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Your Wellbeing: attention – you’re wearing the wrong trousers!

Revd Chris McDermott, Lead Chaplain for the University of Sussex.

We have all been distracted.

Recently I attended a book launch in Lewes and was waiting for the eagerly anticipated programme to begin when suddenly my mind seized with horror as I suddenly remembered an important appointment I was meant to keep – the day before! Once the event was over I quickly went home to write a grovelling email to apologise for the misdemeanour.

It was not the first occasion I had missed a trick and no doubt it could happen again. I won’t even go into the time when I, in a distracted state, inadvertently wore my wife’s trousers for a day! The surprising learning point on that occasion was that I comfortably – more or less – could fit into a ladies size 12.

What took me aback was that I had had a conversation with the person with whom I was scheduled to meet about one week before and had been careful to enter the details for the meeting into my diary. (Another learning point: look at your diary!) Yet at the time when I should have been meeting the person and others concerned I was in utter oblivion as I was busy preparing an extensive literature review for my research project before moving on to preparing for a speaking engagement the next morning. Arguably it was a busy Saturday.

Many of us live in busy households and are also flush with a list of work ‘to dos’. And at a time of year when many will be busy with marking, preparing lectures, travelling for work, and family and relationship commitments, the potential for donning the wrong item of clothing or missing an appointment is heightened.

We all need to occasionally take stock of our workloads, commitments, and priorities by way of stepping back and creating space for ourselves before re-connecting (hopefully more thoughtfully) with those work and life tasks. Perhaps working into our day a few minutes or more for just sitting, connecting with our breath, our bodies and our states of minds is one helpful way to create the kind of space that allows us to be attentive to our varied responsibilities and workloads.

Of course, even then, because we will never be perfectly efficient, we may miss an appointment or don the wrong clothes without thinking. Yet another learning point: be patient with yourself, even as you realise you have put on two shoes of different colours! I did that once after dressing in the dark for an Easter sunrise service. I only realised it as the sun was coming up and I was dutifully bowing my head for prayer. So yet another learning point: don't get dressed in the dark!

So it is with some humility on my part that I invite us all to continue to nurture some space for mindfully staying attentive amid our busy schedules. We will still on occasion realise that we have been neglectful of some thing or another but hopefully less often and very much as an exception to the rule. But we will be more grounded and likely have more stamina and energy for the busy-ness that life and work sometimes bring our way.

And we will wear our own trousers.

By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 14 June 2019