Archives for posts with tag: deep listening

I’m on my third coffee this morning. I slept poorly. My Traveling Partner slept poorly. I slipped away early in the morning hoping he would be able to get some better sleep, but that didn’t work out ideally well. I am sitting in the studio, drinking coffee and considering the causes and the potential outcomes, and wondering how best to be helpful.

“Being considerate” may very well be one of the most powerful skills (and practices) that a person can bring to social relationships (of all kinds). I have found it sometimes a bit difficult to define “consideration” – in spite of placing it high on my list of things to look for in relationships. I see people who are “considerate” practicing deep listening, explicit expectation-setting, skillful boundary setting, asking clarifying questions, testing their assumptions, yielding their natural desire to be “right” preferring to be kind, making an explicit effort to refrain from “centering themselves” in every circumstance or conflict, and being very comfortable making a prompt apology when another person points out a transgression. That seems like a lot to manage, but it really does all map to “consideration” – as in, genuinely considering what those around them are going through or may need.

Let’s be clear on one point; I don’t see considerate people being doormats or open to being abused or mistreated. They use boundary setting and expectation setting with great skill and comfort. They consider their own needs along side the needs of others, and make a point of practicing good self-care, too.

Lacking fundamental consideration leads people to casually mistreat others without intention – and often without noticing, and sometimes following-up by callously doubling-down on that mistreatment by attempting to deflect blame (by way of excusing their actions as “unintended”). Doesn’t really “make things right” to do things that way, and feels still more inconsiderate. People who are inconsiderate are by far more common than people who are considerate! It has become socially “normal” to see (or have to accommodate) inconsiderate behavior from others. People are busy. Self-involved. Dealing with their own shit. Struggling to heal trauma. Uneducated about the impact their choices/words/behavior has on others. Unaware how much difference consideration can make. There’s a lot going on with inconsiderate people. Most of it is even shit everyone has going on in life. One thing that isn’t going on with inconsiderate people; they are not being “considerate” (probably a huge timesaver, I don’t know…).

Consideration and considerate behavior isn’t “natural” to human primates; we learn it from our social group(s) – and therefore must teach it to our companions, explicitly. Children generally get taught “sharing” – a part of consideration. Every element of consideration probably needs to be explicitly taught. As a culture we’re clearly falling down on the job, there, based on the general rise in inconsiderate behavior, basic rudeness, and prevalent violence. I’m pretty certain that very considerate people are likely less prone to violence. It’s something to think about.

Today, I’m struggling with “my nature”; I tend to be very considerate (of others), but also tend to fail myself on the self-care and boundary-setting side of things. Knowing my Traveling Partner did not sleep well, I consider what I can do to be helpful, or to at least minimize the potential for stress or conflict in our relationship due to the both of us being fatigued and in pain. It’s complicated. What does he need? What does he want? Can I provide those things? Is guessing at them wise? What about me? What do I need, myself? Can I meet his needs and my own? When do well-intentioned inquiries about what he needs become invasive or pestering? How do I prevent my own boundary and expectation-setting needs from being swept aside in the pursuit of a gentle day together (under difficult circumstances)? What is reasonable, and what is excessive? How far do I take “not taking things personally” before it becomes entirely necessary to “push back” or point out a boundary – and how do I do that gently enough to also avoid sounding “bitchy” or unreasonable?

My anxiety simmers in the background, and that’s not at all helpful. Consideration, like “mindfulness”, is something that takes quite a bit of actual practice (at least for me). It’s not my “default” human behavior. It is, however, something I value quite a lot – enough to keep practicing. Enough that it matters to achieve mastery – and balance.

It’s a new day. There are opportunities to be a better person than I was yesterday. There will be verbs involved, and practice required. My results will no doubt vary. It’s a good time to begin again. 🙂

I am sipping my morning coffee, considering the walk I am eager to want to take. I’m “not there yet”. lol My muscles ache from pushing myself, already. I’m not bitching about it, and I’m not unhappy over it. Sore muscles are muscles working a bit harder, doing more things that need done, and becoming more capable of more work. Consistency is a requirement for forward progress; if I skip the walk today over sore muscles, I don’t make as much progress toward my goals, nor as quickly, so… at some point? Walking. I’m not looking forward to the walking itself, although I’d like to. I am in pain. The walking helps the pain in my back and my neck (osteoarthritis), but is less helpful with the bad ankle that has to support the weight. Without walking, the weight remains an issue. With the walking, the ankle is an issue. I’m not saying it as though this is an unsolvable conundrum, either, just saying that these complications are part of my experience. 🙂 There’s a metaphor here…

It’s a journey with a lot of steps.

