Why do we only listen with half of our hearts and a fraction of our attention? Why do we so quickly interject our own opinions and superimpose our own experience on the story of another, instead of enlarging our perspective on our shared experience?
We're so much alike, right? Our struggles, fears, hopes, and joys ~ the same. Some of us have grown too focused on ourselves and have become convinced that our suffering and trouble, our talent and purpose are more critical or more at risk than those of our friends. We've been so long gazing in the mirror that we've neglected to glance out the window at the shared journey we're walking alongside our remarkable sisters.
Each of us
- is conscious of our beauty ~ and our lack of it. We are hard on ourselves to the point of cruelty and resist assurance that we are lovely enough.
- is maternal. Those of us with children agonize over countless dark and hopeful things regarding our babes. Those of us without wonder if we should have them; wonder if we're incomplete without them; wonder if we could manage them if we did have them.
- is professional. We are skilled and intelligent. We resist the thought of appearing (or actually being) purposeless and realize, on some level, that we can be more than we are.
- is worried about losing our memory, our bone density, our skin tone, our hair, our mind. We fear cancer and hate cellulite.
- carry grief. Some public. Some secret. Women are in pain and manage it in various ways with varying degrees of success.
- need to rage against the injustice we have personally experienced and personally witnessed.
- want to count for something to someone.
- wrestle with the juggling act that our lives have become. We want to juggle well, but worry that we might be dropping more balls all of the time; certain that we're dropping more balls than the friend next door who has it all together.
- want to be seen.
- want to be understood. Truly. Deeply.
- want to be made to laugh.
- want to be heard. Our words. Beyond our words. To the bits of the story we don't know how to tell but quite necessarily need to voice. We want to be heard.
Today has been a day of selfish listening on my part. I admit that I was half-hearted in my efforts to hear and wanted, more than anything, to impose my own telling on the stories of my sharing friends. I dismissed their crises as histrionic or temporary. I clamored for the safety of my kitchen and a warm patch of sunlight.
That's not okay. We need to hear each other. Fully. Generously. Consistently. We must not dismiss the stories of our friends. In listening, with whole attention, we become a point of safety, release, and reassurance for a worthy other. By allowing ourselves to become immersed, completely drawn in by their story we are presented with the opportunity to expand our own lives just a little.