Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Brain breeze

My friend Eileen and i go for walk-and-talks every week, if we are both available. I get a lot out of both the walking and the talking.

Today we were talking about confronting parents about things that happened in childhood, and whether or not it is ever effective. Eileen was telling me about her mother’s religious zeal and how that is the main focus in her mom’s life, so that confronting her mother would never yield any results because her mother cannot even hear any diverging opinion.

I made a conscious effort to stop my own brain from planning what i was going to say next and truly listen. Eileen made a wistful statement about how she wished that her mother’s main focus had been more on her children.

Right then, like a wind rushing through me, i mean i swear i heard that wind, i had a moment of total understanding of how she might feel.

I told Eileen about that wind. She looked at me and said, “Thank you. It really helps that someone understands how i feel.” It was a sweet moment.

I like to say that although i am not religious, i can be spiritual. But i've never given much though to HOW i am spiritual. It's just an easy thing for me to say that sounds good.

I realize that one way in which i am spiritual is that i attempt to truly find a way to understand what it's like to be in someone else's life. Today i was successful.


Bob said...

I love it that instead of thinking of your response, you just listened. That is so rare. I often find that when I do manage to reach out to someone when I need help, what I get in return is a version of one-upmanship: "Oh I know what you mean, let me tell you what happened to me....."

I try to do as you did. Most people just need to talk it out. They aren't looking for similar experiences or for you to tell them what you think the answer to their problems are. I will remember you the next time I find myself thinking "let me tell you......"

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Um, yeah. I just heard that wind, too.

I decided long ago that telling my mother how I felt was no use. I try to stuff the bitterness aside and then deal with it periodically when it flares up again.

It's nice when someone totally "gets you".

Special K ~Toni said...

I have a bad, bad habit of not always listening 100%. I think I may need to make a conscious effort to LISTEN!

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Bob said it well. Or as I heard long ago, "Those who are considered the best conversationalists are the ones who know how to listen." I think sharing common stories also has its therapeutic value, but... only when you can see that the person is looking for an example that would help them make a decision. Most of the time, people just want somebody to nod their head and shut up. Because that is really like saying, "I wish I could take your pain away, but if it helps to talk about it, I'm all ears."

So if you ever decide to take a name in the style of traditional Native American, you could call yourself "Wind Rushing Through Me." :-)

Anonymous said...

I learn so much from reading your blog. You give life the ability to be so normal and human, for me. Sincerely, Thank you!

meno said...

bob, i am not always successful at the listening thing. But when i do, it's really rewarding. I will also try and remember to do this more often.

cagey, putting the bitterness aside ain't easy is it?

toni, i have that same habit. All i can do is try harder. Thank you.

ortizzle, that is an excellent sunnary of what the gift of silence can mean.

chili pepper, thank you, what a nice compliment.

Anonymous said...

I think what all of us really want is to be heard and to know that we've been heard. I bet you're friend appreciates you.

Lynn said...

Whenever I hear the wind and Ten is near me, I usually smell an odor. How nice for you and your friend that your wind was accompanied by an ephinany.

Anonymous said...


That one minute of 'ours' that you shared did more for her than 100 hours of therapy ever could.

Girlplustwo said...

truly listening and caring for another's being seems quite close to god, actually. however we choose to define her.

Anonymous said...

I'm spiritual.

I also happen to like Vodka.

karmic said...

Yay! Very well said. It sort of describes me too, not religious but spiritual. But I always question the latter, am not sure I am even spiritual in the true sense..

Ahh questions.. questions. :)

Susanne said...

Ah, an epiphany. (Have to run, so thanks for sharing...)

Lucia said...

As an introvert, one of the ways I cope with parties (well, in addition to drinking), is to go in the role of a listener. Before I go, I assure myself I will not have to talk much, because people really want to be listened to, and if I go and tell myself I only need to listen, the whole shebang becomes much easier.

QT said...

What a great explanation of the "wow, i totally get you" feeling. I have had that feeling before too.

I'm afraid I am not a very good listener. I am usually trying to do something else while listening, and that is not the way to really pay attention to someone. I will try to be more mindful of this in the future, because I think you are right - people need to feel understood.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Something in my head about the 'wind of enlightenment', but it's coming out too sappy. There's something, some force, that blows through us when we put ourselves in the shoes of others.

You put this so beautifully, Meno. A nice example for us all to set.

Anonymous said...

Ah. There is something on the wind. Yours is yet another post that is relevant to what I've been trying to work out in my mind about my relationships. I am resigned that I'll never put it in to words, but hopefully at least I'll get something out of it for myself.

jaded said...

I considered myself to be a pretty good listener until I read your post. It made me realize often, I am just being quiet...not the same thing. The connection that you mentioned, is truly enlightening when you experience it. In some ways it's like encountering the other half of your whole.

meno said...

deb, exactly. Without feeling heard, ever, we are really quite alone.

lynn, luckily we were walking fast enough so that no odor was noticable. :)

nancy, i hope so. Should i bill her? :)

jen, in a cirle of life, taking care of one another sort of way. Exactly.

d-man, liar, i just read that you eschew alcohol. I prefer wine, vodka is a bit too spiritual for me.

sanjay, i think of spiritual as a "we are all connected" "let's take care of each other" understanding. But it's individual of course.

suzanne, epiphany, a lovely word.

lucia, that's a great idea. I just dread them. We are going to a social event this weekend. I think i'll try this.

qt, multitasking is the curse of the easily bored. At least it is for me. I need to remember to listen more too. It really can be rewarding.

mona, thanks. It was just a glimpse, but it was enough.

de, you can put bits of it into words. maybe someday the bits will add up to a whole. That's what i'm shooting for anyway.

patches, i don't think it could have happened with someone whom i didn't know well. But i will be keeping this in mind and trying to do it more often.

gary rith said...

