Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Listen Up

We break each other when we don't listen. Our spirits wither when we go unheard. There are hundreds of ways to listen. Ears aren't the only requirement. Sometimes they're not required at all. We need to listen with all of our senses.

I have two different reactions when I feel I'm not being heard. I either retreat or I get angry and inappropriate. Either reaction is a disservice to everyone involved. As a child I felt I was never heard. Worse, I felt there was no one who would or could listen. Most of my early life was spent retreating and being very angry at myself.

I still have difficulty talking sometimes. I don't feel I'm well represented when I use speech to convey my thoughts and feelings. I have learned to "talk" in other ways. I write, I make art, I give gifts, I feed people, I shake my head, roll my eyes, sigh, you name it. Everything I do is a type of language, and as a friend of mine once dubbed me, I am the "Queen of Not So Subtle Hints." The people in my life who've been able to put up with me the longest are the ones who listen to all of that.

I'm guilty of not listening to others with all my senses. But I'm learning.

Not long ago I was sitting on the sofa reading. Steve did some mundane task that I normally do. Feeling guilty, I jumped up and said, "You don't need to do that!" He quietly replied, "I know I don't need to." That scenario has happened a few times in our relationship. However, that time I heard what he was really saying.

What he was really saying was, "I love you. I love watching you be completely wrapped up in what you're doing. Take a break from the mundane stuff that you always so willingly do and enjoy your book." So, rather than get defensive over some self-manifested guilt, I wrapped my arms around him from behind and said, "I love you too."

It's easy when someone blows up at us to simply react. It would be better to stop for a minute and think about possible reasons for such a strong reaction. It would be better to listen to what they're not saying. We all need a voice of reason in the chaos. We all need a place of calm. We all need, in some way, someone who has the presence of mind to say to us, "Tell me. I'm listening."

Steve is slowly teaching me how to talk - he doesn't know this. But I feel safe with him. I know that when I say, in whatever way I manage to say it, "I need you to listen" that he will listen. It is one of the most beautiful things about him. He "hears" everything. I realize how fortunate I am to have someone like this in my life. I also realize that it is my job to learn from his example.

So I'm learning to listen, to really hear others. Couldn't we all? Underneath all of our blustering don't we really just want to get along? Don't we really just want some validation that we're okay human beings? Don't we really want some reason and acceptance?

It all goes together. If we really listen, we really know how to respond appropriately. When we respond appropriately, we're more likely to be heard.

I don't know if I've adequately said what I intended to say with this piece... but...

Listen. Heal. Love.


  1. O, Barb! I love listening to you... To the mundane, everyday 'things' that HIT you so profoundly that you must share them with us! I love listening to the growth you're sharing with each of us, and especially ME! Some days, I think you've crawled into my head and snatched my thoughts to air out...

    Hugs you intruder, you!

    Oh, and the card? Too cute! LOVE it, the colours, the dress...

  2. That's a beautiful card Barb & this is a very interesting post. What I find difficult is finding people to listen to me. I don't know yet how it happens, but I seem to choose people who prefer the sound of their own voices to listening to anything I have to say. Even if I say "yes, you told me that before", they still repeat themselves. It's a good thing I prefer my own company.

  3. I heard you loud and clear, and it sounded nice. Good post. Thanks.


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