Archives for posts with tag: being heard

I woke up abruptly, some minutes ago. I woke feeling frustrated, irritated, vaguely angry, impatient – a host of less than pleasant feelings crowding my consciousness. I felt as though I were in the middle of an argument. I felt as though I were not being heard. Definitely awake. Definitely “in the wee hours”. I laid awake awhile feeling my heart thump, hard, fast, as though I had been exerting myself. Breathless.

I got up, finally, to pee, to get something cold to drink, to “walk it off”, to “get some air”… I got up to breathe. To exhale. To let this shit go.

Initially, the house remained dark – suitable for the “middle of the night”, and avoiding waking anyone else. At some point, I remember I am alone right now, and turn on soft lighting, once it is clear sleep is not immediately at hand. I sit down to write, when it is also clear that “letting it go” wasn’t effortless in this moment – and was reminded of a conversation with a friend, earlier in the day. Human beings struggle. It’s not always an easy experience. We are beings of both emotion and reason; either one can be “a tad off”. Emotional wellness is important – as is our ability to reason in a rational, healthy way. They balance one another. They feed on each other. They inform each other. I experience feelings that source with my thoughts. Some of my thinking has its foundation in how I feel about an experience. Connections. We exist in context.

I breathe deeply. Exhale evenly, slowly. I relax, deliberately, willing my shoulders to drop back down where they belong (and wonder, again, what pulls them up so tightly, so uncomfortably). The experience of “hearing my heart thump” slowly diminishes, until what I am hearing is my typing. Some of this is about focus – what I pay attention to, becomes a larger part of my experience. We become what we practice. Doesn’t make it effortless. In fact, quite the contrary; it is the effort, the practice, itself, that creates the change being sought. Do the thing. Do it again. Keep repeating it. Eventually, it becomes part of who we are. “Easy” is not part of the process.

Another deep cleansing breath. Something icy cold to drink, seeking to cool off from the very subjective sense of being “too hot”.

…What the hell was up with my dreams?? I woke when I did, straight to being fully awake, no lingering in a dream, no recollection of the contents of my consciousness, before that moment when I woke, frustrated, irritable, and frankly a bit angry. What was that about? I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let it go – again. It’s literally not relevant to this moment, here, now, in the quiet and the darkness.

I look at the clock and wonder if I will return to sleep… it’s not quite 2:00 am, on a “work night”. I’d rather not be awake right now… but I clearly am. What to do about it matters less, for me, than not getting stressed out by whatever that outcome ends up being. The thought of returning to sleep causes some anxiety. Nightmares? Possibly. I take a moment of consideration and gratitude that I don’t remember them, if that’s what woke me. Could have been a noise… but the world seems quiet, now. Lingering on the “why” isn’t helpful, and obsessing over that holds potential to drive additional anxiety. Another breath. I exhale. Relax – again. Let it go – again. Have another drink of cold weird liquid – what the hell did I grab out of the fridge? I look more closely. Oh. A sugar free sports drink in a flavor I don’t care for. Hilarious. I continue to drink it eagerly; the cold of it is more soothing than the flavor matters at all.

…I could just stay up. Have a shower. Meditate. Do some yoga. Make coffee… The time would pass quickly, and it would soon be time to head to the office…

My mind sifts through various recent conversations with assorted colleagues, friends, family members, doctors… aimless fussing and wound-picking, unproductive, and not especially healthy. I let that all go, too. I have a thought, properly relevant to experiences of anxiety and wakeful nights, and grab my vape – works for my daytime anxiety, will it work now? I watch the cloud billow around my face, and dissipate. There’s a loveliness to it, illuminated by the glow of my monitor.

I frown, irritated by the recollection of a recent visit to the VA. New doctor. Young doctor. “Have you tried Tylenol?”, she asked (about my literal decades of chronic osteo-arthritis pain in my spine). I’m still annoyed. Seriously?? Was she fucking kidding me? Potentially one of the stupidest questions I’ve ever been asked about pain management, by a doctor. Have I ever tried _____? Lady, Doctor, if it’s over the counter, I’ve fucking tried it – or read the contraindications and recognized it isn’t for me. For fuck’s sake, really? Damn.

Oh. Is that what woke me? I’m still processing my anger and frustration with that appointment? Admittedly, I’ve avoided dealing with it. I keep trying to “let it go” without having to deal with it. That, folks, is called “skipping a step” and it tends not to be very effective – but grinding my gears over it, ruminating endlessly frustrated by it, is also not effective. Running from the emotions does not put them to rest – it just results in feeling as though I’m not being heard. (Because I’m not.)

There’s a solution here. I hit my vape again. I shift gears and head to my meditation cushion. Whether or not I sleep is no longer my concern. It’s about a bigger picture of self-care, and “feeling heard” is something that needs to begin with me.