Always useful to illustrate ones' points with pottery.

Anonymous said...

Trying to walk a mile in my Mom and Dad's shoes is what has helped me to overcome the anger and bitterness I harbored towards them. The added bonus is that it has bled into most of my relationships. I'll admit though, I sometimes wish people gave as much a shit abput me as I do about them...

thailandchani said...

Interesting! The connection between empathy and spirituality is one that's not often acknowledged but you are exactly spot on, right on target!

As for the other, yes, I think we find a certain freedom in accepting that our parents were just people, just like us, with all their own issues and their own damage. It wasn't "all about us" after all.



Tracy Helgeson said...

Again proving that you and I are actually the same person. I struggle daily with myself to listen to people and to not think about what experience I have had that is similar to their problem.

I actually feel much understanding towards others but do a terrible job of showing it.

I will listen for that wind next time. Surely I will hear it if I keep my mouth shut!

Anonymous said...

it's so hard to just listen, and not jump in with a solution. why do we do that so often?

Dick said...

A good and thoughtful post. Communication is getting to be a lost art in this day of text messaging, etc. I guess that is one thing I love about going out for mochas. This morning I didn't read either my book or magazine but instead talked with a couple of old guys like me who were there at Starbucks. While I can't say that we solved the world's problems, it was an enjoyable time. And I still have the book & magazine for the next time.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from the Eileen side of that equation, it is a rare and wonderful thing when you truly believe another person is not just hearing you, but listening. It's a reason I love the blog community so much. My "invisible" friends know more about me, truly and really, than most people who know me in person ever will. Because by reading me, they're hearing me. And - for the most part - getting me.

To be able to give that back to people sincerely? Well, it's just incredible. As you, clearly, know.

Lynnea said...

Its funny how many people (myself) think that listening is when you are hearing what they say and planning what to say based on that. But you're so right. That's not it at all. It's listening to only hear what they are saying. I do the other one all too often.

TTQ said...

true just shut up and listen. It takes practice, but develops over time. It's not that the wind is blowing it's how HARD the wind is blowing.

Tink said...

I think women are naturally spiritual. :)

meno said...

gr, i thought you might like that. As usual, this picture has nothing to do with my post, i just like it.

caro, well hell, of course you do! If you are always the listener and never the listened to, that hurts. And it's not healthy on either side of the ear.

chani, why thank you. I had never made the connection before myself. But (in my view) what are we without our connections to other people, and animals and the earth? Nothing.

tracy, i just hope to be able to keep this in mind more often. If i am you maybe i should paint. :)

holly, nicely? i think we are trying to be helpful. Maybe more realistically? We like to hear ourselves talk more than we like to listen.

dick, that sounds just lovely. Ain't retirement grand? Slow communication. I think we should start a movement.

jennifer, i know what you mean about this community. No need to hide who we are or to jump to conclusions based on looks. It's all about the words.

maggie, i do it too. This was an eye opener as far as what can happen if i try to "grok" what the other person is saying rather than planning my brilliant response.

ttq, i clearly need more practice. I plan to start with those at home.

Mother of Invention said...

You did a lot for your friend by waiting and then telling her that what she was sharing really reached you in a special way.
I'm not religious, as in going to church, but I think I am more spiritual than many people. I'm in tune with my inner spirit a lot of the time and I feel connected to the larger world and "beyond".

Lee said...

I need a lot of work in this area...I get so excited about a common connection that I want to share my own experience or thought and I miss out on a chance to truly understand. Lovely post.

Liv said...

Bears. The wind doth blow, huh?

meno said...

tink, well you are right in general, but this woman has to work at it.

moi, i am not al lthat spititual, but this day i felt like i was. I felt like you describe.

lee, thank you. I think that's the human condition. We want to share so much that we miss some real opportunities.

liv, i sure felt that wind. In my case, no bears are included. Too bad.

urban-urchin said...

I had Eileen's childhood. Thanks for listening to her.

Andrea Frazer said...

I think you are very spiritual. Have you ever prayed for a week just to see the results? I mean this not in any way shape or form as a ploy to convert you to anything (not that you'd go for it anyway.) Just sort of a "Hmmm.. wonder what would happen if I took 5 minutes a day in silence, asking, thanking, reflecting..." I'd love to hear your wise response to this spiritual thing so many people do every day.
Just a thought - a great blog entry for you if nothing else!

Elliot said...

We're all actually very much alike in a spiritual sense. We share just a few basic emotions--the difference between us is only how intensely we each decide to, or are inclined to, follow our basic instincts. Perceptive people, such as yourself, understand this perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Meno, Baby, I JUST got caught up on your blog (being away - and away from easy internet access - messed with my blog-reading routine).

I'm very sorry that things have been hard for you over the past week. I wish I could offer you some insight about trust, but I'm fairly sure that it's something that every individual has to work out for themselves.

Isn't it wonderful when you can make the kind of connection - the breeze you spoke about - with someone else? When you can say "yes, I understand," and you REALLY do? I strive for that (and am especially giddy when a piece of my writing strkes just the right note in someone). Really, being human is all about making those connections, and the sad truth is that they happen so rarely that they need to be recognized and celebrated when they happen.

My love to you. I'm happy to be back and reading again...

meno said...

u-u, you're welcome. I'm sorry.

mamap, i meditate sometimes, but praying to me means addressing someone/thing. Meditating is a quiet time to listen to myself, to see if i gave anything to say to me.

jeremiah, or how much of what we perceive has anything to do with us.

mrs.chili, i know you have been away and busy. I am feeling much better, it was a temporary thing, induced partly by an unexpected hormonal event (damned irregular period) and by the Mister's traveling. A true moment of connection is a beautiful thing.