Betty Says: Paying Attention

Be Here Now

Can you see the giant flakes? (The snow, not the people.)

Can you see the giant flakes? (The snow, not the people.)

For the past two weeks, I’ve been traveling in Germany and London. (Thanks to the magic of pre-scheduled posts, you probably didn’t even miss me.) By the time I got to London, it was snowing and sleeting sideways, and the temperature rarely peaked above freezing.

My hotel was about a mile walk away from the conference center, which was a good way to get in some exercise to help with the jet lag. At least it seemed like a good idea before the coldest spring weekend in half a century descended on the UK. I was faced with a few options. I could:

  1. Take a taxi.
  2. Take the Tube.
  3. Rush through the streets of London in an effort to stay warm.

It wasn’t until I thought about it for a while that I realized that there was actually a fourth option. I could slow down, look around and actually absorb what was around me.

Best winter coat. Ever.

Best winter coat. Ever.

So I bundled up in my giant Lands End parka (quite possibly my best winter outwear purchase of all time; my exposed skin was numb yet my body was perfectly comfortable), I headed out into the world and paid attention. I know that seems like a silly thing to say, but  it really meant a lot to take the time to actually observe things.

I watched tourists struggling to get their teens to pose for family photos on Millennium Bridge. I watched 7-year-old boys on a class trip act like… well, 7-year-old boys (that maturity level is universal, regardless of how nicely they’re dressed). I noticed the patterns of the cobblestones in the streets; the sign noting that the City of London School was founded in 1442 (long before Columbus went hunting for India and stumbled across North America); the random golden crests and insignias that appear on city buildings; the loud-talking businessman that I passed in front of the Tate Modern each afternoon.

In an attempt to get tickets to see Peter and Alice and see Judi Dench on stage, I accidentally stumbled across the star-studded, paparazzi-laden press night for the play. No tickets, but I spent more than half an hour standing in a crowd watching British celebrities arrive, including the unreasonably patient Charles Dance who spent ages signing autographs and talking with the crowd, and the utterly charming Tom Hiddleston who I’d never paid much attention to before, but now am absolutely smitten with.

My all-time favorite absurd photo caption.

My all-time favorite absurd photo caption.

Dining alone, I had the opportunity to watch the people around me and noticed that it’s startlingly easy to pick out the American tourists, even from across a crowded restaurant. I noticed that the shorter the woman’s hair, the more relaxed and confident she appeared with her date, friend or colleague, while longer-haired women all seemed to be trying much too hard (this surprised me). I watched the waiters and waitresses do their best to manage the universal language of pointing and nodding when confronted with a customer who didn’t understand. I took the time to read the ridiculous tabloid newspapers (see caption at right). None of this is earth-shattering, of course, but the point is that I stopped, looked around and listened. How often do I have that chance? And when I do have it, how often do I take advantage of it?

And with this in mind — living in the moment and taking advantage of what’s around me — I’m entering the Another Mother Runner contest for the Ragnar Relay in October. “Don’t think, just go,” says Dimity, so that’s what I’ll do. (Ok, I thought briefly and made sure that it didn’t conflict with anything on the calendar, but that’s just sensible.) Application coming soon, ladies!

Pay attention. Look around. Don’t think, just go.

What are you doing this week?

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2 Responses

  1. Lori says:

    I am going to see the Nakagusuku Castle ruins either tomorrow or Friday (whenever it’s not raining) and I’m not going to let fear of getting lost keep me from going. The whole island is like five miles across right here. I can only get so far from a road I know!

  2. Alisa says:

    I love castle ruins. We went to a 1,000-year-old castle in Germany when the kiddo was 2, and I just thought that was fabulous. Good luck finding your way there and back!

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