Learning to listen.

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This weekend my COVID social bubble peeps and I sat six feet apart, yet still close enough to feel cozy. We talked, dreamed a bit, laughed, ate and watched the kids experience freedom + incendiary devices. The conversation was so delicious that we forgot about eating until I saw Chuck, the pup, standing at the back door licking his chops and hopped up to see what he may have sampled. Time with these people was delightful. Punctuated by laughter and schvoop! bang! sparkle.

I sat with my feet up in a foldy chair and followed threads of conversation that wove around me in an embrace of sorts. And though I missed my kids, I felt like one of the richest people in the world. Listening. Letting laughter and wisdom wash over me without a need to pipe in or “sort it out.”

Listening.

As I curled to sleep that night listening the snap-crackle-pop of the neighborhood, I thought of a conversation I recently had with my friend Joshua. He has been at home longer than COVID, fighting to recover his strength after a series of whole-health issues sent him to bed. He is wise. Asks tough questions with a kind, thoughtful mix of wisdom, humility and intensity not often seen in these parts or where he lives in North Georgia. A man who’s health and faith has been long tested and yet he – metaphorically – still stands in a mysterious strength.

I asked how he was doing. He asked how I was doing.

We’ve been awash in the latest groundswell of social media showdowns and cruelties. People are rising up wanting to be treated with the dignity afforded to most paler humans. People snarl at one another in a “to mask or not to mask” debate and fear rules more than community.

It was last week as Izzy lost six lbs by eating some fermenting gungus out of the grass before I could catch her, and we slept no more than two hours at a time for several days and nights following that feast of funky. It was during the continued failing of the house purchase because of elements outside of my care and lack of sleep and the uncertainties that can leave me numb.

The “too much” waved loneliness at me like an accusation and – with his customary kind timing – my friend was checking in.

Joshua and I had both watched Dave Chappelle’s June 6 “8:46” show. It was raw in a way that was both angry and hopeful it seemed. And then:

A: “I keep getting reminded that when I listen to receive instead of “make sense” of something, more learning often occurs.” 

J: “Mak(ing) sense often means fit into my box.”

A: “Yes. And though my boxes looked different than most, they were still boxes.”

This singular conversation marks a changing in the way I approach people, connections, the news, rhetoric, ideas, sleeplessness and even the disappointments that leave me breathless like loneliness and shoddy work.

Listening.

Listening without the urgency of having to learn something or sort it out. Or even understand.

Listening to a cellist when I cannot sleep or am so exhausted that I probably should not drive the dog to the emergency vet (but do anyway.)

Listening to my own heart without trying to sort it out, make it better or find a solution.

Listening instead of “discovery” so that I learn intentional listening instead of leaping before I look.

This refresher course of listening (and putting away my phone) is creating space for me to be more fully present as friends reveal their dreams, distressed wonderings, humanity – as we, friends, weave our stories together a little more.

Listening.

And in a new way, I write to you that I will listen to you. Listen.

We may not agree, but I will do my best to afford you the dignity owed to your humanity.

Hopefully, I will have the chance to listen to you soon in the back yard of the little house with twinkly lights above and snoring pup at our feet.

Please be patient with me. Listening without leaping and LEARNING is new to me. I’m slow to that table.

I will listen. We are worth it.


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