Independence Appreciated, and the Gratuitous Breast

July 4, 2011

I’ve got a mosquito bite on the back of my calf. I keep reaching down to scratch it while piecing together this blog post. I also occasionally look over at my banjo and wonder if I should bring it with me today to the party. Why these things are foremost in my mind today isn’t significant, but the practice of noticing your surroundings and giving them attention is.

Having the sentience and independence to let my mind wander is one of the abilities I appreciate the most. You could even say I treasure it.

What I’m getting at – and I’ll leave the philosophical and/or Einstein-esque snippets out of this column – is that there’s a finite amount of attention to go around. Each one of us has interests, family, friends and responsibilities (and likely more stuff) to which we are required or at least requested to pay attention. And it grows with each passing moment.

As an infant, your attention is taken up by anything moving in front of you, loud and not-so-loud sounds, and the all-too-occasional breast. As an adult, your targets are eerily similar. Daily activities, professional and avocational passions, and (from my experience, I can’t speak for the others) the all-too-occasional breast.

But what’s it all mean? Other than the completely transparent use of literary license to put the term breast in a blog post multiple times? It’s about our independence – appropriately on this Independence Day.

It means that we develop independently (with some direction) the capacity to cope and grow as our experience grows. My lifestyle isn’t one of excesses, but it is one of focused energy. That’s the nice way to say obsessive-compulsive activity. Right now the plates I’m juggling – and these will be labeled ‘L’ for life/regular ongoing things and ‘R’ for the random stuff that I have dived into to sate my need for variety – are myriad.

For example…

Gretchen – L

House stuff – L

Death of Dad – L

4th of July Party – L

Blogging/Writing Projects (work) – L

Health – L

Other professional gigs – L

Banjo – R

Tour de France – R

Photography – R

Social Media events – R (but transfers nicely to paid gigs on a regular basis)

Scooter – R

Beer – R

This is definitely only a partial list, but I know enough about myself that the ‘R’ list could be fleeting. I used to race mountain bikes, snowboard, run an artistic rubber stamp store, waterski, eat only fast food, drink RedBull and more. Those are all memories, now.

What I’m pushing at – and I hope you’re still along for the ride – is that life and our attention span is just that, a ride. We speed up and slow down. We add twists and turns to the journey and we take on passengers and boot some out at the side of the road. But from start to finish we hopefully perform some good, make some people smile, benefit society and have a good time.

Today, on the 4th of July, we have a party that started as my grandmother’s birthday party. This was my father’s mother. No surprise here, but I still miss my father a lot. The list above and my zest/lust/drive to enjoy the world around me was instilled by watching my parents enjoy their life together and raise four great kids.

Without them, I never would have known the power of independent thought or activity. Nor would I have understood the magic of an all-too-occasional breast.