Another pair of eyes

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November is the month of birthdays in our household. It is both a pleasure and a burden. Half the members of my immediate family of six were born in November. The rest are spread more evenly in February, June and September. November is also the month in which my husband and I chose to get married. The month before Christmas, it signals the beginning of a long line of celebrations.

I have always maintained that birthdays are important. It is the one day of the year when you can really be celebrated. We all need to be celebrated from time to time. We all need to feel special from time to time. We all need to take centre stage from time to time, but how easily it is frowned upon.

When I was a child the nuns described the naughty disobedient ones, generally the boys, as ‘notice boxes’. I conjured in my mind then the image of a red letter box, a letter box with its wide slit in the middle like a hungry mouth waiting for a letter to drop in. Were these naughty boys then like letter boxes, waiting for letters, waiting for attention?

I have a friend, a child psychotherapist who observes the increase in situations where small children, again most often boys, are being diagnosed as suffering from attention deficit disorder. She wonders, she tells me, where is the attention deficit actually located.

This is not an attempt at parent bashing. Think again of Phillip Larkin’s poem: ‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad./ They may not mean to, but they do./ They fill you with the faults they had, /And add some extra, just for you.’

I wonder sometimes whether as a society we suffer a sort of attention deficit disorder across the board. I’m the worst of all when it comes to this – head buried in a book or at my computer screen.

Just now my attention has been taken away by my daughter who is busy making a lemon meringue pie at the request of her youngest sister whose birthday was yesterday but which we celebrate today. She cannot find the lemon zester.
‘Can I lend another pair of eyes?’

Do you find this? You’ve lost something. You’ve searched all over the house and still cannot find it. You ask for help and the second pair of eyes sees it instantly. I found the zester in the cupboard with the juicer, where it should not have been.

And now I’m distracted still further by a conversation with my husband in which we have decided yet again we must do something about getting the dog groomed. His coat needs a cut; his claws need clipping. So I will make that call now to a visiting dog washer because, if I do not, another week or two or three will pass and the dog will get shaggier and shaggier.

This is the life we lead, attention deficits abound, distractions as Damon Young calls them. And yet there is something inherent in these distractions that I also love. They remind me that I am alive and I’m thankful for them. I imagine when I’m dead they won’t touch me anymore.

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9 Comments on Another pair of eyes

  1. Nazia Mallick
    November 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm (7 years ago)

    I love the way you say, "we all need to be celebrated from time to time"
    Yes, don't we?

    And how often we forget to celebrate ourselves and wait for others to remind us how special we are. I think it is natural human instinct, to crave attention, no matter how self sufficient we are, apparently.

    I feel I suffer from attention deficit too, sometimes…

    Reply
  2. Elisabeth
    November 15, 2009 at 12:30 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks Nazia.

    Perhaps it comes about because we are also so busy, too busy. It puts me in mind of your search for solitude.

    You at least can let yourself find it. I perhaps run from it.

    Reply
  3. Rick
    November 15, 2009 at 2:42 am (7 years ago)

    Elisabeth, I wonder if we are changing to grope with a world we have changed without fully understand the impact of what we were putting in motion. And we are paying attention to such different things than our parents do. The social linkages that once held us together are replaced by electronic demands that are quite urgent compared the community demands from earlier days. Once we waited for newspapers before we could learn the news. Now we have more news coming at us than we feel equipped to handle, if you see where I'm going.

    Thoughtful post, by the way.

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth
    November 15, 2009 at 7:56 am (7 years ago)

    I think I see where you're going Rick and I agree.

    I scarcely read the print newspapers these days because I am more selective about how I will be bombarded.

    We do not possess a television, but we watch DVDs on the computer screen and I blog, these days incessantly. I learn a great deal about contemporary events in this way.

    I listen to the news reports a couple of times each day when I ferry my youngest daughter to or from school and when I'm out on other jobs, for shopping, for work etc. I keep abreast in this way.

    My children tell me when something monumental is afoot. In this way matters are filtered for me somewhat, otherwise I think I'd go mad.

    There's too much to notice in the world and I am something of a magpie, to begin with. I collect information that might be useful for me, but it can become overwhelming at times.

    I often have to cull it or else I might fall out of my already overcrowded nest.

    Reply
  5. Dave King
    November 15, 2009 at 11:23 am (7 years ago)

    I think the traits we sometimes ascribe to children are specific to certain situations: the English teacher find's him lazy, but the P.E. teacher doesn't, the math teacher thinks him hyper-active, but not the craft teacher. I'm the same, come to think of it!

    Reply
  6. A Cuban In London
    November 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm (7 years ago)

    Ahhh, what a beautiful post! In my household we share our birthdays across the seasons. My son is winter, my daughter spring, my wife is summer and I am autumn (tomorrow,a ctually, thanks for your congratulations and happy birthday to you, too, belatedly). As for children and ADD, agree with you wholeheartedly, the way we live our modern lives is conducive to a reduction in our attention span and other maladies.

    Many thanks for popping by my blog and have a fab week.

    Greetings from London.

    Reply
  7. Tommaso Gervasutti
    November 15, 2009 at 7:02 pm (7 years ago)

    Dear Elisabeth, your post has reminded me of the difficult relation I had with my father and Larkin's quote: how true, like all his poetry, he has been probably the best one in transforming into poetry hard and bitter truths.
    Your post makes me wish to post in mine poems about my parents…

    I am glad you enjoyed "Lampedusa".

    Reply
  8. Tommaso Gervasutti
    November 15, 2009 at 7:17 pm (7 years ago)

    And your feeling about being glad of your distractions, I totally agree…some "particular" distraction, I have experienced, brings a poem. Poems exploit the chinks in between the regular rhythms and love distractions…
    I "court" them in a way, "having a head in the clouds" is what teachers told me to scold me. How boring and useless they were.
    Let's bless instead all bright cloud-headed "untaught" heads.

    Reply
  9. Reader Wil
    November 17, 2009 at 10:53 am (7 years ago)

    You said the boys were more attention seeking than the girls at school. Come to think of it: yes, in my class the boys were noisier and often more complicated than the girls. They needed a lot of attention. Thanks for your visit Elisabeth, and good luck with all the birthdays!

    Reply

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