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focus

That was supposed to be my word for February:

F O C U S

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Then I looked up and it was the end of month and when, exactly, did that happen?

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I had an idea for how February would go, for how the first half of this year would go: a certain series of events would fall one right after another and at the end of it all it would be July and I could maybe, kinda breathe again.

This is how I function in my day-to-day life, verbalizing a rhythm that keeps me more or less on task: wake up, feed the cats, start breakfast…feed the cats, start breakfast, wash your face…start breakfast, wash your face, get dressed…and so on. So much is written about focus, that ADD is not the lack of it but the overabundance of it, frizzling and fraying in all the wrong directions. Highly Sensitive folks get the added biological bonus of being attuned to the environment always – prioritizing the input is not an ability that comes easily. Whatever the reason(s), I’m not so much interested in their cause as their effect. I do what I need to function in my life and also make sure I don’t leave the house in my slippers, having not eaten breakfast. It’s a real risk.

And it works on the large scale, too, breaking down months into manageable sequences. First, Hannah would visit and once she left it would be time to give notice on my apartment’s lease. It would then be Lent and I would start the slow process of packing up my apartment. Amanda & I would be looking for a new place. Amanda & I would find a new place. We would move. It would be Pascha. I’d settle in to the new place. I’d take a trip to photograph a wedding in May. I’d wrap that all up by July. I would look around and think, this is my life now. This is good.

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Then Hannah arrived and her plane landed early, which shook me out of my carefully crafted morning plans (like finishing the post about Mom’s visit) and into the reality of needing to put on pants so that I could drive to the airport and get her. Between hearing her sweet voice so unexpectedly on the phone and understanding her imminent presence in my apartment, I was struck with the sense of needing to be there as much as possible. Not just at the airport, but in general: I needed to be as present as possible during the limited time that we would have together.

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I took photos, but I didn’t update much. I made a conscious effort not to look at my phone when we together (which I try to do with everyone, but can admittedly be a little lax with family). We were intentional about our time together, making the most of her being in Austin while also savoring the time we had to just be sisters who were no longer separated by the miles. I crafted my time to have moments of solitude without taking away from our togetherness, and got up early for morning walks where I could absorb the calm and the quiet and just be there.

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DSC_6290Hannah left, and the apartment was suddenly calm and quiet, and I was struck by missing her more than I ever had before. The rhythm that had grounded me had faded to a background hum.

I felt a bit unmoored.

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Things fell into place of their own accord.

I gave notice on my lease.

Lent started.

I bought plane tickets for the wedding in May.

I’ve been thinking very seriously about packing.

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Now, at the end of the month, as I think about focus and what it meant for February, I’ve been realizing that I had it all wrong. Focus is not keeping the details of a plan running over and over again in your mind. That’s a tool, sure – I really DON’T want to put off packing until the last possible moment – but the truth is that a lot of those things will still happen without my ever-constant vigilance. Focus in February meant clearing some things out, writing them down, and letting them be. Focus meant being present enough to appreciate where I was in that moment, on a walk or with my sister or in this apartment. The focus that I sought was really just “orderly busyness,” but the focus that I am oh-so-slowly finding is far less about control and far more about consciousness.

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Lent is happening; due to the move’s imposition on my free time and a car that I am desperately trying to keep together until May, I’m not as present at church as I would like to be, but the fast itself is a call to focus and awareness. One of the books that I am reading through is Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. Elder Thaddeus has a lot to say about thoughts and quiet and inner stillness, and I’m sure that I need to hear it.

And thus, onward to March we go…