The Beauty of Being Heard

Life Lesson # 4

Today’s post is all about the beauty and quiet strength that comes from listening to another person with your heart.

I want you to think about the number of conversations you had with another person today – five, 22, or maybe even 50, depending on what you do for a living. Now, think about the number of conversations that you overheard – you know, when you became bored at work and simply found your thoughts trailing into the conversation of your co-worker who was on the phone, or the two people sitting across from you on the bus, or at the park.

Think. Remember. Contemplate.

Of those personal interactions that you either engaged in or overheard, or the ones in which you were being nosy (giving ear, where your ears weren’t invited), how much of the conversations can you say you actually remember? Was it the way the person was standing that peaked your interest, or was it the one button undone on your co-workers shirt that grabbed your attention more than the topic of conversation itself? My point is this: we never really listen to people – at all. But, we are excellent at pretending we hear and appreciate every, single word slipping out of a person’s mouth. We nod our heads every few seconds to show the other person we are politely interested in what he/she might be saying. Some of us even focus on looking another person directly in the eyes – or right between the eyes – so that they are as fooled as we are, and believe we that are focused and engaged. Oh, and let us not get too serious, because when we are getting “down to business” with another person, we furrow our brows as if to signify,

“Yes, what you have to say is completely interesting to me, and I could not be more intrigued at every word you’re saying if I tried.”

When I myself, want an individual to believe I am hanging on each syllable and every breath transpired, I lean inward (invading only a small fraction of their personal space) curl my hand to my chin, furrow my brows, and then BAM – there I am, looking entirely engaged, seeming as if I am participating wholly in the conversation. What I know is that this is a big, fat, bold-faced lie… At least sometimes.

On some occasions, I think we actually do hear people. We hear the agony in their voice when they are stressed, we hear the tense curtness in their voice when they’ve been overworked, and often we hear the illicit sadness in their voice when people are depressed. Our ability to hone in and really listen during the moments when people need to be heard the most, is an incredible gift that we possess as human beings. The truth is, we need to be heard and we need people to listen with their hearts. Yes, that pumping, vibrant, beating thing in your chest that has grown cold due to years of hurt, or, imagine this: years of not being heard. I invite you today to listen to at least one person, with your soul invested in what he/she is saying. Instead of doing what we normally do, listen with half our ears and our hearts still parked perfectly in our chests, I challenge you to do just the opposite. Most of the time, we do not even realize that we aren’t listening to people. What we are actually doing is thinking of our next response to what the person has said 30 seconds ago, with our minds typing up our next interruption. I guarantee that you will be amazed at the numerous benefits that come when you listen to someone.

Imagine the stories, ideas, creative knowledge, recipes, good ole’ days stories, your-mom-used-to-do-this tales, and when-I-was-your-age anecdotes that blossom from the beautiful exchange two people can have when they are both listening. On the flip-side, imagine what it feels like to actually be heard. Imagine how much more rejuvenated you’ll feel knowing that you’ve taken part in sharing words with another human being (perhaps someone you really care about) and that those words have been received and digested by the both of you. Oh, the beauty of simply lending more than an “ear.”

Oh, the beauty of actually being heard.

Listening

 

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An Architect Wearing a Poet’s Guise

Poetry on love and anger – Enjoy, folks.

Summer Solstice

Last night,

I dreamed of unrequited love:
Soft, glowing, shimmering and present –

Presently

I feel you no more;
It is as if you have disappeared, vanished and faded.

Faded

Were the days I dreamed of loving you –
Lost in my imagination you were

Mine.

Captured,
Caught,
Smitten.

Mine to hold, to curse, to admire –
You were mine
to dream.

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Burned

I have felt every ounce of anger
oozing from my pores like melted honey.

Weeping the tears, warm and slow, of disappointment, chagrin.

I have swallowed the poisonous pill of guilt,
ingesting that internal suicide.

You are the mime-game I play:
The death of silent remorse.

Hot, searing honey,
as if melted by frying pan,

Cooks,
Boils,
Peaks.

I am spilling over, vomiting the pain of familiarity.

Raging in my soul like warm honey,
beating in my chest like wicked rhythm,
clamoring in my toes like disease,

I feel my rage through and through.

The “V” Word

Life Lesson # 3

Ah, the “v” word. That wretched word that no one likes to talk about, write about, sing about, or mention at family dinners. Whichever word you are thinking of scratch it. The word I am writing about today is vulnerability. Yikes!

Miriam Webster describes being vulnerable as:

1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.

