I was sitting on the patio with a coffee in the cool of evening. The sun sets on the other side of the building, and the patio is shaded and comfortable even after a warm day. A neighborhood child at play wandered near and steps closer to see the roses after asking her Mom if that would be okay. She glances my way, I smile. It’s enough – and rather suddenly, instead of the quiet evening, birdsong, and breezes, I am confronted with the whimsical chatter of a child, eager, enthused with life, and curious about… everything. “What are you doing?” she asks, looking up from smelling each and every different rose in bloom. “I’m listening.” I reply. “To me?” she asks quizzicially. “To the evening.” I smile, she smiles back, and for a moment, she is quiet too; listening to the evening. “I hear birds.” she observes somewhat impatiently, and seemingly eager to move on to more active things. “Why are you listening?” she demands politely. “I’m not very good at it,” I admit, “and I need a lot more practice at giving other people – and even the creatures of the world – a chance to say something.” She sighs, and gives me a look of sympathy and understanding. “My Mom says I don’t listen, too.” I laugh, her Mom chuckles, too. “Well, ” I suggest gently, “you can practice. The birds don’t mind if you are not very good at it, at first.” She skips away, chattering with her Mom about birds, birdsong, roses, and listening. I am left with the stillness of evening, birdsong, and breezes – and a smile.

A recent evening visit from a different neighbor.

An evening visit from a different neighbor.

I do practice listening. It’s one of the more challenging things I work on. Stand a human being in front of me, and often – even in the utter absence of desire to do so, or something to say – I start talking. Sometimes I even manage to crowd my own consciousness with too much talk – I know it is frustrating for people who would like to be heard. It builds a problematic cycle over time, where I talk too endlessly and am eventually ‘tuned out’ or silenced and subsequently don’t ‘feel heard’, myself. It’s not a good way to treat love, or friendship, and it’s less than ideal for any other sort of positive interaction I hope to have. So. I practice listening. Really listening. The sort of deep listening in which I am specifically and only attending to what I am hearing, without queuing up other thoughts, replies, rebuttals, counter-proposals, action plans, or questions. Just listening. Hearing. I make the effort to refrain from verbally replying or responding, aside from acknowledgement when appropriate, and give the moment time to finish saying what is being said – whether it is an evening of birdsong, or a moment of real conversation with an actual other human being. I don’t always manage it. Sometimes I interrupt. I keep practicing. Everyone wants to be heard, and there are few things more precious than feeling that we have been. I continue to practice, because I’d very much like to be known for being someone who ‘really listens’. 🙂

It’s no longer evening. I woke this morning, too early, and returned to sleep quite easily – then ‘overslept’ my usual time by nearly two hours, waking feeling deeply rested and content to start the day. I’m pleased that the apartment is comfortably cool. I am untroubled by how dreadful my coffee is, and continue to sip it contentedly, thinking about cups of coffee in life that have been notably worse – and sometimes still ‘good enough’ in spite of that. There aren’t many things in life that seem to work that way… maybe just two, for me: sex and coffee; even when they aren’t awesome, they both manage to be [for me] generally quite acceptably satisfying…although I am more likely to finish a dreadful cup of coffee than a sex act that might qualify as ‘dreadful’, so… perhaps not so similar as all that? lol I find myself distracted by the comparison, and the implications, which hint at the chaos and damage. It’s just an emotional shadow passing over the delightful landscape of the day, and it passes quickly. I don’t find that I am scurrying to run from what could be revealed about the woman in the mirror, instead the observation is noted, to be considered gently another time. I’m okay right now.

Today is a good day to listen.