Here’s a brief musical interlude to pass the time… 😉

Some time has passed. There’s still time for more sleep, if it comes to that. I’m not worried about it. I’m not worried. I feel relaxed. Content. Centered. I’m okay. This is one moment, of many. Just that. It’s not a bad moment, if I pulled it from life’s deck like a playing card; relaxed, content, safe, hydrated, secure in my home, secure in my relationships. There are no longer alarm bells going off in my head, and I am at ease, and comfortable in my own skin. The moment is altered and I change the music. I think of my far away Traveling Partner, still sleeping. I laugh, reminded that I am at home alone, and stream the music to the stereo in the living room, I turn it up, still mindful that the world (and my neighbor) sleeps. My thoughts travel briefly to a younger time in my life; I’d have run from this moment, pursuing any available distraction. Tonight? I pull myself back into my body, back into this “now”, and let the bass wash over me. “…Free the history…” I pick up my buugeng, and begin to dance, feeling my contentment mingling with the music, and the movement. (Your results may vary.)

Unexpectedly, in the middle of a moment, grief washed over me, unsolicited, unwelcome – and too real. It has been just 25 days since my mother died. So much has happened since then to distract me from that experience. I dropped to the floor weeping like a… like… well, like a grown ass woman, grieving the loss of her mother, honestly. It’s okay. There is no shame in these honest tears, and I am okay right now. This is real, and it is what it is. I needed this time alone, I suppose; real life has some things to tell me, things I need to hear. My heart needs to be heard – and I need to take the time to listen.

I cried for some little while. I’m okay with that; tears dry. As they do, I think about a shower, and coffee. It’s almost 3:30 am. The alarm will go off in an hour, and there’s little point in going back to sleep, now. 🙂 It’s already time to begin again. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee – this morning it seems very ordinary, and at some earlier point in life I might have spent some measure of time inclined to troubleshoot the coffee-making, or perhaps poured it out in frustration and made a new cup of coffee. This morning, I am sipping my coffee and recognizing that it is adequate, not bad, just not worth raving about…but some coffees are like that, right? Good enough to drink…not quite good enough to write a favorable review.

I slept well this morning, with few interruptions and no nightmares. I woke slowly, and took my time with my yoga, meditation, and shower. It doesn’t seem the sort of morning that requires rushing through things – it’s rare than any morning actually requires rushing through things, but some of them seem to want it. Rushing is not my preference. I take my time. I sip my coffee and grin at my awareness that taking my time is not, by itself, what makes a great cup of coffee.

A moment of reflection over coffee

A moment of reflection over coffee

There’s something on the edge of my consciousness, and understanding of something that I haven’t quite managed, perhaps, waiting to be recognized more fully, and embraced, or perhaps shared…like the way my nose tickles before I sneeze, I sense the understanding on the edge of my awareness. The morning is chilly, and autumn approaches. There are other things crowding into my experience, begging to be noticed: the sweater I am wearing to work wraps me in softness, paintings I hung last night tug at my senses yearning to be viewed again, the stiffness in my spine that characterizes nearly every morning at this stage in my life, the soft ping of incoming email… The rich immediacy of the moment has so much to offer that I find it quite difficult to try to focus on something on the extreme edge of my awareness, teasing me that there is more to understand about myself, or the world. I’m okay with that; understanding comes with time, and waiting on it doesn’t wear it down, or make it less worthy.

Autumn approaches.

Autumn approaches.

I love the poetry of language, and the nuances available in a rich vocabulary. It is possible to say so much, so clearly… Sometimes I fail my intention, and lose the meaning in the words. It’s actually quite common. I am practicing simpler ways of communicating in direct conversations in my relationships, and not because the poetry of language has no value on its own, but rather because I actually enjoy it when my needs are met in my relationships. Sometimes that requires fewer or simpler words. I find myself wondering if my traveling partner has noticed any change? Simple, practical, direct – and not in an unkind or terse way – is useful in day-to-day communication between friends, lovers, family, co-workers. I guess that seems obvious… I find it a challenge, more often than I would like to. I sometimes come across as terse or abrasive when I am being direct. Sometimes simple and practical language, coming from me, sounds…child like, or over-simplified. There’s balance to find, and I have not yet found it. I like colorful language and clear descriptions and don’t necessarily get why there is an improvement in describing someone as having ‘curly hair’ versus ‘she is surrounded by vast clouds of soft brown bouncing when she talks’. If two curly haired women were standing side by side, you would know immediately which of the two was the one I meant if I use the poetry language has to offer. I have much to learn about language, and communication. I could just point and grunt, I suppose…but I do like words.

