As my Year of Listening draws to a close, I’d like to share my “Top Ten” list of things I learned while being trying to be open, listening and present. It's amazing what you can learn when you shut your mouth and open your heart. Thank you all so much for allowing me to share this incredible year’s journey with you.
1) I learned how to become more empathetic as people shared their stories. By being focused on listening, I was more involved in conversations and not just waiting for my turn to speak. The old adage to reflect back what people were saying is so true and provides chances to clarify with time to think about what was being said. It took the exchange of ideas to a completely different and amazing level.
2) I learned how to become engaged in a situation without trying to control and manage it. Through the 12 step program, I learned a fantastic quote (paraphrased here). “Do not do for others that which they can do for themselves. It robs them of the dignity of growing and becoming who God meant them to be.” My son said it much more eloquently when I rushed to help him with a normal life situation, “Mom, you can’t do this for me, I have do this on my own and learn from it.”
3) I learned starting over and loving a person does not protect you from outside pressures. Match.com man (aka Rick) and I had to navigate some very tricky waters this year. I had to acknowledge old bad habits from the first marriage were not going to work in this relationship. Rick and I had many forthright conversations about the direction we needed to take. These were not easy conversations. Often, we would acknowledge, “OK, this is going to be an awkward and uncomfortable talk”. But, we made it through with flying colors.
4) I learned not to take things so personally. A fantastic book, “The Four Agreements” teaches this. By not taking so much personally, I found a freedom to speak authentically without obsessing what the other person may think about me or how I might be perceived. We can only control ourselves and how we respond to the world.
5) I learned, once again, that I’m a perfectionist control freak and letting go is the only cure. I’ve known this all along but it really hit home when I thought I could manage another person’s life, because, well with my life experiences I knew best. Thus the 6th item on the list.
6) I learned how to let go. Let go of the past. Let go of stories that I’m not quite good enough. I learned failure isn’t going to kill me but it is like the mythical bird, the Phoenix, who burns to ashes and then emerges stronger, better and more beautiful than before.
7) I learned that speaking in front of fifty or more people is nerve wracking beyond belief, but I can do it and not throw up (though it was close).
8) I learned some people live awful, unrelenting and devastating lives. Many through their own choices, still others because of life circumstances. But, these same people try to heal and become whole through sheer perseverance and grit. We are all imperfect yet still so worthy of love and forgiveness.
9) I learned gratitude can change lives. When I wake up in the morning and consciously show gratitude for my past, present and future, my whole life falls into place. This doesn’t mean it’s always sunshine and roses or it’s always dark and foreboding. It means some days are awesome and some days suck, and if I remain grateful for it all, things seem to balance out.
10) And, finally, the biggest lesson of all is that people, in general, are doing the best they can.
Brene Brown is the author of Rising Strong. I am a fan of audible books and listened to her book during my long commute. It was pivotal for me. Brene is a professor and qualitative researcher on vulnerability and shame.
Her style is open and sprinkled with a Texas twang. In her book, Brene tells a story of when she was extremely frustrated about sharing a room with another presenter during a speaking event and her roommate was, well, less than stellar. After relating the situation in a counseling session, her therapist asked her, “Do you think, in general, people are doing the best they can?”, “Oh hell no” was Brene’s response. But the question sent Brene Brown on an investigative mission. And, ultimately, her story caused me to ask everyone that same question. Rick and I had quite a conversation about it and my friends told me they had spirited conversations about the question with their spouse, family member and friends.
There is no right or wrong answer. I personally believe, in general, that people are doing the best they can. Sometimes, it may not the best in my book, however, by pausing and thinking of their experiences, where they have been, where they are going then perhaps they are doing the best they can. As are you!
My Top Ten Lessons Wishes for you
- You know how grateful I am for you - for giving me the honor to listen to you, for letting me make many mistakes and still supporting and loving me. There aren’t words enough to express my gratitude.
- You feel the freedom of not taking anything personally, knowing whatever was said or was done to hurt is a reflection of where those other people are coming from.
- You know you are truly doing the best you can. No matter how good or bad you feel, no matter what you say or don’t say, you ARE doing the best you can. And for that, I love you.
- And, you know I’m thankful my year of listening is ending. Now I can be all about me again.
- I wish you all the healing, love and peace in the upcoming year.
As always, with infinite love and gratitude,