Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day 8 of 10 Days of Great Women

Yesterday got me thinking about listening. First there was the bit from my post about how much I value a doctor who listens to me. Then in a meeting at work, we were talking about the tendency of people to put a hand in front of their mouth while eating. In examining why young people do this we came up with a few things:

1. This may be nervousness at being in a different social situation while eating and an attempt to be polite.
2. We all do this when we're too excited to wait and start talking while eating in a restaurant.

This led me to think how I behave differently at a networking lunch vs. one with friends. I listen better at a networking lunch. I'm so excited to see my friends and family, that when we eat together, I am more likely to interrupt and have partial conversations.

But maybe I shouldn't do that. Because listening is so, so valuable. And I listen better at a networking lunch than with my most cherished people. That thought gives me pause.

I think of times when I've really listened to people, where instead of trying to impart something to them, I've sat back and tried to ask questions and make comments that spur them to continue talking. I think of how I gain from those experiences of not just remaining politely quiet for the other person's turn, but not having anything I myself want to say, so that I can just listen.

Then I think of the people who have done that for me. And these people hold a special place in my heart. At times they have been the unlikely relationships but the other person's timing and listening skills have let me get close to them.

I make friends frequently and quickly, but rarely do I get close to people. I'm excellent and shooting the shit and keeping things on a level where I've only shared things I would with most anyone. I'm not great at the deeper relationships anymore. It's something I lack in my life which has had an insular focus on my husband and kids these last years. And that's what happens when kids are little. But as my kids are getting older and more independent, I can see a hole opening up. A space where I need friends in my life.

So today, Day 8 of 10 Days of Great Women is for you, The Listeners.

The Listeners have found their way into me when I didn't have that hole open. They have been the improbable friendships and I'm so grateful to them.

I think of the running partner I had back in college in St. Louis. She was in her forties when I was in my twenties but she took a lot of time on runs to listen to me and provide direct and valuable feedback. She didn't dismiss my concerns or my problems but really listened. Plus she kicked my ass at running.

I think of the woman I work with who I was so afraid would be too socially conservative to like me but now is my greatest ally. She aslo showed me my own bias there as she's not at all socially conservative in the way that I assumed her to be. She was the first person I saw on my son's first day of Kindergarten and I cried and told her all about it even though I didn't yet know her well. She is a master of listening and this is what makes her great at helping students and what makes her a great friend.

I think of my mother-in-law who is particularly gifted at listening to you without making you feel judged. I've talked to her about big world issues and concerns about my own parenting as well as jokes. She listens to children which is also a special listening skill that I greatly value and respect. If you want to grow a plant, give it sun and water, if you want to grow a great human, give it love and your attention. Listeners like my MIL do this.

I think of my midwife. She was a great listener. I thank her for all the space and time she allowed us to talk and share that experience with her.

I think of my friend and doula who has shown up time and again to help me with my kids, and who has listened to the small daily trials of my life. I miss seeing her all the time and I'm so grateful for the years that we spent where we saw each other regularly.

Thank you, Listeners. Your ears create time and space for those of us who run HIGH energy to slow down and breathe and let out our stories, share our fears, and release our stresses. Today is for you and all the progress the space you create brings forth.