When I was twelve, my father came home from a long business trip abroad with a magical gift just for me: a Polaroid camera with half a dozen boxes of film. This was, even among my classmates in our ritzy Bombay school, an item to be marveled at and coveted. One glorious afternoon, I gathered a group of friends, and we spent hours taking pictures and then watching, mesmerized, as muddy shades of umber turned into clear images of ourselves, and the assorted rocks and flowers and tumbleweeds we found on our school grounds. For a long time, I thought that the Polaroid was a metaphor for the way life would work out – little by little, all would come into focus, everything would be revealed.
Of course, time and experience has taught me otherwise. Revelation is the result of effort – thinking through problems, grappling with difficult issues, fighting for what one believes in when necessary, giving way and making peace when needed. Things come into focus, not by magic, but by concentrated effort – by paying attention to the moment or the task at hand, and honoring it.
In the last year, however, it has become quite a challenge to maintain focus. I chose my 2014 OLW – “pause” – thinking that what I really needed to do was just slow down and savor the moments I felt I was rushing through. Here’s what I wrote last year: I will pause to reflect, to savor, to cherish. I will pause to be grateful, to be aware of the moment, to be in the moment. I tried to do just that. And, for the most part, I did succeed.
But…something is still missing…
I have come to see that as opportunities and experiences have come my way this past year, I have struggled with focus. I feel myself being pulled in many directions, wonderful and exciting as they are. Every task or interaction seems a split screen – one half what I am actually doing, the other what I think I need to be doing. My ah-ha moment arrived last week, and with it my OLW. I had finally managed to reach my mother in London; she had been unwell and I hadn’t wanted to call lest I disturb her much needed rest. Every moment of every day that I did not call, I thought of her and felt the need to hear her voice. So, there we were, finally able to exchange news and chat about the holidays, and what was I also compelled to do? Laundry!
I had to stop myself, sit down, and just focus on our conversation. Only then could I really pay attention to the strain in my mother’s voice. Only then could I read between the lines of what she was saying – to listen, rather than hear…to be in the moment and fully present. To focus.
That is my OLW for 2015.
I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.