Simple words are beautiful, too. They require greater skill to be poetic. Coming to that understanding finds me exploring shorter formats poetically, and in prose; can I say it with fewer words? Can I communicate accurately – and simply? More of life’s curriculum. I absolutely detest “tl:dr” finding it an extreme discourtesy.  I also like being heard – and there is great value in being able to easily communicate in the broadest possible circumstances with the greatest number of people. I am still a student, even of words, even of language – even of poetry. This amazing journey offers much to learn.

Even the flowers know autumn approaches.

Even the flowers know autumn approaches.

I have a long weekend ahead. I plan to paint this weekend, after I run a couple errands on Friday. I will likely spend much of the weekend alone, which means far fewer words. Where will inspiration take me? I am eager to invest the time in me, no timers, no alarm clocks, no calendar…just an artist at work. Simple enough.

"Monochromatic Flower" 18" x 20" acrylic on canvas 2010

“Monochromatic Flower” 18″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas 2010 . A single color on canvas seems simple enough…very challenging to photograph. (It’s a metaphor. 🙂 )

Today is a good day for simple words, and simple things. Today is a good day to savor simple pleasures. Today is a good day to communicate big ideas with fewer syllables. Today is new and fresh and exciting – and wide open with possibilities…what will I do to change the world?

I like communication. I think most of us probably enjoy it, or some aspect of it. My favorite, as much as I enjoy words and talking and writing, is being heard.  I’d be surprised in that weren’t true of most people, but I’m not ‘most people’ in a lot of ways, so I likely shouldn’t go out on that limb. 🙂  I do enjoy being heard, however I have a lot to learn about listening; this is another statement I suspect is true of a lot of people, just based on observation.

It is a journey taken one step at a time.

It is a journey taken one step at a time.

I’ve noticed something strange…people who don’t feel heard are generally not listening (at least at that point at which they feel they are not being heard, themselves).  “Communication” so easily turns into tit-for-tat bullshit that there are actually enough books written about communication as a subject to fill a library without help from any other topic. Amazon has 339,665 books on “communication” across a variety of subtopics, such as “communication skills” (very popular, right at the top) and “law” (which I suppose gets involved when communication goes seriously awry).  Human primates work hard to communicate – hell, we created language to facilitate that! We consider both verbal and non verbal forms of communication when we discuss language, and make a big deal over one versus the other, and when it is appropriate to use them, and how to interpret them. We make rules about communication and set up hierarchies of information to sort fact from fiction, lies from well-intended misstatements based on erroneous beliefs, and novels from religious tomes. Us versus them. We get our emotions involved. All that fuss and effort – and we’re still communicating poorly, and taking shit personally based on untested assumptions, and expectations that source from fictions in our own heads.

Part of my own challenge in communication rests on the distinction between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’. You, too? Have you ever been in a heated discussion, or contentious meeting, and rather than actually listening with awareness to the speaker of the moment, you were investing time in formulating a reply – to something you heard moments ago, or something you are only half listening to in the moment? It’s a poor practice. I can make that assertion comfortably, feeling pretty sure you’ll agree with me – all I have to do is make that observation from the vantage point of the disregarded speaker, themselves. We’ve all been there – making a point that matters to us, doing our best to be clear, concise, and hold the attention of our listener, and… aware that we are not actually ‘being heard’; the vaguely distracted facial expression, and loss of eye contact, or lack of focused gaze, are a hint – the real giveaway is when our listener begins to reply or rebut, and it is apparent they are not speaking to the salient points at all, they are just downloading what they spent time considering – while you were talking. They weren’t listening, they were waiting for their turn. Awkward. Rude. Ineffective communication. It’s so easy, though, to get wrapped up in what feels like matters the most – and lose awareness that what actually matters most is listening while someone is talking.  It gets more complicated if the person talking is an unqualified asshat, I get it, or espousing views that are “offensive” or inflammatory. That’s hard to take. Perhaps in that scenario the more effective communication is to say frankly that there is offense, or express clearly and simply that the information is in some way unacceptable – then disengage without further rebuttal or reply? (Is every battle mine? lol I’ve been making some different choices, lately, myself).

Deceit, treachery, willfully misleading someone, treating them poorly or bullying them with language; my perspective is that these things are not good uses of communication between honorable beings making compassionate choices, and treating people well. We don’t always make our best choices in the moment, though, do we? It’s easy for a person, in a moment of anger, to be willfully cruel, or in a moment of frustration to be impatient or callous. We’re all very human.