We become what we practice. Emotionally and physically. There’s not a lot of room to argue on this one. Are you hot tempered, easily frustrated, quick to react, and tending to fall back on negative feedback and criticism to communicate your needs? Well, that’s the person you become, over time, in a fixed and rather predictably unpleasant way. Are you tender-hearted, prone to tears in the face of negative feedback, (whether or not it is accurate or well-intended, or useful at all) particularly when it comes from someone whose opinion you value? Same slope; you become more of who you already are, and what you choose to do with the toxicity of the world around you, because it is what you practice. You may get called a bitch when you demand that your agency be respected, or when you insist on not being interrupted in a meeting, but that lack of boundary-setting? It’s a practice, too.

…Also? Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t call someone names, either; how about we start there? Speak gently. Be clear, and also honest. “Stay in your lane” in the sense that not every opinion you have actually needs to be shared (particularly with regard to your aesthetic, and someone else’s appearance). Check your assumptions – a lot of them are wrong (the science is in on that) – and practice deep listening, instead of waiting for your turn to talk.

Does it sound like I’m venting aimlessly, about commonplace bullshit we all seem to engage in, if not regularly, then once in a while? Well… then I’ve failed to communicate clearly. I’ll try again…

Your words matter. Use them with care. If you are communicating with someone you say you love, communicate with love – real love, using words and tone that make it very clear that the love is first and foremost in your mind, rather than some momentary frustration. Our bitterness, our hurt, our anger – once shared, it’s out there. Shared with emotional force, and absent the love that may be part of our experience, it causes real harms, real doubts about our affection, and can undermine that love we cherish so much.

Don’t let the sun set on a treasured relationship without saying something encouraging, supportive, authentically affectionate – the smallest moment of authentic appreciation and praise can change the color of an entire day. I am fairly certain most of us share negative feedback with cherished others almost every day… imagine the crushing weight of all that criticism, all that negativity, the constant pressure to raise oneself up from beneath the weight of it… Let’s not do that. Let’s handle our words with greater care, ensuring that we take more time for what is positive and uplifting that we do for things we see as problems needing correction.

I challenge you to practice even a 1 to 1 ratio of (authentic) compliments and (sincere) encouragement to criticism and requests for change. I hope you find that incredibly easy (and succeed) – because people need more love and encouragement than that, and as starting points go, it’s a bare minimum for success. I promise you that if you are only sharing negative feedback, that’s all that is being heard. That sounds like a pretty terrible experience to be on the receiving end of, just saying. Use your words as a force for good in your life, use them to lift others up, to encourage what is positive in everyone you meet.

A lot of people may grow up in environments in which very little positive feedback is shared, or the positive words are hollow superlatives about qualities they can’t control, and no attention given to the whole person. People coming from that place may not know how to give authentic positive feedback, and may genuinely not understand why it is necessary. They need to see it done, to feel it, before it will be something they can easily practice themselves. Is that someone part of your life? Be open to explicitly telling them what you need to hear – without excuses, or a need to justify yourself. It’s okay to need what you need, and it’s also quite okay to ask for it. 🙂 “I need you to say something nice to me right now.” may feel weird to say, but it is one place to start. 🙂

We’re all so human. There’s so much stress and hostility in the world right now. Our culture feels so toxic. Be someone who understands there is work to be done, and recognize you can do some of it. Be someone willing to do it. Be the change we need. Speak gently. Be encouraging and kind. Soften your tone. Be trustworthy. Be honest without being mean. Let small shit go. Don’t drink the poison offered to you. Don’t offer others poison.

Don’t like the world as it is? Be part of what changes it. We become what we practice. Practice being the person you truly most want to be. Every choice, every interaction, every day. Sometimes you will fail (I know I do); your results will vary. Practice more. 🙂 Be that better version of yourself, because you choose it, and it matters. Other people may not make these choices – don’t drink the poison they offer you, and walk your own path. 😉

It’s time to begin again.

Begin again. Seriously, whatever it is that’s just not working out well, take the morning as a starting point, and begin again. Do over! Be the person you most want to be – today. Now. The very next conversation. It may go very well, it may go very poorly – it may take practice to be who you most want to be, as a human being. The distance between one human being and her goals varies by human being. We are each having our own experience.

Begin again.

It may go well, it may go poorly – you can even begin again tomorrow. Again. Don’t like who you are, when you think about the person in the mirror? Make different choices. Use different words. Begin yet again. Do you. No one else can be the person that you are, yourself. There is so much more to being and becoming than school-job-car-career-marriage-house-children-retirement-death, isn’t there?

What about that story you want to tell?

What about that place you yearn to go?

What about that idea you have?

What about that skill you want to develop?

A novel doesn’t write itself when I am not looking at the keyboard. The beautiful poem in my  head doesn’t make it to the page without assistance. The walk toward the distance on which I might see many things isn’t going to unfold ahead of me without my also taking the steps. The painting I can see in my thoughts won’t hang on my wall – on any wall – unless I paint it.

This is my life. There are verbs involved. Every day, every moment, every choice, becomes an opportunity to be and to become more the woman I most want to be. I may never be a well-known author; I write nonetheless, and it is part of who I am. I am unlikely to be a famous artist; I paint, a lot, and the joy in it is the painting, itself. Over time I have come to accept as a given that it is the journey itself in which the value lies; destinations being so finite and limiting, are of far less importance. When I become focused on an outcome, committed to a result more than an experience, I lose my way, mired in bullshit, drama, and tedious details – and forgetting this is my life, worth living.

Is love a journey or a destination? Or... is love a verb?

Is love a journey or a destination? Or… is love a verb?

I spent last evening wrapped in love. I’m still so soaked, so saturated, so imbued with sacred sentiment it’s harder than usual to use practical language, clear simple words, sentences with proper grammar and form; my heart soars, and my thoughts are poetry. I love. I am loved. It’s so much more than enough…

…I am not so easily able to love like this, fully, reciprocally, tenderly, openly, and with great consideration, without loving the woman in the mirror, first – and with a very similar enthusiasm and passion as what I might show a lover. Of course, there’s always more to learn. I reach for “How to Love” for today’s studious reading, and “More Than Two“, also. Today seems a good day to study love, to give it the serious support and earnest dedication to learning that one might give to a college course needed to graduate. What could be more important to study than love, and loving? It’s certain that I could be better at it, however good at it I may be in some one relationship, or some one moment.

Today is a good day for love, for loving, for being the woman I most want to be. There are verbs involved. My results may vary. That’s all okay, too; love is enough. 🙂

Suddenly the apartment is so very quiet, almost unnaturally still. To be fair, I turned off the stereo some minutes ago, precisely for the quiet and a few still minutes. Silly primate – it  hardly makes it at all remarkable, when it is chosen. 🙂

My traveling partner spent the better part of the entire week with me, this past week, and it’s a rare delight. It’s been quite connected and wonderful, easy, and intimate; we work, and it’s an experience I enjoy greatly. We enjoyed this last morning (at least for some days to come) gently, over coffees and music, and baking cookies together before he took off for the company of other friends in other places. I am excited and hopeful that he enjoys an experience worth having, and I know that his own good choices will put him on that path. On the other hand… I already miss him.

Love in the kitchen.

Love in the kitchen.

I still have work to do, a journey ahead of me, with the woman in the mirror; it is still so easy to thoughtlessly defer immediately to any whim my love may have in the moment without also considering what I need for myself, and too easy to rest gently by his side, doe-eyed, without expectation, wrapped in warmth in some romantic Land of the Lotus Eaters, no needs beyond his presence. I actually have quite a lot more I’d like to get done, day-to-day, as pleasant as that is. 🙂 He left some minutes ago, and for the first several of those it was rather as if I had had something precious torn from me – the pain was quite peculiarly visceral, and very real seeming. So I turned off the music. I sat quietly. I took time to breathe. I took time to enjoy and savor the recollection of the lovely time we’d shared together this past week. I recalled some wonderful humorous repartee exchanged, and some heart-felt emotional moments. I gave further consideration to his gentle suggestions for improvement in the layout of my space, and some efficiency and safety recommendations. I thought over some cool quality of life improvements he suggested I do further research on that sounded quite good to me. I remembered his kisses, his touch, his loving gaze. I began to feel quite calm and secure and steady, and smiled remembering I’ve specifically asked to have some time to get the move out of the way, and that he has graciously made that work in his current plans – he’s that guy; it matters to me, and he respects my ability to plan and execute this move, and understands that there is value for me in handling it for a number of reasons. He is considerate and supportive of my needs. He’s a partner.

