At what point in my life did I stop listening to people? I must have been really young. A good estimate would be in my toddler years, when I was being most heavily socialized. The thing is, for me though, that I was beginning to be socialized, as they say; trained is another way of saying the same thing, as early as three months of age.
That makes me hush into a whisper.
Gosh. Three months old.
That's nothing. That's so tiny. That's barely after the first smile cracks forth. Still all wrinkly and warm and the skin was still loose on Salamander then, he hadn't grown belly enough yet to fill out over his ribs.
Though, I was formula fed so I probably had more chub on me by then. And my dad had been back at work, presumably (I don't have exact numbers), after I was a week old. My mom had three months of maternity leave from her decent government job in 1982 so when that was up, she was back on the job and I was in day care in Rogers Park. Simple, required, done.
As I said, three months old. Three months is so tiny, still, so it wasn't until I was a wobbling toddler that I would have begun to sort-of grasp the fact that I was being taught how to be. And I probably wouldn't have been feeling much rebellion just then, but more wanting to know what happened when I did this or that. I probably started to tune people out around the same time I felt that I was being tuned out. When did my emotions, needs; emotional needs, first get squashed by someone who wasn't being attentive, or didn't have the time, or just missed it?
How much did that hurt my feelings?
Can you quantify such a thing?
A three year old, perhaps, because I am pretty sensitive; or maybe I was older and nearing elementary school with all its thoughtless barbs. I wonder if there was one particularly painful incident in which I was really upset about something and the listener to my complaints found my trauma to be over a trifling. Or was it a learned behavior? Over time I found, or decided, or just learned to feel that my emotional responses were not approved of or important. And so I retaliated against the world's people and their insensitive hearts or ears or time pieces. I stopped allowing myself to hear what they needed just as much, perhaps, as I felt I had been left unheeded.
It's interesting to me, that sometimes I can listen to a friend tell me all about her life and her trials and triumphs, all about how hard she's working to do her best in the most challenging of times. I can listen to her talk about her methods repeatedly, and hear, even, her practice these methods over the phone and it just doesn't click. Then one day I'm wandering listlessly through a book store and I see a book displayed and the title is all self-help, new age, attachment parenting, 2012, we-can't-call-this-weird-anymore-because-the-number-of-humans-really-trying-to-do-better-in-our-culture-in-the-world-is-so-quickly-increasing, and I pick it up. I read the cover over. I flip to the back and read the credentials because I want to retain some sense of critical thinking and reading skills even though the title is just screaming kismet at me. And it clicks. Finally.
The book is called something like The Importance of Validation and that title is so thick, so important to who I am and who I want to be, that it begins oozing into me over the next twenty-four hours until it's 1 AM on a work night and I'm suddenly proud of myself for learning this new and important trait and all these dots begin connecting for me. All I did was read the title and back covers.
The dots were there though.
My friend, she also fell in love on a weekend. She then became pregnant and had her half Venezuelan baby in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan while waiting for her soon-to-be-husband's papers to clear so he could move there and they could start a family.* She's got two kids now and they're all together in Michigan still, and I'm sure she's an excellent mom.
I have only seen her be a mom once, when her kid was all of six weeks old. I was so terrified of breaking the baby that I couldn't pay too much attention to the equally shocking/awing/terrifying fact that my college amiga, the woman we assumed was so powerful we sometimes called her "The Yeti" could be a mom at twenty-two. This woman had gotten pregnant on a mountain in Venezuela. She had gotten there by hitchhiking for goodness sake.
She and I, being stay at home moms and needing others who can form complex sentences to talk to during the day, talk on the phone, weekly, for an hour or so. She's usually doing dishes or corralling her four year old daughter and baby son. I'm usually doing dishes or corralling the dogs off the road when a car is coming and pushing the stroller. We are still sisters in arms. Only now we're moms. She's been talking about her daughter starting school and the new behaviors that are coming with that and she's been talking, for awhile now, about the importance of validating her daughter's emotional responses. She's so patient. She rocks and I love listening to her negotiate, discipline, and validate her daughter when we're on the phone together. I take notes mentally and cheer her on. Even she, my unstoppable, yeti-sister, occasionally fears she can't handle the challenges of parenting successfully.
(She can. She does. She will.)
It took seeing that book title. It took hearing her talk about it for months. It took tonight at couple's therapy with Hadj. All these dots to help me coalesce further down the line of working on, what I think is, some of the biggest karma I have to deal with. Oh man, oh man, I have to learn to have more compassion for people.
Here's my grandstanding for tonight (this morning).
Preface. You may not know me. You may not have read enough of my blog to feel you know me, but I'm going to dive in pretty deep here so bear along.
It is easy for me to focus "up there." On ideals, on ideas, on "the grand plan." It is hard for me to dig down in the dirt, as one of my favorite advice columnists once put it. It is hard for me, but I am getting better. Motherhood, and being truly committed to a relationship, have begun to teach me lasting patience. Knowing I need writing like I need oxygen has been teaching me about integrity. Learning from my mistakes, and watching others I love succeed, have taught me about diligence, grace, and acceptance. But it is still hard for me to slow down my reaction time and be more thoughtful and careful with other peoples' feelings.
I am good at valuing creation for creations' sake. I know that we are all here because gawd wants us to be and that we better do out best in thanks to make this place be as good as we can be, as good as we can make it. I understand too, that I fuck up, we all fuck up, and that forgiveness is where it's at.
I have seen powerful healers verbalize the wounds of others. They do this so the person being healed can have help in acceptance and letting go. They help the wounded take the sting out of the past so the future can be lived more fully. I can do that too. I can acknowledge and validate someone else's pain.
I can take responsibility, too, if appropriate for my role in that painful situation. I can do it and it's actually not so hard. I just have to listen. In the past I have felt that feelings were hurt or aroused because I was misunderstood and I have felt that, no, no, I'm being misunderstood, this person shouldn't be upset, they don't understand what I meant if only I can make them understand they will see that they should not be upset and we can go back to what we were doing.
No. I cannot make them.
I cannot make anyone. That is not my job.
I have to listen.
That is the first step.
I can do that now and repair things within me that were hurt so long ago I didn't even know they were out of alignment. I can do that now and repair the past and save the future. (It's so fun being the hero of my own stories.) It's so fucking hard to be climbing these mountains of human inadequacy and suffering and so rewarding to suddenly arrive at some amazing vista and see how worth it the trials have been.
I stole that metaphor from an authentic and funny article on the challenges of parenting.
Another of my wonderful, travel inclined and beautiful artist friends shared it with me. That friend's (the sharer's) blog motto is: "share what you can-- we're all still learning."
I don't want it to be hard for me to listen more openly to people, especially the ones I love so much. It is though. Maybe I don't need to know why it is, maybe all I have to do is apply that validation to myself. Shana, you have fears that tell you if you are not understood, are not heard, then you are not loved or appreciated. That feeling of being unloved must be really painful to you. That sucks. I'm sorry you feel that. I love you.
I have another friend who works constantly in the metaphysical arts, we'll call it. She is a psychic, among other things, and sometimes she gives you clues about your karma. She told me once that she saw me as having blocked off my third eye (all seeing, baby!) as if I had seen enough carnage and suffering and I did not, would not see, any more.
I love this phrase: I won't brook it.
Ok, well, thank you Sylvie. Now, what am I going to do with that. Brook it. Get a bigger boat. (Stole that line too, you know.)
*Funny note: the almighty google couldn't even tell me how many miles that is: "We could not calculate directions between Venezuela and Marquette, MI."