The Art of Listening

I do not know who “they” are, as I have personally never met them, but “they” say that it is believed that the last sense to go before we die is our hearing. That you are supposed to talk to your loved ones as if they could still hear you. To expect that they still can…that they are still listening. I find a lot of irony in this, if this is true, because while we are living, we are very very bad at it.

I was listening (no pun intended, truly listening) to a podcast the other day about well, listening. More or less about how no one is anymore. Our children are not, their heads are in their phones. Our spouses/partners are most likely not listening either. Bills to pay, errands to run, chores and work to do. Our bosses, managers and co-workers are not, there is too much to do, deadlines to meet. The world is loud right now. It is loud on the TV, loud colors, shapes, sounds. It is loud in public. It is loud at work. It is loud on social media. If you have a bunch of personal emails like myself, it is loud there too. Our pets are loud. It is loud outside. Everyone wants something from you, but no one is really listening. And I mean no one.

Everything is so damn loud. To the point that when you try to shut that off, to truly listen, to turn off the noise, the actual sound of silence can be deafening. And I mean brutal. In practicing meditation this past year I struggled greatly with this. I could not turn off the noise. I even practiced at different times of the day (do my best work in the AM by the way.) It is getting better, but to put it mildly, the struggle was real. At the most quiet, it had never been more loud. The further I went with this the more I researched and there is something to be said about paying attention to what the noise is actually saying, but that is for a different blog. Our “quiet” noise actually has something to say and can give us some great intuitive clues if we would only pay attention and listen.

What the podcast made me realize is how accustomed to the noise we have become. I know when our power goes off and the natural hum of electricity that is there (but you don’t know it is there until the power goes out,) stops…when that shuts off, it is very very painfully quiet. And it is painfully quiet because we have grown so used to the noise. That feeling, that phenomenon is similar to what mediation feels like for me. What in the hell am I supposed to do with this silence? What am I supposed to resolve with this nothingness? A lot actually…if you listen to it. But since no one is listening, including myself, a lot of really great stuff gets missed.

In my Moms last two weeks on Earth I mostly bossed her around. I was not listening. And when she stopped talking back and I had nothing to help me know what she wanted or needed, it was then that I really had to start listening. And it was then that I heard nothing. Moms passing was not text book and to this day, to this very moment, it has driven me insane. The handy fliers they gave us, thanks, not her. The books friends have given and suggested. Nope, that was not how it went down either. She did not follow the script. She didn’t profess some dying secret. She didn’t bestow some enlightened words of wisdom. She didn’t rehash old wounds or mend broken fences. She didn’t mention dreams or visions, or speak of anyone who had passed before her. She didn’t talk about going on a trip. She honestly didn’t talk. She wholly, completely and totally said NOTHING. The week before it got real bad (and they were both bad) I asked her if she had seen my father. She was irritated and said, “No, and I hope I don’t. I am not entirely sure how I would start that conversation.” And that was that.

The day I realized that she was listening was the day she uttered the last full sentence she would ever say to Dee Dee and I. We were checking her vitals, changing her clothes, getting her to the bathroom, talking about her “progression.” She point blank said “I am not dying today.” She also pointed to my shirt (Magnolia Silos) and said “I will not make it there.” I did not know at the time it would be one of the last things she would say or how sad it would make me to remember it. I just remember thinking, I better be careful, she is listening. I know shortly before her last few breaths Kristina and I laid with her and played Frank Sinatra’s My Way and just watched her. Of course I told her I loved her and had no earthly idea what I was going to do without her and I told her I was sorry. Of course I have always left that moment, that experience, hoping she was still listening, hoping she could still hear me.

If it is the last thing to go, the last sense that we have to leave our body, then my Mom spent the better part of two weeks just listening. And I am telling you she heard a lot. She didn’t respond, she didn’t argue, she didn’t laugh, she didn’t cry. She just listened. How quiet that must have been for her. But also sad for me, because in her quiet she didn’t give us any insight into the magical quiet place she was residing. I hope it is where she found some peace, I will personally never know.

I say this to you now. Implore you really. Please start listening. Start listening while you still have the chance to respond and react. Listen to all of the things and all of the people and all of the places that matter to you that are trying to tell you something. Put the phone down. Turn the TV off. Close the laptop. Put down the book. Stop the car. Take out the ear buds and listen. Honest to God wholeheartedly listen. Don’t tell me you can hear. Tell me you are listening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: