The gift of presence

I hope it doesn’t sound mean-spirited to admit that I sometimes approach the festive season with trepidation. After all, there’s loads of things that I love about the middle of winter; candles and greenery, sharing good food and favourite carols to name a few.

But, with the heightened excitement and expectations, it can all seem just a little bit ‘extra’. Know what I mean?

I wonder what would happen if we let go of some of our busy-ness and replaced it with a little more intention. If we took time to consider what we really value and made space for more of that.

I’d like more time to have good conversations with those I love. Less time worrying about what stuff to get them and more attention to the present moment. I know that many of my casual conversations gather only half of my attention. I’m nodding along, but in my head I’m busy composing a text, a shopping list, a better retort to that thing that happened earlier.

Apparently we live in an attention economy. Even our language acknowledges what a precious commodity it is. We pay attention, waste time, spend energy, lose focus. A quick walk down the street, watching heads bent over magic rectangles, and there’s no question whose economy we’re investing in. We feel starved for time, yet willingly give what we have of it to the digital world. We while it away on endless scroll mode, unable to sit in the here and now.

In my work as a Speech and Language Therapist I often chat with parents about embracing the awkward silence. It’s incredible what gems crop up when we give people just a little more thinking time, rather than rush in to fill the space. The gift of our full attention; no new device or toy can ever replace that.

Everything about this midwinter season tells us to draw in, slow down, hit ‘pause’ on the everyday hustle and simply be together. Time to gather round and share stories, listen to each other and reflect on the year closing in. What story or song could you share? What do you want to pass on to those you love?

Put down your phone, leave it where it is. Go find someone to talk to. And pay attention.

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