I sit here, tea cup to my side; half full with tea which has steeped for too long and become tainted with bitterness. The house, quiet, other than the near silent whirring of the fan and humming of the computer.
Children tucked in and kissed and brought water, nightlight turned on and off and on again and chilly toes tucked in once more, finally, settled and still and breathing the sweet deep sighs of sleep.
I sit here to write, but a phrase cycles through my head: “listen instead”.
I close my eyes. The typing ceases. Breath becomes quiet and small. And I listen.
I am not trying to hear anything specific.
I simply listen.
If only more often, I would listen to listen, rather than to reply, perhaps my relationships would grow deeper and my understanding of others richer and the words they have to offer more valuable.
What if when my child is going on and on and on, and I really just want to quickly respond, because there are so many things I am trying to do…what if I actually stopped and fully listened? Not just so I can reply with affirmation, laughter, or correction, but so I can understand this growing and developing young person. And what if this became more of a practice in my every day life and encounters with others?
I feel an enormous amount of gratitude for people in my life and the diversity of perspectives and stories each has enriched my life with; a kaleidoscope of color. Yet there are many colors I have not even begun to imagine, for even the ones I think up and have caught vague glimpses of, I have not come close enough to understand all the depth and shades and value.
I read a book earlier this year about the Amish culture, specifically about the way their children are raised, but one part of their culture or common behavior which left an imprint on my mind was the way in which they listened and responded to one another. The writer referred to it as the “amish pause”, because every time someone spoke, there would be an uncomfortable (to our outsider ears) pause in the conversation as everyone in the room reflected on what was said and took their time before replying. This allows them to focus simply on listening while the other is talking, and put their attention on their response after they have listened fully and clearly.
In a world where everything is so instant and we begin to worry when someone hasn’t texted us back or replied to an email within a day, I truly believe there is so much value in this waiting that we have lost. So often we can feel undervalued when someone does not respond to us almost immediately. What if taking a little longer to reply was actually a gesture of respect, rather than the other way around?
This is just a small thought on a quiet night, but when I am gearing up to respond, I hope I will more often choose to listen instead.