A Case for Paying Attention


It is easy, at this moment in time, to feel a certain degree of despair about *the state of things.* I have some general fatigue about, um, everything – and it’s become impossible not to cry often. A frequent fogging of my eyeballs has become a part of me in 2020.

Glennon Doyle said once that the reason she cries so often is, “For the same reason I laugh so often – because I’m paying attention.” So then, because everything is hard, sometimes I think… maybe I should just… stop paying attention? Maybe then I’d be less anxious and spend less of my evenings crying off and on? This is very appealing. An easy leap. A quick fix. Over and done. NOT MY PROBLEM.

But not paying attention is a privilege in itself, one that says: this doesn’t affect me, so I don’t have to look at it. And that ship has more than sailed, in 2020, along with my ability to keep mascara on for more than a couple of hours. I can’t “not be political” because the status quo doesn’t hurt me directly – I have to care. We have to care, if we ever want things to be better.

Yesterday, you may have seen, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend lost a baby mid-pregnancy. I am not one to get involved in celebrity things really ever, but this hit different. And after a day of watching vitriolic comments pile up among the sea of support, I put my own baby to bed, sat down on the couch, and set out to report that crap. I spent a good chunk of the evening going through and reporting comments (which removes them from view) with many others in the comments who were doing the same thing. I cannot imagine such a pain, and I cannot imagine feeling the ugliness in my heart to even think, let alone tell a person that their worst day, their worst tragedy, was their fault, deserved, karma, “what you get,” God’s plan, even (I read and reported each of those things at least once). I barely made a dent. But I removed a few of those words from their view – and when I commented as such, more than 800 people liked and almost 20 others commented they were doing the same. A little team of strangers in the comment section of a celebrity tragedy. A tiny revolution of people paying attention.

It is hard not to feel completely ineffectual, but I provided the above example because even in such a small way, I made my voice heard. I joined others and more still joined me, and it felt important. I can no longer stand by and ignore injustice because my kids, pictured here, need me to stay vigilant. To keep crying. To keep paying attention. So that one day, it is my fervent prayer, they won’t have to, as much. But when they do, they’ll know what it looks like. And they’ll know they are joining the ranks of strong, tender-hearted women throughout time whose hearts broke for all people in pain. Paying attention, crying, and fighting in whatever big and small ways they can.

Crying. Voting. Reporting the comments. Donating money, or time. Listening, hearing, and gracefully standing up for what we believe is right and for people who don’t look like us or live near us, but who we care about and cry for all the same.

Putting these words on the internet does not mean I’m about to start fighting about politics on the internet, just so that’s clear. That is a losing battle that as far as I can tell only serves to raise my blood pressure. But writing is what I need to do with my feelings, sometimes, and writing this was helpful. I’ll happily engage in real time with people I am in relationship with, and I will attempt to do it with grace.

If you, like me, are experiencing pay-attention-fatigue, know you’re not alone. Know that your tears are holy. And when you have reached your limit – you can pass the torch and rest. We will, collectively, press on and continue; resting and refueling and starting again when we’re ready, picking up the torch for those who did the same for us. Our very own tiny revolution of people paying attention.

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