I forget things sometimes. I am especially bad at remembering people's names when I first meet them and they introduce themselves. In the past few weeks I have been reading a fiction book that deals with early onset Alzheimer's Disease and it freaked me out a little. Nothing like a little medical fiction to make you paranoid about losing your mind! Anyway, yesterday I was on my way to the theatre to meet Dean for our regular Tuesday night date at the movies. As I was looking at the unseasonal slushy sleet outside the bus window, I was trying to remember the name of some person. I managed to come up with it fairly quickly, but once again started thinking about this annoying selective forgetfulness that I suffer from. And quite unexpectedly came this still, small voice in my head that said, "You don't listen very well."
Really? I wondered if this was true. I have always considered myself a fairly good listener, but the pang of conviction that hit me when I heard those five words made me fairly certain that we had just hit on an issue in my life. After some consideration, I admitted that I don't remember people's names well because very often I am not truly listening to them; I am listening to myself and my inner thoughts instead. Yes, there is also the fact that I am primarily a visual learner and not an aural one, but that tendency aside, I still have a problem with REAL listening. Too often I am thinking about where this conversation is going or how to respond appropriately. I catch myself writing wonderful scenarios, witty comments, or even unfair judgments in my head, and oh look, a pretty bright light over there (yes, I get easily distracted in a busy setting). Sometimes what the person is saying reminds me of something else and away my mind goes, churning out random thoughts on some tangent. What it boils down to is that I suffer from an unattractive obsession with my own story. Ugh!
No, I don't listen very well, and it keeps me from truly enjoying and embracing the people I meet. Yes, I need to develop the discipline of listening, of clearing my mind of all the dialogues and writing projects and reminders that are always whirling in there, and just be receptive. I need to let the words of others, the important details of their lives, land solidly in me instead of bouncing off because my hamster mind is speeding along on its wheel to nowhere.
I want to hear someone's name and savour its delicious and unique sound. I want to take in the precious and beautiful face that it belongs to. I want to engage with the creative and energetic spirit that is offering some part of itself to me and feel what it feels. I want to acknowledge the person's value in time and space and give them their moment to BE - without interruption or distraction. Oh, how I have rushed through the art gallery of living masterpieces, not stopping to appreciate what each one had to offer, never taking time to study the fine brushstrokes and the depth of perspective. Too self-absorbed and too often in a hurry to stop, sit, and really see. And hear.
I know God generously and graciously listens to me every day, even through some long and boring monologues that I have been known to indulge in. I know He can teach me to listen as well. Matte, if you have ears to hear, let them hear what the spirit is saying.
This is a picture of hip waders on the dock at my friends' chalet. It is a quiet place, great for listening.