Many people, when they think of a person they would describe as vulnerable, often define them as being weak, incapable of possessing an ounce of strength, and hurt. I myself have even labeled someone this way: a weak, blubbering mess, lacking potential. I’d even be willing to admit that I have sat across from someone, who at the time was bawling her eyes out, and thought to myself,

“What the hell is wrong with her? Can’t she get a grip on her feelings?”

That mode of thinking is one of the primary reasons we can’t even manage to let the word “vulnerable” slide off of our tongues without it leaving a horrid taste in our mouths. It turns out that being vulnerable with ourselves, our spouses, our kids, and our significant others is a key ingredient in becoming strong, self-confident people. Being vulnerable is hard – I know that full well. But, it has been my experience that it is more taxing to wear the mask of our pain, flaunting it as a hard, protective shell around our hearts.

My point is that vulnerability is simply strength disguised as weakness. It is a breakthrough disguised as a breakdown. It is our ability to confront ourselves disguised as our inability to accept who we are. It takes strength to be vulnerable, because in letting our walls of protection down, and releasing our hearts from callousness, we feel naked, susceptible to danger, and afraid.

The human response to pain is to close up, shut down, and shut out. We cut off the people who hurt us (something in which I have loads of experience), and we close up our hearts in hopes that we will never get hurt again. Unfortunately, our natural response as humans is not the answer. I want to challenge you to something profound:

keeping your heart open and remaining vulnerable when you are experiencing your most stifling pain.

Although this might sound moronic, behaving this way actually produces a wealth of healing. When we close up, we eliminate our ability to feel, to love, to hope, and even to dream. I challenge you, my reader, to be strong enough to remain open-hearted. In doing so, we can forgive, we can breath, and we can relieve ourselves of carrying all of the pain that other people have caused us.

Release
Relieve
Revive.

I challenge you to be free.

A Peek Into the Inner Self

For today’s poetry post, I wanted to delve into the idea of the “inner-self.”

[What is the inner-self, how do we reconcile our inner-selves, and how do we even discover our inner-self?]

Instead of answering these questions myself, I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to look at how other writers, well-known writers, have started discussions and asked questions about confronting one’s self, and living from “inner-selfhood.”

One of the most interesting “discussions” of the inner-self comes from one of my favorite poets: Emily Dickinson. Here is one of her most intriguing poems on the topic:

Untitled

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a’chase —
Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter —
In lonesome Place —

Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror’s least.

The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O’erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —

Here, Dickinson’s representation of our inward battle in trying to conceal who really truly are as people, leads me to a definition of the “inner-self.”

Our inner-selves are

raw

unrelenting

selfish

naked.

wounded

vulnerable

dependent

needy.

What I’d like to suggest here is that when we confront our true selves and are willing to come to grips with the fact that we might be arrogant, insecure, broken-hearted, envious, or even belligerent people, we can begin to repair our inner-self through the one who repairs all. I am talking about Christ, people. Coming to grips with the fact that we are broken human beings, incapable of healing ourselves by our own means, is a large part of moving toward mending the wounds that ail us the most. Let me be clear, what I am not suggesting is the neglect of therapy, counseling, or even medication. To neglect the helpfulness of those tools that we as humans have set in place, would be foolish. I am simply trying to nudge your mind in an even more helpful direction. Pairing an intimate and personal relationship with Christ, with the usefulness of therapy is one of the best ways to repair our inner-selves.

Often, stumbling through life trying to hide our brokenness is more damaging than we think. We suffer through traumatic events in life: the death of a loved-one, a spouse/significant other that cheats, an abusive parent, molestation, and the list goes on. To think that we can somehow move through the bumps of everyday life, carrying the emotional scars of the issues we are not willing to face, is a grave mistake, my friends. When we learn to rely on the one who created us, for healing, emotional peace, and genuine love, that is when the mending of the inner-self begins.

hope

How to Fail Well

Life Lesson # 2

Upon first thinking about writing this, I had to organize the myriad thoughts running through my head about the word “failure.” I didn’t want this post to be one of those worn-out, cliched, turn-something-negative-into-a-positive posts. I wanted to give you guys, my readers, some brain-food, something your mind could chew on. So, here it goes:

Think about the last time you failed at something. I’m not talking about the last time you failed to call someone back on the phone, or the time you forgot to pick your kid up from soccer practice. As painful as it might be, I want you to think about the last time you fell and fell hard. The last time you were an emotional wreck, incapable of forming words (because whatever you were going through was that painful to talk about). Get the picture? Good, because if there is anything I’ve learned from life’s most unpleasant friend, it is that you can fail, spiral into one of your darkest depressions, suffer through one of your most tumultuous life situations, and you can recover.

