freedom of speech, truth in media, social justice, climate crisis, mindfulness, and many others. Most recently, the war in Ukraine (in the context of imperialism) and the presidential elections in the Philippines have highjacked my attention.

I have favorite historians and analysts whom I follow. I do not watch the 24-hour news cycle (in fact, I haven’t watched television since my university days in the 70s). I find I get some of the best news roundups and analysis from late-night comedians, like Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Stephen Colbert.

Like many, I have grave concerns about Meta’s and Google’s algorithms and the uncontrolled spread of hate and disinformation. I’ve lost “friends” by challenging the factual veracity of their posts; sad but not tragic. The “freedom of speech” camp has lost control—it never meant freedom to destroy, bully, lie, revise history, or disseminate conspiracy theories. I need to get better at avoiding reading the comment sections of newspapers; it only saddens me and makes me question humanity.

Travel

In years past, travel has been a huge part of what I do. But until this past month, there was no travel at all for me since 2019, beyond lab and hospital visits. Then, for nine glorious days, my friend Jill and I drove around the Cordillera mountains, among 800-year-old rice terraces and other stunning views. I’m hoping my 67th year will allow me to see more of the world again.

Travel is a principal path to my creativity, which is expressed through the lens of my camera. Not only do I savor taking photographs of interesting or beautiful things and places and people, I savor processing the photos and sharing them with others.

There you have it. My year in review through the lens of attention. I wonder what I’ve forgotten.

Can I become more intentional about how I spend my time, more discerning about what I allow to distract me, more prudent about what I pay attention to? Sure.

When I remind myself that time is my most valuable asset, along with my health and my loves, I am moved to be sharper about what I give my attention to. I have good days and bad days.

Time and tide wait for no man.

Geoffrey Chaucer

How about you? How are you spending your life?

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6 comments

  • Lovely post, birthday girl. Thanks much for reminding me that I too need to focus more judiciously…not easy for this Libra monkey.

  • Can hardly wait to see what grabs your attention on this next trip around the sun!

  • Time and tide wait for no man.
    Geoffrey Chaucer

    That is a deep truth that often arises as a forgotten option as common ground in my conflict work and training. The attention – and stress – infusions our world drown us in can be reassuringly put aside when we realize, as you do so beautifully and so often, therein lies our true issue. When we stop and see the glory in a moment or the smallest turn in life where stress has us care for ourselves or others (or not)…or for something…can be what is most enjoyed as we navigate it all. Indeed, the disappointments can make us “smile broadly” too!!

By Francisca

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