Learning to Listen

If talking were an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist. I get it from my dad for sure, who can really let it rip if you get him going, and I know I’m the same. Sometimes I’ve been told that I “steamroll” conversations (heard that from many an ex-boyfriend). A few weeks ago, I was talking to Sinead about dancing and before I knew it, I realized I had been talking for an hour. An actual hour. Just talking. Maybe asking her the occasional question, but mostly me going on for an hour. Add on to that, I speak a few languages, so that triples the amount I am able to talk. That’s serious business. Somebody send me to the Talking Championships.

I can’t remember when I started this practice, but for many years I have lovingly referred to my birthday as SDay (short for Samantha Day). As birthdays are meant to, it’s a day to celebrate all things you! Honestly, I’ve never celebrated holidays in a big way, so even though I call it SDay, I don’t really ever expect much from it. It’s just my own day, and that sounds nice, ay? Everyone deserves just one day, I think, where you’re happy you acknowledge that you made it one more year.

This SDay, number 28, came at a strange time. Obviously I’ve been in a stormy place emotionally as of late, so I haven’t been feeling very outgoing. I wanted to do something mellow, ideally involving something relaxing, with friends. I have never had a lot of friends, though I’m a very friendly person. I’d say I know a lot of people. But people I consider real, true friends, that I could call up any time or tell anything, are in short supply. The ones that I do have, I called up and organized a little outing to one of the creeks north of the city.

Yesterday we all convened at a place just east of Sedona called Wet Beaver Creek. We ferried our snacks and booze across the water like sun-kissed mules and set up on a nice, lonely flat rock slab. Ah, what an afternoon, sun, snacks, friends, water. Perfect SDay.

I sat there, and for what felt like the first time, I just listened. My friends are dealing with different things in their lives, with varying degrees of intensity. Fortunately, there was that kind of mojo where everyone got along without me having to host, and so I just kicked back and listened to their banter. I sat on the rock, beer in hand, and just listened to them. I offered up the occasional peppering of commentary, but mostly let them carry the chatter.

Holy crap was that nice.

Did not miss the chance to look cute though

I’m noticing that a lot of times I don’t ask questions because I’m scared of what the answers might be. Since I’ve tuned into some of the reasons I’ve been emotionally unavailable, I’m realizing that might have something to do with my incessant talking as well. If I keep it going, no one has a moment to interject, and they certainly don’t have a moment to lay all of their internal turmoil onto me either. It’s like when you ask someone how they’re doing. Do you really want to hear someone say “Well my life is falling apart” and then they burst into tears? Up to now, I’d probably say yes only out out of politeness; not because I don’t care, but because I haven’t been equipped to handle that kind of emotional weight. As of late though, I find myself feeling more curious about what is going on with other people. I’m repeating to myself that other people’s emotions don’t have to swallow me whole. I’m finding that I want to know more, and to know more, you’ve gotta ask questions, and listen to the answers.

I spent that afternoon listening, with my ears, and heart open. I sat next to my friends and listened to them crack jokes, and open up to each other, most of them having never really met before. I hugged them and held their hands, told them I loved them. It was just the kind of SDay outing I wanted, the kind where I didn’t have to do much. I spent it laughing until my stomach hurt, and drinking, and eating chips, and honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else in the world.

After a few hours, we packed it in. I very nearly made it across the creek without getting my ass wet, but of course I slipped on a rock and went down, bonking my knee on a rock in the process. However, that was the worst that the day held in store for me. We drove back down to Phoenix, stopping at my usual pie spot in Rock Springs. I didn’t speak much on the way home either, just sat and listened, feeling that warm sleep that comes over you after you’ve spent a day in the sunshine.

I will always be a talker. And a lot of that too isn’t all wrapped up in psychoanalysis. A lot of it is that I am a very energetic person, and when I get excited about a topic, I want to talk about it! Talking helps me form my thoughts, it helps me process things that are happening to me, or my feelings. I need talking, just like I need writing.

But I can learn to listen. That afternoon was a nice foray into the positives that listening can provide. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, in some capacity. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If I couldn’t talk about my own problems with other people, I’d explode. But sometimes it’s your turn to talk, and sometimes it’s your turn to listen. I’m getting there, a little at a time.

Happy trails x

Sam

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