Several years ago, I was presented with the notion that in conversation, people tend not to listen, but rather to wait for their opportunity to speak. It didn’t take me long to see that that was exactly what I did more often than not, and I’ve made a conscious effort to change that over time. There are other ways that the word “listen” informs my days as well, especially recently.
More than ever, even than when I worked for a magazine focused on audiobooks, I’ve been listening to at least as many books as I’ve been reading. This requires that I actually hear every word, rather than skimming or taking in whole sentences with my eyes for the gist rather than truly reading it as it was written. As much as I enjoy reading, I often get so caught up in the story that I don’t want it to be “interrupted” by lengthy descriptions of the surroundings, or of family histories, or other “non-essential” bits. But, when I am forced to listen to them rather than having the option to skip to the next part I think is important, it becomes a much more fulfilling experience.
Finally, I’m listening to myself. My true self, my authentic self, the self that loves me and believes in me and knows what is best for me. This self lets me know when I need more sleep, or that my body wants fuel, or that’s it’s okay to say no. This self doesn’t berate me for my choices, doesn’t allow me to feel like I’m participating in willful inaction rather than purposefully engaging in my life. When I wake from an extra-long night of sleep and feel refreshed (yes, that’s why I’m writing this morning instead of yesterday), this is my reward for listening rather than pushing through to some arbitrary number of hours of activity. When I feel satisfied and strong after a meal, it’s a reminder that my body knows better than my brain what it needs to carry me through my days. Every action, or decision not to act, can be driven by either a positive or a negative thought. By choosing to listen to my kind and loving self rather than the unkind voice that shames me for my choices, I experience happier, healthier days. And nights, because sleep is so, so good, y’all.
So, I’m trying to listen. To other people, to the words my eyes might otherwise miss, to my best self. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always for the best.