The Third Something

105 / Noticing What You Notice

Trusting that something is interesting simply because you find it interesting…a radical act of self-love.

There’s a small white bump on the inner edge of my right earlobe.

I never noticed it before Thursday because, well…I’d never looked at my earlobe until Thursday.

That’s when I took a close-up photograph of my ears and drew them in my sketchbook. I drew them slowly and carefully in black ink, trying to record every bump and undulation.

Trying not to draw some ears, but my ears.

A drawing of two ears in black ink, by Adam Westbrook

On Friday I drew my nose. And on Saturday my mouth.

A drawing of a nose and mouth in black ink by Adam Westbrook

I’m practicing noticing — and to notice what I notice.

In Danny Gregory’s words, to “reorient my gaze”:

“…seeing the beauty and value of all we have, seeing and recording and acknowledging the evidence of our senses, celebrating the everyday…”

My own bag of meat and bones seems like as good a place to start as any.

“I don’t have anything interesting to say”

Noticing is really just the awareness of the sights, sounds, touches and tastes that pique our curiosity; an openness to the range of what that might be; and a trust that what we notice is worth noticing.

From these noticings emerge the characters and events of our stories and the specific details that make them feel real.

I am rediscovering how to notice what I notice; it doesn’t come naturally.

Writers like Alain de Botton and Verlyn Klinkenborg argue that in school, we are taught to believe that what other people think is more important than our own thoughts — a fact I have just subconsciously proven, writing this sentence.

How sad that so many of us enter adulthood bereft of a simple faith in the mere validity of our own observations!

As if they’re not worth paying attention to unless someone else has said them.

Even sadder that we stare over the blank page of a private journal, thinking: “I don’t have anything interesting to say.”

We are all so worried about having something interesting to say.

But maybe originality and authenticity and interesting-ness are really issues of confidence and self-belief.

You are the only person who has ever lived your life; the only person who will ever live it. The random assortment of sights and smells that catch your attention, and the way you feel about them, is your original, authentic — interesting — fingerprint

Noticing what you notice. I put it to you that this is a radical act of self-love.

Because it assumes that what you notice is worth noticing.

That something is interesting simply and purely because you find it interesting.

That is enough.

You are enough.

Until another Sunday soon,

Adam's signature