Avoid the priorities

Things can be quite lovely, can’t they? This is a Public Service Announcement.

Sometimes, even just for a little moment, life can lift you out of yourself for a bit and make you realise you’ve been focusing on the priorities. 

Big mistake, always focusing on the priorities. If you’re focusing on priorities all the time, everything is urgent and that is no way to live.

Nice to be reminded, occasionally, that prioritising the urgent isn’t the answer to everything. Good to pause and enjoy that feeling of life gently shaking you free. 

Sometimes, for instance, you’ll catch something mundane - or even ugly - looking really quite beautiful and perfect. Like how after a rainstorm, the leaves have been tugged by the water into a perfectly arranged leaf installation over the storm drain, spiralling out towards you like a flower arrangement, welcoming and celebratory. 

Or how, in big cities where there are lights in the footpath pointing up at the sky, they’re sometimes warmer than the night air, so you get to see a row of light beams, vertical like poles of gentle, rising steam.

Or the moment when you’re walking along at night and you become freshly gobsmacked by the moon, huge and orange and improbable in the sky, or doing that thing where there’s a bright, thin crescent of a bowl down the bottom balancing a shadowy sphere on top.

Also nice how, when you see things like this, by yourself, on your way somewhere, if you take the time to pause and photograph them so you can share it with someone else, it doesn’t work. The photograph looks like a pile of leaves or a flat light on a footpath or a distant toenail in the murky dark. It’s as though the universe is insisting this is a moment just for you and your lonely brain. The only way to externalise the moment is to pause slightly in your thinking. Maybe say “huh”. Maybe not.

Small social conspiracies. When you’re talking to someone at a party for instance, and you see someone else coming. “What’s his name?” you quietly ask the person you’re speaking to. “The guy in the shirt”. She’s got three seconds to turn inconspicuously and tell you. “Spencer!” she says to him as he approaches, and you feel relief course through you because Spencer, when he sees you, calls you by your name more often than any other human on earth. He turns to hug her while you mime “thank you” over his shoulder and she smiles. Little human moments of connection across a crowded room. 

Or that thing where you’re walking with an animal or a small child and you’re holding groceries and you need to go to the toilet and also you’re very tired and the person ahead of you probably hasn’t seen you because he’s got headphones on and he seems in his own world but when he gets to the door in front of you he waits, not breaking character, not looking anything other than slightly bored and totally absorbed in his own business, until at the last second, while waiting for you and your entourage to shuffle shambolically through the door he is holding open, he flicks you a “you’re welcome” smile that betrays a thoughtfulness that started way before you even noticed the door-opening was even a distant possibility.

Steam rising off porridge.

The fact that hopscotch is still a thing.

The fact that, walking across a chalked and abandoned hopscotch patch on a footpath, even the most adult adult will have to suppress the instinct to hop and leap across it like a seven-year-old.


Getting warm after being too cold.

Bird squabble.

The kind of tired you only get from reading. Tired right in the middle of your brain.

The way you can sometimes see the wind buffeting the rain like the tide is coming in in the air all around you. 

The way Scrabble pieces sound when they clink together and it reminds you of all the times you have played Scrabble, which you have done maybe a million times, maybe only half a dozen, but it’s the same you, with the same little squares in your fingers, organising them in a neat little row.

Morning light bouncing off a teacup so that everything seems clean and hopeful.

Stained glass windows.

The word mischief.


Allow the universe to show you the things that don’t matter, because sometimes, when you think about it, they actually do. This has been a Public Service Announcement.


This article first appeared in The Big Issue Australia. Buy one when you can.