As babies we look around and notice and appreciate the novelty of everything and everyone around us. We want to listen to, feel, taste, sniff and examine everything, whether it be a live plug socket, or the pretty looking tabs for the washing machine, babies wanna get to know it.
Of course, this obsession with examining stuff has to subside, or we’d never get anything done, and I’d be busy gumming my Mac to see how it tastes, instead of writing on it. My teachers nicknamed me Cathy Day Dream, because if I wasn’t looking around me, I was imagining what I was going to write or draw that day. I was excited about the world around me, and I couldn’t wait to get all I had learned down on paper. I was like that for a long time, until I started working full-time and stopped writing. Things took an even more sinister turn when I got my first smart phone.
I found that before I started writing again, my curiosity about the world around me had waned almost completely. I was walking around in a fog of indifference. If I was alone in a public place drinking a cup of coffee or waiting for someone, I’d be glued to my phone. My little barrier to human contact, safely ensconced in my bubble. I mean, if I were to look around what was there to see, only other people looking at their phones, in their little phone-bubbles.
I had tunnel vision.
One day, I was at Victoria Street Station. I’d just left my job and I had decided to spend the weekend with my sister in London. I was hungry and trying to kill time, so I had lunch in Wetherspoons. I had just started writing again, and I was feeling pretty content. As I tucked into my salad, I noticed this old West Indian man standing by the entrance. He was dressed in a fedora and an immaculately pressed grey suit, and he stood with a giant, brightly-wrapped box in his hand. He stood there for a good ten minutes, and kept glancing at his watch. Shifting on his feet. I began to imagine the person he was waiting for and why, and I found that my mind was flooded with stories.
One was that he was widowed and lonely for a number of years and his granddaughter had shown great patience in showing him how to use the internet. Unbeknownst to him, she created a profile for him on a dating website, and found him ‘the perfect date’. This was to be his first romantic encounter since his wife’s death. Would she arrive and bring him happiness, or would she stand him up and if so, what would the impact of that be? Was his story a comedy or a tragedy.
He will make his way into a short-story in time, I’m sure of it. But he and his story came from nowhere. A simple moment. A nothing moment. It was only because I opened my eyes a little more, and looked closer, there were so many possibilities. It was like my mind had been a faulty camera lens, and finally I was able to focus and zoom-in again.
Some people have managed to perfect the art of meditation, and they call this presence in the moment ‘mindfulness. I was not mindful of being mindful when it first happened to me. It just happened, the clarity just came to me. The fuzziness of apathy just disappeared. Maintaining mindfulness can be difficult. There are so many distractions, but I’m grateful that it comes at all.
I’ve downloaded Headspace in an attempt to train myself in how to meditate. I’m persevering with it and hoping that with practice I can make these moments of clarity last longer, and become more frequent. That way I can harvest even more stories from the simple moments that would otherwise pass me by. I now know that if I just remember to look, there are stories everywhere.