I have been putting quite a lot into deep listening, and slowing down and giving my partner room to be, room to talk and to share. I sit now, quietly, considering my partner’s words about his comfort, likes, preferences, needs, and the new place I am moving into. I feel supported and cared for, and reciprocate even in my planning; I look for ways to ensure the space suits his comfort as much as mine, without regard to whether we cohabit permanently or full-time. Whether he lives there is not relevant to my desire that he feel ‘at home’ in my space every bit as much as I do, myself. I don’t think I can explain why I place importance on his comfort, but it is quite important to me, and I have difficulty understanding how anyone can say “I love you” to someone else without also being willing to reciprocate actions of love.

Sometime around mid-morning, I realized we’d simply hit our ‘bliss point’ as humans together; doing things we love with someone we love, having a shared and intimate connected experience unique to this particular combination of humans, only. Not because no one else could share a small kitchen baking lemon shortbread, or because no one else enjoys coffee in the morning with their lover, but because no other combination of human primates would be precisely us, with our values, with our individual and shared histories, with our individual ways of viewing the world and communicating that to each other… we just happened to be, in that moment, the most wondrously, joyously, easily, happily, romantically us that ever tends to be – and it was enough. More than enough. For that short shared beautiful time, it was everything (in its own delightfully limited way). So much so that when the door closed, and he was gone, in that instant of real anguish… there was also joy. It makes sense that I needed some quiet time to sit and smile and let it all soak in. 🙂

Yes. Quietly. Meditation. Study. Rest. I’ve got a busy week ahead filled with change; change is sometimes hard on me, even when I embrace it so eagerly. It will be important to take care of me. This is all happening so fast…

I am walking my path from another perspective, and there is more to learn.

I am walking my path from another perspective, and there is more to learn.

…I smile, and remind myself it is entirely okay to slow it down. I notice the time and realize that aside from having a ‘test cookie’ with my traveling partner, my calories today have been pretty minimal. I pause to hope that he is having the same thought, somewhere along the way, and stopping for a bite, himself – although I find myself regretting that I had not thought of it before he left, I can tell I needed the quiet, having finally reached ‘my bliss point’ and become perhaps even a bit overwhelmed by the power of love. I don’t beat myself up over needing a little space to handle the move; it’s complicated enough handling me handling the move as it is – it’s a lot of small changes, and tasks to juggle, and details. It’s time to be focused on good self-care, and to be reminded that I am enough. 🙂

I woke very early this morning, minutes after 4:00 am. It’s a work morning, so making any effort to sleep longer isn’t likely to be very satisfying. I get up, and linger in the shower, while I take the chill off the apartment by pre-heating the oven. I’m up early enough for a proper breakfast. No idea what I’ll make, or whether it will actually require the oven. It’s definitely autumn, now; I am no longer making any effort to cool off the apartment. I have been here in my wee place long enough for the seasons to change. 🙂

Enough.

Enough.

There is very little drama in this experience. I sip my coffee and let myself wonder what ever kept me in any abusive relationship, ever, in the first place? Love? No – because that sort of treatment doesn’t qualify as being loved, and doesn’t tend to produce love as a reaction. I learned that the hard way. Fear of being solo, of being unqualified to adult all alone? Could be, at least the first time. I was very young when I married my first husband, and mostly did so because I earnestly wanted to move out of the barracks and ‘didn’t know how’ otherwise…and… it seemed expected, culturally, that I would marry. Now that, right there? That’s a shitty reason to get married, or be in a relationship of any other sort. Loneliness? I suppose loneliness is an important reason people may stay in an abusive relationship – loneliness sucks that much, sometimes – so much that self-care and good decision-making are undermined in favor of the mere idea of love.

Be love.

Be love.

