“Pay Attention!”

Pat your head and rub your belly while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Play the drums, snare drum, bass drum, and high hat at the same time while talking to me, and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Read a textbook that is very jargon-y while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Sculpt a bird out of wood while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Serve at the baseline in a tennis match while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Listen to a lecture in a classroom and write down everything that is said while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Balance on your left foot on a beam up high while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Do music theory homework and listen to a piano piece while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Ride a unicycle while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Do calculus homework and listen to music while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Stare into the sun while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Put your hand in an ice bucket for 5 minutes while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Get your skin pitched 100 times while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Get shoved into a small dark closet while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Get your braces tightened while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Have 5 people shout in your ear while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Crash your bike while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

Get a tattoo on the boniest part of your body while talking to me and tell me if it’s hard to talk.

And you wonder why making eye contact is so hard for us.

On any given day, and depending on who I am talking to, eye contact may feel like any of those things above. It may feel like mental/physical pain. It may feel like an ambush. It may feel like a jump-scare. It may feel like juggling. It may feel like the least natural thing I have done all day. It may feel awkward, like talking to a dentist when they’re working on your teeth. It may feel like too much exhaustive multi-tasking for very little gain.

And consistently: It definitely doesn’t feel easy.

I’m always paying attention. I hear what you say down the hall, when you mumble. I know who you are by your gait. I notice minute changes in the environment that most others don’t. I am constantly aware of my surroundings, including the people I am talking to.

Don’t mistake eye contact for listening.

 

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