Paying Attention

I didn’t get the greeting card job.

Oh well.  Big whoop-dee-do.

I was slightly dreading this moment.  The moment when what had been carrying me — a sparkle of hope — would be dashed out and I would have to muster something else up to put in its place.

That thing, I quickly found out, is called faith.

This is a slight problem because I am so notoriously fickle in my faith.  But I am learning.  In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about faith without really knowing it.  I’ve been dancing around the definition, admiring the concept, judging its positives and negatives, all without actually labeling it for what it is, using that particular “f” word.

I think it probably started last week I went in for an eye appointment.  The optometrist was one of the most enthusiastic strangers I’ve ever met.  At first it slightly annoyed me because I was expecting him to be a typical, boring optometrist.  Someone who lives their lives mostly in the dark, asking people over and over again the same questions.  But this guy…  He loved his job!  He loved eye balls!  He was like an evangelical preacher, proselytizing about the incredible works of the eye.  He was on fire delivering his sermon, showing me the high-resolution pictures of all the gross veins in my eyes, pointing out, in great detail, each microscopic feature.  Just when I thought we were finished examining such creepy complexities, he brought out a large, plastic model of a partially dissected eye and proceeded to give me a scientific presentation on the human eyeball.  It was actually quite captivating once I was able to get past his keenness for his work.  I realized I was slightly jealous of how he gets to do what he loves for a living and get paid well for it.  Once I got over that petty moment of resentment, I realized, he was right!  An eyeball!  Two little gelatinous white spheres in our head that allow us to see things right-side up after our brain projects them upside down!  Miraculous, indeed.

We talked about sight, about particles, we even approached the topic of quantum physics–all that stuff out there that exists without our knowing it.  All the big and small stuff that exists on levels we aren’t aware of and can’t actually see.  And then he asked me to read the chart reflected on the wall.  I could barely read the third line from the top.  The only thing that was clear was that my prescription needed some adjusting.

Clicking through the various different lenses in the contraption in front of my eyes, he asked, “Which one is best?  This one?  Or this one.”  (Pause and repeat)  “The first one?”  (Lens switch)  Or the second?”

Intuitively, he seemed to know when I needed another glance before making up my mind.  He repeated the sequence and I gave him my best judgement calls as quickly as I could.  When I hesitated too long, he knew to suggest that perhaps it was the same difference.

“When it’s the most difficult,” he said, “Then that’s when you know you are right where you need to be.”

It was one of those things people say, meant to be taken in a certain context but that stand out as one of life’s larger truths.  Because it seemed to hang in there in the air and because it blew me away so completely, I asked him to repeat himself.

He moved the big View-Master thingy from in front of my face so that everything went blurry.  I wasn’t sure but I gathered from past experience at the optometrist that he was fixing up some hideous Harry Potter-looking specs, inserting a specific set of lenses for me.  I imagined it to be sort of a game for him, a challenge to see if he’d managed to interpret what would suit me best.   He was completely oblivious of the impact that what he was saying was having on me.

“When it’s the most difficult,” he repeated slower this time, “That’s when you know you’re right where you need to be.”

I wanted to say, Stop! and grab an old receipt out of my purse to jot that down on but I didn’t.  I couldn’t see squat.  Then he gave me the black, round, heavy Harry Potter glasses and asked me to put them on and read the clearest line on the screen.  I was shocked to read the finest print with astute clarity.

This morning my friend called me as usual on Monday mornings.  She knows Mondays are hard for me.  We chit chat, catch up and then she usually comes up with a rather fitting metaphor for my life in the moment.  It’s endearing and it gives me that extra umph of encouragement I need to get me through the first day of what will be yet another long week of cover letter writing and endless job application forms.  This morning she sent shivers down my spine when she said, “When things seem the hardest, that’s when we have to pay attention the most.”  I was like, “Oh my God!  Did you just get your eyes checked?!”  Then I tell her the whole story as to why her statement about paying attention seemed so poignant and relevant to me in this very moment.

What my friend was saying was that whatever it is, however hard and impossible it might seem, it’s for a reason.  As soon as I’m past this point, I might one day look back and actually see past the madness and right into the reason and rhyme of why things go as they do.

Maybe it wasn’t about the dream job.  Maybe it’s about how not getting that job has taught me how to grasp onto more than just fleeting hope.  It’s about learning to distinguish what’s solid amid the confusing blur; how to decipher then articulate what is best.    And even though there might not be a finish line in sight, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.  It just means I can’t quite see it just yet.

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2 thoughts on “Paying Attention

  1. “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
    Don Williams, Jr. (American Novelist and Poet, b.1968)

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