Learning to Notice: Enrich Your Life by Paying Attention

We miss out when we whiz through life without thoughtful observation.

One of the things I love most about my husband is also something that used to drive me crazy about him. He’s a noticer. No matter what’s going on, he has an artful way of pausing to pay attention to little moments of beauty around him.

Lingering to watch a sunset.

Standing patiently with binoculars to get a glimpse of a certain bird.

Taking the long way to enjoy a more scenic route.

Noting that the quince bush is about to explode with coral blossoms.

These are his kinds of things. It used to get on my nerves. I’m task-oriented and like to get stuff done. My impatient, hurry-up nature didn’t jive with his observant tendencies. I used to come home and find household tasks unfinished and fume about it. Couldn’t he do one simple thing while I was out?

Then he’d explain that he had taken a little more time playing at the park than expected because he enjoyed watching the kids have fun. How could I be upset about that? If anything, it made me fall more in love with him.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I’m so grateful to have him to balance my get-it-done ways. He notices things. He notices people. It’s rubbed off on me, though I am still aiming to cultivate the kind of tender patience required to be an expert noticer. It’s not natural for everyone. One can learn though.

Now that I understand the importance of noticing, I aim to pass it on to my children. Instead of living a frenetic life that doesn’t pause to notice, I point out blooms on a redbud tree. A ladybug on the curtain provides a moment to teach tenderness as we release her out the window. These efforts are paying off.

The other day, my thirteen-year-old pointed out the car window at a magnolia festooned with blossoms. “Isn’t that tree beautiful?” she asked.

“It is,” I smiled.

My eight-year-old son identified deer tracks on a family walk not long ago. I love that he’s also learning to notice. He even saw scat on the path and we had a discourse about what kind of animal could have made that kind of poop.

Life is beautiful and stopping to notice it for a moment is a form of gratitude as well as soul-care. Watching my children play, looking out the window at snow on a tree branch, listening to birdsong for a few minutes before starting my day — these things are gifts. I receive them in an unrushed way now, allowing them to wash over me.

Pause, breathe, listen, look. What have you been missing? It’s probably amazing.

Thank you for reading! I’m Tracy Cooper and invite you to follow me if you’d like to read more real talk about real life. Let’s do life on purpose.