Confessions of a poor listener

"You're not a good listener." I was taking a walk with my college roommate when she spoke those words. Jen and I hadn’t been getting along, so we had carved out time to try to get to the bottom of some relational snags we had hit. In the middle of the conversation, she spoke these words. I'm not going to lie. I felt like I had been slapped across the face. I loved Jen. Did she really think I didn’t love her enough to listen to her? I stammered and reeled, wanting to defend myself. Once the initial shock wore off, I wanted to slink into the shadows. Her words shed an unwanted spotlight on a weakness of mine. The spotlight is an appropriate metaphor, I think. A natural entertainer, I subconsciously saw relationships as a mini-stage where the other person was my audience. I loved people but rather superficially. I wasn’t stopping to get to know them. I thought that charming them, and amusing them, was enough.


Jen was telling me that there had to be more. I had been ignoring her. It wasn’t just that she couldn’t get a word in edge-wise, though I am sure this was also the case; it’s that I wasn’t pausing long enough to see her at her core.

rock creek

It’s as if I had been taking a walk in Rock Creek park, and was so focused on my destination or listening to my ipod, that I was missing the smell of the pine trees, the scattered twigs, and the uneven rocky path. I wasn’t hearing or seeing Jen.

This might seem like an odd post for a blog focused on everything pertaining to health. However, awareness is a key element, as we grow in understanding in relationship with the broader world and ourselves. We need to hone our observation skills in all areas. It can begin with emotions. You might be feeling stressed or angry. Observe yourself, without judgement. Where did this feeling originate? Seek to understand yourself. It's a great first step in changing patterns. Take these observation skills to your relationship to food. Are you eating right now because you're hungry or is it a response to a situation in your life that has you worried?

Strong relationships are also critical for our well-being.  And as Jen was trying to tell me, they are a two-way street and require focus and intentionality. I’ve come to realize that listening to someone is not just about hitting “pause” on my end of the conversation (though there is that) but it’s about discovering the wonder of another person.

“It’s like people who are busy planning their vacation; they spend months planning it and they get to the spot and they’re all anxious about their reservations for flying back. But they’re taking pictures alright, and later they’ll show you pictures in an album of places they never saw, only photographed. That’s a symbol of modern life. I cannot warn you enough about this kind of asceticism. Slow down and taste and see and hear and let your senses come alive.”  ~ “Awareness: the perils and opportunities of reality” by Anthony de Mello

I’m still growing in my awareness, in observation, in listening---to my surroundings, to myself and to others. I’m not there, yet. But I’ve started the journey. Especially in relationships, I am working on focusing on people around me in a new way. I’m making efforts not to jump in to help them finish their sentences (as if I would know better than they what they were trying to communicate). I’m getting more comfortable with silence and pauses in the conversation. I’ve learned many a thing as I’ve truly grown in my ability to see and know others. Eye looking thorough magnifying glass

When Jen told me straight up that I was a poor listener, she gave me a gift, though I certainly didn’t see it that way at the time. “Better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy.”

As the new year kicks off, and we are all thinking about goals, resolutions and ways to      improve ourselves, let’s not miss nurturing our relationships. And a key way to do so is to learn to  listen.

How to keep the status quo in 2015 (an anti-resolution post)

Are you weary of inspirational posts on how to make new year's resolutions that'll stick? Does making a change in your life seem impossible or daunting? I've been there! Who am I kidding? I haven't just been there, I am there! Unhealthy habits can appear like immoveable mountains in our lives. And no nice, neat little checklist from a magazine can budge them. . sandy_1_dec31

Deep inside me, though, I long for a fresh start, a reboot. I think we all do.

So this little post offers some reverse psychology on this December 31st, in the hope that it will stir something inside us. Motivating us to do something, anything, that will help us grow and learn and move closer---even if it's just a tiny bit---to the people we were meant to be.


So, yeah, what's all the to-do about a new year? It's just another date on the calendar. There is no need to set goals or try to improve yourself. You're good enough. It's so much easier to coast. Stick with what you know and hold onto the status quo. No need to grow or learn something new. Here are tips for keeping things the same (or worse) for 2015.

1. Don't make any new year resolutions. They are a waste of time. You couldn't keep last year's or the previous year's or the year's before that, anyway. Quit trying. post-10593-Shoot-for-the-moon-Even-if-you-yTYH

 Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor of the 1800's, should have given up when as a young boy his teacher labeled him "addled." (I'm not exactly sure what that word means, but I'm pretty sure that it could be used to describe me, as well!) Later in his life, after inventing the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, and much more, he was dubbed a "genius." Same person, different label. The label didn't stop him, but it probably should have. (If it had, you might be reading this post by candlelight,                                                                         which is much more flattering, anyway.)

2. If it occurs to you that it's time to start some kind of exercise program, let the feeling pass. You'll forget about it once you binge-watch your favorite t.v. series on netflix. If it crosses your mind more than once, come up with a list of excuses for why you shouldn't begin it right away. Actually, forget the list altogether. One excuse is enough to stop you from trying. (And if the excuse is good enough, by the way, you can use it year after year, until your health deteriorates so, your poor health becomes your new excuse for not exercising!)

Just one more episode….

3. Don't add even a tiny bit of exercise or movement to your day. Studies show that even a minute of activity is enough to make a difference in your fitness level and overall health. So, take care not to do anything different at all. warning_exercise_has_been_known_to_cause_health_postcard-r1e2f6dc8add046b79cb63e2bbcecf7fd_vgbaq_8byvr_512Take the elevator, never the stairs. Don't squeeze in any extra movement if you can help it. The minute(s) you may have spent exercising are minutes you can use to check FB feeds, instagram, twitter and tumblr. And all with just a few clicks from your fingertips (which hardly counts as moving at all)!

4. Stay busy at work. Burn the candle at both ends. Allow no time for home-cooking, a full night's sleep, or exercise. People will notice you looking weary and pasty. That's great! Wear your busyness as a badge of honor. It will make you seem important.


5. Let your relationships suffer, as well. (See #4. It can naturally help with this.) Relationships take too much time. Plus, they're messy. You have to listen and care. Love is hard and hurts periodically. Better to stick to things that require less energy and effort. Use any spare time on "liking" posts and pics on social media, and on video games. Far more entertaining and less involved.

6. Neglect spirituality. Health is only about the physical. There's no need to cultivate a relationship with God or a community of faith. Be your own savior. You probably will struggle with that pesky matter of "sin." Just follow Adam and Eve's example and do your best to cover it up. adam and eve sin

Stress, anxiety, and guilt will be natural by-products of trying to manage life on your own, but that's okay. Don't worry about being worried. These are all normal consequences (even if they do shorten your life-span and make what life you do have less joyful).

7. Lastly (and related to #5), do not cultivate gratitude in your life. Keep thinking about how you deserve all that you have. And in all things, take the path of least resistance. Get comfortable---physically, spiritually and emotionally---and stay that way. Don't pay attention to others' needs, because if you do, you might feel inclined to act. Convince yourself that others should do that.

Are my hands giving or receiving?       Demanding or reaching out?


So, is 2015 going to bring more of the same? Or have I succeeded in jolting us into some action? Let me know your thoughts below. Any small step is better than none at all. And let's help each other out. Maybe one of the secrets of resolution-making and -keeping is doing so in community, rather than on our own!