I dislike imprecise communication, particularly regarding emotion. I’m not always good at it, myself, and I practice some things I find key, and I do so in a very planned and studied way. The things I put that kind of structured emphasis on are simple enough. I practice communicating willfully in words – for me this means moving gently through physical space, and not using my body to communicate strong emotion instead of using words; no deliberate slamming or banging of cupboards, doors, drawers, etc to communicate distress or anger. It’s very upsetting and imprecise, and it tends (in my own experience) to foster panic, anxiety, and insecurity in the human herd without truly communicating anything with accuracy, or honesty. It seems mean, and it causes considerable extra wear and tear on household goods.  (Do you slam shit when you’re mad? Why do you do it? What does that satisfy for you? I’ve been there, but I can’t say I find anything of lasting value in that method of communicating; I gave it up in principle some time ago.) I won’t claim any mastery; I practice continuously whether I am upset or not.  The other key practice is listening, really attending to the words another person is taking time to share with me, without being distracted by the pressure of my own desire to speak and be heard, or caving to some need-in-the-moment to challenge or disagree. It’s very difficult for me – the disinhibition issues I struggle with often get in the way; practicing is very important for reinforcing better habits. Not interrupting people is a good start on a basic level. (I am so not there yet! I work at it every day.) It matters that much to me, that people speaking with me feel heard.

It was slow going to reach a place where I understand that because I desire to be heard, learning to listen is critically important. It was also a struggle to reach a place where I understand that communicating emotions is not about pushing the visceral experience of strong emotion into the consciousness of other human beings against their will, or without their consent; it is about using gentle words, clearly and simply, while allowing that other consciousness to continue to have its own experience. There’s a lot of practice ahead of me. The day I realized I am practicing these qualities and behaviors because they are who I want most to be – and by intention, who I am – I became so much more able to step back from frustrations built around ‘I will when they do’ and ‘they don’t so why should I?’ or issues of unfairness, and suddenly I felt more heard – because I am listening to my own voice. That matters, too. So often it has turned out the person not listening to me, is me.

Savoring each precious moment through awareness is a nice place to start a journey of discovery.

Savoring each precious moment through awareness is a nice place to start a journey of discovery.

Some rambling notes on communication early on a Tuesday morning. It’s a good day to communicate with love, and with great attention. It’s a good day to really hear the message I am sharing with the world, from the world’s perspective. It’s a good day to be kind, and to treat others with courtesy – not because they deserve it, but because it is who I am. Today is a good day to change the world.

“Thank you for calling technical support…”

Today I am contemplating all the times in my life I have endeavored, with limited success, to ‘troubleshoot my connectivity’ in relationships.  This year I finally recognized I was not sufficiently skilled, knowledgeable, or experienced with what makes connecting emotionally with another human being work, to successfully complete troubleshooting my challenges with building healthy relationships.  I certainly didn’t have the right tools to fix glitches, programming errors, or resolve the issues I have regularly found myself facing. This year I ‘called technical support’.

Before I say more about that, I’d like to say something about the way our choices in language, even grammar, can influence our thinking.  Consider the sentence “I learned X about relationship building.” It implies, fairly specifically, that the learning is completed, and in the past, and that something is now known – and tends to limit change and additional growth, by expressing the gained knowledge as a static thing. On the other hand, the sentence “I am learning X about relationship building.” equally clearly implies that learning is ongoing, making it subject to additional potential for change and growth. I rather like change and growth; it is taking me new and wonderful places in life. I am discontinuing the practice of referring to learning in the past tense, since I don’t think I can conclusively show that any one thing I have learned is truly static and unchanging (except, perhaps, Euclidean geometry, but even there – I just don’t know everything!). So, onward to the future, hopefully always learning.

So…I called technical support, metaphorically speaking, and got some help with ‘troubleshooting my connectivity’. I am learning some important things about healthy relationships, and building and sustaining close connected relationships. I am learning:

  • that mindful listening is not about preparing a reply, waiting for my turn to talk, or ‘getting a word in edgewise’. Mindful listening requires my entire devoted attention to the person talking, hearing their words, and giving my attention to understanding their full intended meaning.
  • that hearing words is different than listening, and often results in urgent replies, or interruptions that are not relevant to the key point being communicated. Listening is about meaning, and may require clarifying questions before a response to the communicated points is appropriate. ‘Communication’ is about the meaning, not the words.
  • that when I am immersed in my own emotional experience, and stray from being mindful-in-the-moment, I find it difficult to listen to someone else, to be compassionate, and to connect with them.  (That experience is not about whether or not they – or I – want to connect, but more whether or not we each allow and accept that connection.)
  • that compassionate observation of others’ experiences with connecting with each other is a valuable ‘blackboard’ at the front of the classroom of life, and as with any other classroom, in front of any other teacher, if I am passing notes or daydreaming I may miss something important – and every day of life is a learning experience, but every day is also a pop quiz – being mindful results in a much better experience. 😀

Thursday… and it was a short night, but I woke in a good place in spite of that. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, but my health through the winter has been good, so I guess I’m overdue for a sore throat. lol. It’s hardly worth mentioning, although if I end up quite ill, I probably won’t write for a couple days. It still looks to be a lovely day.