1. to be present at (an event, meeting or function)
2. to apply the mind or to pay close attention
Origin of attend: Middle English, from Anglo-French atendre, from Latin attendere, literally, to stretch to, from ad- + tendere to stretch
First of all, I love that the etymology for this word includes “stretch” because for weeks and weeks “stretch” was my word for this post. I even wrote it in the sand at the beach this summer to photograph it for this post, then I changed my mind. I like to feel I’m having it both ways now. More than that, it felt like a gift to discover that the word I finally settled on has nestled inside it the word I had been contemplating for so long. It made the decision feel right.
And having it both ways is kind of what this word is about because “attend” points in two very different directions for me: to venture out and to pay close attention to.
I want next year to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and to attend many more events and functions and plays and games and gatherings outside of my home and my comfort zone. I am a home body, and I need a lot of time alone at home, but this blog and my children’s growing older have both opened up a lot of new opportunities to loosen the tether to home and the comfortable safety it offers. I want to say yes a lot more often to occasions to be away from home. Often, this means that someone else will have to attend to my children, and I’ll be honest, sometimes the effort of replacing myself just doesn’t seem worth it. Well, I want not to weigh that question of worth quite so often next year. I want to find out for sure, and I want to begin to belong in circles, places and spaces that define a different part of me.
But I also feel strongly bound by the sense of the word that means to pay attention, to attend not only to the world and the people around me, but also to my gut. It’s an inward-looking, close to the self kind of meaning, and I want to pull the world in at the same time that I venture out. I have begun that in a really rewarding way already with photographs from my daily walks. (I post them on Instagram, if you’re following us there, and they pop up on the side bar if you’re reading us on the computer.) Somehow, giving myself the task of capturing one image from my day has made me attend to my surroundings in a whole new way. I’m looking for opportunities to frame and capture a moment, a colour, a flash of light. I am never the subject of the photograph, but somehow they reflect me and how I saw the world that day. “Attend” came to me while I was on one of my walks, and it really does capture how grounded and right in myself I feel while I’m walking.
I listen to podcasts while I’m on my long exercise walks, so attending also means paying attention to another person’s story. I often joke that education is wasted on the young and that I could happily be in school for ever. Well, with podcasts I am attending lectures for as long as my walk lasts. I have met so many amazing authors in interviews recorded with the CBC, BBC, The Guardian, NPR, LRB, and others, and I’ve been utterly captivated by what I’ve learned about science and history from “Quirks and Quarks” and “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” My taking photographs and listening to podcasts began in earnest in November, but I know it’s something that I want to make a top priority for 2015 because they both feed my soul.
Finally, I want to learn to attend to my own instincts more generously and viscerally. I second-guess myself all the time, and, usually, I think that’s a positive thing. I think it’s good to question yourself. I like humility and the ability to see things from multiple perspectives, and I value how second-guessing myself will give me both. But I’m also a bit tired of how often hindsight will show me that I should have been more rooted in my own values and priorities. I will catch myself scrambling around in ways that reward others much more than they reward me, and I want to rein that in, to attend to what feels right for me.
So, a word that stretches me in some ways and extends what is already there and working well. I’m happy I settled on it. I feel at home in it.