Ah, now you’re thinking, here’s where the cliches come in,

“No matter how many times you fail, try, try again.” Or “Every great person that experiences success in the world has failed at something.”

Although those statements are true, and helpful for some people, they miss the mark because they are generic and impersonal. The key ingredient missing in those cliches is the idea of failing “well.” As a person who has failed at many things, tests, meeting the status quo, friendships, ect., I know how bad it feels to face the pain of failure and loss. In fact, the pain I’ve felt after failing at something is almost tripled according to how much effort I put in trying not to fail. So, in order to stop beating myself up about all of the things I could’ve done differently to avoid failure, I learned the inevitable:

1. Because I am human, I will make mistakes for as long as I live.

2. I can fail “well” by reminding myself that where there is failure, there is personal growth.

3. Do not set expectations for myself that God hasn’t even set for me.

My friends, failing well involves remembering that God doesn’t set the bar for our behavior, as high as we set the bar for ourselves. In order to fail well, you have to meet failure knowing that God is not disappointed in you for not meeting your own standards – he could never be disappointed in you. Accepting the fact that you are human, and are therefore bound to make a ton of mistakes, is like drinking a hefty glass of peace of mind. What I mean is simply this: failure is inevitable because you are human and accepting this truth allows you to move toward forgiving yourself, enabling you to experience the personal growth that is linked to failure of any kind.

Now, remember that awful event that I had you think about at the beginning of this post? Think about it with this simple truth in mind:

Your inability to be “perfect” and mistake-free, pales in comparison to God’s love for you as an imperfect, mistake-making human being.

Let your mind chew on that.

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Monday’s Poetry

1.

In, out
Up, down

Leaning, waning, creaking.
Black mold finds its way into the most peculiar of places:

You are my abandoned home, my break-down, my remorse.

Filled with regret I walk your steps;
I feel your walls peeling.

In, out
Up, down

Wallowing, doubting, crying.
My heart is at the crux of your fireplace – in the crevice of your closet. I breath in your asbestos, I drink in your odor.

My abandoned home, my solitude.

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2.

Hanging

Hanging in the balance-beams I am waiting.

Hanging arm, drifting leg…

One step and I’m down – one step and I’m up.

Hanging in the balance-beams I am wondering.

My mind is on a trip.
My thoughts are trailing down a path of death and desire.

Death and desire.
Death and desire.

One swings up, one swings down…

This dance of danger, politely enticing.

I am hanging in the balance-beams;
I am in the crevice, that reproachable, claustrophobic space.
I am choking under the weight of desire,
Soaring beneath the wings of death.

Hanging in the balance-beams I am waiting.

Life Lesson Number 1

“Looking foolish does the spirit good. The need not to look foolish is one of youth’s many burdens; as we get older we are exempted from more and more, and float upward in our heedlessness, singing Gratia Dei sum quod sum (by the grace of God, I am what I am).”

-John Updike, U.S. author and critic

Life Lesson # 1

Ah, my first post! Seeing as how it is my first time doing this, I’d like to be as honest as possible: I love to write, I write to inspire, and I write because a huge chunk of my soul would be lost if I left writing behind. I wanted to start my first post with something fresh and exciting – an interestingly unique quote that makes for an awesome life lesson.

To start, when I first read this quote in an Approaches to Lit class in college, I had no idea who John Updike was or any idea of the things he’d done for the writing community. All I knew was that I liked what he said and that anyone who had the guts to say something in Latin, surely was saying something with some wisdom attached to it.

Oddly, it turns out that I love this quote.

Updike certainly had a precious idea in mind, and one that is rich with meaning: Live from your most authentic, “silly,” goofy-toothed, wide-eyed, ever-glowing self and don’t give a damn. This is a life lesson that suits everyone. Often, it can be ridiculously hard to maintain a natural sense of ourselves when the world so ardently tells us who we ought to be. Let me be clear, I do not mean, “Live frivolously, wildly, radically, crazily,” (an underwhelmed version of Y.O.L.O). What I mean to imply is that living from your most genuine, authentic self

[whether you are the silly girl who smiles awkwardly at the most handsome gentleman in a room, or the confident yet humble leader who makes faces at himself in a mirror before an important speech]

Helps you connect well with other people and live a full, satisfied life. It is by the grace of God that you are who you are, and He loves you with every awkward smile, weird quirk, and intimate desire you possess!

Thus, live with purpose, freely being your authentic self for as long as you are on God’s green earth. This is a lesson that literally takes a lifetime to learn. That’s just the ironic beauty of things:

It takes a lifetime to learn how to be ourselves.