Learning to pay attention.

The couple at the other end of our long table was debating about something. I didn’t want to listen closely. It sounded like one of those, “But you said.” “No I didn’t.” debates that get nowhere but aggravated.

They settled back to silence, looking at their phones.

I turned back to Tim.Tim 1

“I’ve been wanting to talk with you for awhile,” I said.

“What was stopping you?” He said. “I’ve been here, ready to start.”

“You know, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. It’s been hard to simply pick one and settle down to have a conversation.”

I paused. The woman was starting the process of getting the two of them to leave the coffee shop.

“I think you aren’t really thinking,” Tim said.

I shook my head and turned back to him.

“What?” I said.

“I think that you aren’t really thinking about a lot of things. I think that your attention is being given to things that don’t matter.”

I looked at him, trying to respond to him and trying not to think about the way that the man was taking his time responding to his companion. I started figuring out the relationship between the two, as they finally walked out.

“Well,” Tim said. “Are they married?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

“Does it matter?” he said. “Does their conversation style matter? Does the nature of their conflict matter? What is it worth to you to have answers?”

“I don’t know. I’m just curious.” I said. “And besides, what’s wrong with people-watching?”

“Nothing at all,” Tim  said. “But don’t tell me that you’ve been wanting to talk to me unless you are willing to acknowledge that you wanted to be distracted slightly more.”

He smiled. “Or are willing to acknowledge that you’d like some advice about paying attention to what matters.”

“I’m struggling with the start of the new year,” I said. “About what paying attention to what matters. I do need help.”

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  1. Pingback: Avoid chatter. | 300 words a day

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