Living alone? Not so scary, honestly. By far better than living with chronic mistreatment, neglect, disrespect, deceit, evasion, misdirection, or physical, emotional, or financial abuse. Do I get lonely? Sure. I’m human, and I miss touch, and the everyday intimacy and connection of living with someone I love dearly – but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve only approximated that experience in most relationships, generally very short-lived during the newest weeks of the relationship, and with only the most superficial level of connection, and very little real intimacy – because I didn’t have well-developed skills, practices, or understanding of what relationships take to build and maintain in the first place. My own ignorance and lack of personal development definitely limited my ability to forge the bonds I didn’t know I was looking for in the first place. Now I have the skills, the desire, the partnership – but we are separated, day-to-day, by 14 miles that sometimes feel infinite. Now… I am also learning that however common love can be, when we live from a loving place, a love like the one I share with my traveling partner is on another order of magnitude entirely, and it is not affected by the distance between us, even in lonely moments, when I yearn to be near him.

"You Always Have My Heart"

“You Always Have My Heart”

I sip my coffee and think about love, and loving. Is there some magic, mystical secret to this powerful love we share? I suspect not. It’s quite probably part chemistry, but I feel fairly certain that the larger portion of it is simply that we treat each other truly well. The Big 5 are pretty consistently in play (respect, consideration, reciprocity, openness, and compassion). We’re human, there are moments that challenge us now and then, but day-to-day, moment-to-moment, I can count on my traveling partner to treat me well, to support my growth, to encourage me, to listen deeply, and to be connected and really with me when we are together, and he can count on those things from me. It’s quite lovely, and it’s all in spite of being quite human (the both of us), with our own baggage, our own chaos and damage, and our own view of the world.

"Cherry Blossoms" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas 2011

“Cherry Blossoms” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas 2011

There are other reasons to build a relationship than for love, even marriage is not always built on love. Even the most practical, logistical, or political basis for a long-term relationship benefits from The Big 5, and suffers without them. I think so, anyway. I think a lot about treating people well, and what that means, and how I get there. How we treat people changes us. What we endure in our relationships, and the treatment we receive at the hands of loved ones, changes us. We become what we practice. When we treat someone poorly, however valued we may say they are to us, we change them over time; the damage piles up and changes how we are treated in return. Living alone, I have only one person to count on to treat me well day-to-day – and I’m still learning a lot about taking care of me, and treating myself truly well…but I’ve got a lot less drama while I do, and I’m not having to expend precious resources, or waste valuable time, healing fresh wounds.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

I know you want to be treated well. I think everyone probably does (in the way they define that, themselves). This morning, I’m not thinking as much about how I want to be treated – I’m thinking about how I treat others. How about you? Are you treating your loved ones truly well day-to-day, or do you let your temper get the better of you and say vile things you regret later, then expect people around you to ‘stop taking things so personally’ or ‘grow a thicker skin’? Maybe you justify the terrible hurts you deliver with your words by rationalizing the truth of them, or the necessity of hearing them said, or because you are ‘right’? Do you excuse your own bad behavior by saying it’s your hormones, or you had a rough day, or you hurt or don’t feel well? Are you aware you are still causing someone you love pain, and maybe even tearing down something you built that was once beautiful? Treating someone you love poorly is like spraying political graffiti on a precious work of art, or painting over a mural, or… well… it’s actually just not okay, and is entirely unpleasant, and doesn’t show any hint of love. Just saying. Even a heartfelt apology does not make the words unsaid, or take away the experience of being hurt – and no one forgets those things, not really. In a good relationship, it’s simply that the good moments outweigh the difficult ones a lot.

"Contemplation" 11" x 14" acrylic on canvas 2012

“Contemplation” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas 2012

I am humbled by the wonder in the realization that I am good at love. (I wasn’t always, I’ve worked to get to this place.) This is a powerful place to be in life. Practice matters, even on this, and it isn’t the bit about being loved that needs the practice, generally. Loving isn’t just a word – it’s a verb, and one that requires quite a lot of things, like kindness, and deep listening, and attentiveness, and authenticity, and vulnerability, and compassion, and patience, and surrender, and tenderness, and being comfortably wrong as easily as being right, and laughing, and touching, and sharing experiences, and eye contact. I enjoy how many verbs there are from which to choose to show love. Practicing them is both entirely necessary, and highly rewarding… I mean… If you want to love, and be loved in return. Some people only want to be loved (or maybe just worshiped, adored, or served); it’s much less work, but eventually love dies when it isn’t nurtured.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

Today is a good day to love well, and to deliver on the promises made by love. Today is a good day to treat every heart well, not just my own. Today is a good day to make eye contact, to be kind, and to really listen when someone is talking. Today is a good day to practicing loving. The world could use a little more love, and we become what we practice.