Pay Attention

Pay Attention

The importance of a blog on Pay Attention occurred to me several weeks ago when I wondered why as I drove to appointments and classes, about the time I passed the fire station, that I would hear clearly in my head Jim’s silent voice saying “pay attention”. It happened every time. I’m glad for the caution since my Intuitive dreaming mind tends to wander.  “Ok, Jim,” I say “I’ll pay attention” I intentionally check the speedometer and keep my mind solidly on Sensing-driving-mode. Research revealed it began a couple of years ago. I had to know because Jim’s words were important then, and still are.

For 66 years Jim was the principal driver no matter which car we were in.  Naturally, as most passengers, I offered cautions at times.  October 2019 Jim and I made our yearly 4000-mile round trip to the Ward lakehouse in Texas, which was before we had any inkling that Jim was struggling with brain tumors.  As usual, he drove and I read aloud to him and made sure he was awake. I drove only when he needed a nap. By the time I’d adjust the mirrors, the seat and pull out on the highway, Jim would already be asleep. When he’d wake up, he would say, “I’ll take over now.”

However, I noticed on that trip that Jim’s confident driving was faltering; he wasn’t sure about the exits. I kept my ear tuned to the GPS which he didn’t particularly like to follow. We had a couple close calls because he insisted on staying in the left lane subjecting us to the speed demons zigzagging around us. I did not shut my eyes the entire trip. I was actually driving from the passenger’s side because he would not let me drive if he wasn’t sleepy. I finally convinced him to stay in the right lane. I breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived home safely. His doctor recommended he not drive anymore; and as much as he loved to drive, he willingly gave up his keys, which in turn declared me the principal driver.

During the several weeks of my chauffeuring, Jim would say ‘pay attention’ and looking back, I recall it was always about when we’d pass the fire station. I just figured it made him nervous to be a passenger when he’d never really ridden with me when he was awake. His words are stuck in my brain sending me reminders to pay attention to careful driving and also providing the joy of a pleasant memory. One of the funniest memories was after Jim’s initial ambulance trip to the hospital, he told me that the ambulance driver took the long route from our house, not the best or fastest.

Research: Pay Attention is: to listen to, watch, or consider something or someone very carefully. I hope you're paying attention, because you'll be tested later. Pay particular attention to the warnings printed on the label. The study of attention is a major part of contemporary cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Attention plays a critical role in essentially all aspects of perception, cognition, and action, influencing the choices we make.

William James's (1890/1950) views on attention are probably the most well-known of the early psychologists. In his famous Principles of Psychology (1980), James asserted that "the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will.

Paying attention actually opens doors for simple, kind and helpful purposes which cost nothing but time. Has someone paid attention to you when traveling and heaved your luggage into the bin?  Handed you a tissue, cough drop or cup of water? Stopped to help you with a flat tire? Just this week, a water-mate paid attention when I couldn’t reach a noodle in the bin. She scampered up those steps and outfitted me with the noodle-color of my choice.  Neighbors told me that they pay attention to see if my drapes are pulled by a reasonable time and if not, they planned to knock on my door. That’s comforting.

In the midst of writing this blog, I was surprised to receive a phone call from my older brother John early on Tuesday morning rather than our usual Sunday evening timeslot, which altered my writing plan a little but interestingly, fit in with the subject of paying attention.

“Hi Ruthie, is this a good time to call?” “This is great John even though I’m experiencing a ‘Jim Ward ‘How ‘bout that, development’ this morning. I overslept bigtime and consequently missed aquatic class, and I can’t decide if I should have breakfast or lunch. So, What’s up?”

“I just finished reading your Critiquing blog”, John said. “It was excellent,” (I detected a slight pause and dip in his voice inflection) “but I think you need to re-visit Critiquing.” “Why’s that”, John?” I asked. “Well, first”, John said slowly, “I have a problem with your example of listening to another’s problem where you wrote, ‘I can see that you are very upset.’ I teach my college students that we should never tell another person how they feel. It’s better to say ‘I sense that you are having difficulty’ “or” ‘would you like to talk about it further?’”

“That’s a very good point, John”, I agreed, “but evidently, I took for granted that the reader understood that the listener had heard enough of the hurting person’s story to know without a doubt that they were upset. But I will embrace that caution and re-visit Critiquing to clear it up for any others who wonder.”

“Secondly,” John continued, “What did you mean ‘‘Just name it’? “I was conveying that the listener, when acknowledging to the person who was sharing his/her problem that they heard and understood their problem sufficiently, was able to name it, or a better word would have been ‘problem’ rather than ‘it’.

“I read your blogs with a critical eye.” John assured me. “I really appreciate that, John, because of your expertise in critiquing students’ papers. I gladly accept your constructive criticisms and will clarify.”       So, blog readers, please accept these improved clarifications. Did you notice John’s use of ‘I’ statements, rather than offensive ‘you’ observations?

It’s obvious that Paying Attention affects every area of life and every person on the planet. As I shared my blog ideas with Mac and Eileen, he mentioned the cripple’s beautiful pay-attention story in Acts 3.

2 Now A crippled man from birth… when he saw Peter and John about to enter (the temple), he asked them for money.”  “4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Acts 3:2-8 NIV

I shared another pay attention-story with Mac and Eileen: “From where I read in the morning, I watch hummingbirds after nectar and song birds, goldfinch and other small birds at other feeders. I noticed how the bigger birds chased the little birds away. So, I ordered a new small bird caged feeder that allows the little birds to get inside to eat.  A couple days passed without any visitors until this morning.  One courageous small House Finch squeezed inside sharing ‘coast is clear’ and many others followed”.

I thought they would enjoy that story since they see many birds and have several feeders. Mac said “We have swarms of hummingbirds who consume a quart of nectar a day and lots of little birds”.  Mac reminded me about Jesus’ mentioning birds in his sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matt. 6:26 (NIV)