I couldn’t write a blog because another story was in my head begging to be told. I kept telling it to be quiet, shut up and GO AWAY – I can’t tell people about that. But, there it was again, floating in my head on the way to work, on the way home, during a work meeting, while watching TV and right before I fell asleep. Match.com man kept asking when are you going to write a blog. I would answer by giving him the stink eye. Leave me alone, I would tell him, I have writer’s block. He would respond by giving me his evil raised eyebrow.
One particularly beautiful morning, I was sitting on our outside deck enjoying the wetlands view and soon, I clearly heard my mother’s voice say, oh for Pete’s sake, just write it. And so I did.
My Year of Listening, Part Deux – How Listening Changed My Life
I have been working hard in My Year of Listening. This process has been such a challenge, it deserves a second chapter. As a talker, I love the being the center of attention, feeling the flow of conversation’s give and take, and the positive energy it provides. However, the flip side of listening is being too quiet because of being afraid to speak up, often feeling uncomfortable or just plain intimidated by the situation. A perfect example is a group I recently joined.
I began attending a 12 step program and support group. An extremely important principle of 12 step meetings is keeping and protecting the group’s anonymity so I won’t go into any details of why or what program I’m in nor share any information about its members. They have earned this respect.
I was angry for weeks about being in a 12 step program and adamantly did not want to attend. I was really pissed. I didn’t want to go and felt I shouldn’t have to, so I pouted every week in every meeting. The meetings always start with a moment of silence followed by the Serenity Prayer. The moment of silence was nice but I couldn’t believe they were saying the Serenity Prayer. As I listened to the group saying the words, I thought the Serenity Prayer is just a cop out – way too passive – these people needed to take action and take control was my high and mighty way of thinking.
But, really, I was very afraid – afraid of my anger, afraid should I speak what toads and frogs might tumble out of my mouth and scare everyone in the room. So I sat there listening and feeling superior, because it was just a circumstance of life I was there. I really didn’t need help.
I sat listening, meeting after meeting, for months, every week, once a week, slowly I noticed things starting to change. I began to listen, really listen to these incredibly brave and honest people as they shared their stories, outpouring their grief, weaknesses and strengths, fears and failures, and their successes. Listening began to change my life.
I learned life’s secrets from these every day, normal people, the same ones who I angrily judged on my first few visits. I was schooled in perseverance, humility, learning once and for all how to let go of my raging Control Freak Perfectionist anger. They helped me understand I can’t control the world and everyone in it, I can’t cure the world and everyone in it, I can’t save the world and everyone in it and it is OK I’m not a super human. Through them, I discovered my span of control was only with me, no one else and my circle of influence was no bigger than a hula-hoop size space around me.
I started sharing my own story, slowly at first and soon found their understanding, warmth and non-judging support began to loosen the tightly closed fist around my heart. One meeting, like a jigsaw puzzle where suddenly the pieces begin into fall into place, the Serenity Prayer began to make sense. That was the week I joined the group in praying. I truly listened to the prayer and understood it isn’t passive as I first thought; it is a call to action, a road map to choosing change and choosing happiness. Only true listening, not being the center of attention, taught me this.
Recently, I was honored by a member who asked me to be their sponsor, but since I’m continuously cycling through Steps 1 and 2 (harder than you might think for us control freaks) I felt they might do better with someone who had gotten to at least Step 3. Instead, I told the member I would be their cheerleader and special listener every week. And so the healing gets passed on.
I continue to go to meetings, sometimes dragging my feet, but always glad when I get there that I’m there. I’ll go as long as I need to go, maybe forever, maybe just until things in my life have righted themselves. But no matter how it all works out, I’ll always be grateful to all of them for showing me how listening can powerfully change lives.
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference
My Part Deux – How Listening Changed My Life wishes for you
You don’t need a 12 step program to see how powerful the Serenity Prayer can be.
You know there is hope and help just a meeting away.
You know there is no shame in seeking help, wisdom, or guidance.
You have the courage to take the one small step to change something in your life which needs changing. And know I’ll cheer you on.
You know how honored I am to count you as my friends.
With infinite love and gratitude,