I am in a very interesting bitter/sweet position right now. My work, this book that I’ve written, is, like a trickle of a river just being born, seeping away from Mill Valley. There are some parched people out there. People who wished they had it when. People who know someone who needs it now. People who are about to lose it all, and can’t imagine life on the other side. They tell me their stories. My very wise girlfriend tells me, “You’re allowing them to birth their grief.”
Yes. Airing out our grief is part of what we need to do. It’s as normal and healthy as filling our lungs with air to breathe. But oh, why is it so hard sometimes?
I am struck by how I am at the nexus of all this emotion, and yet I am a person who doesn’t exactly emote. And by that I don’t mean that I don’t feel, it’s just that I have a tight seal on that bubbling pot. Before I went into therapy after I was diagnosed, the volcano would erupt every so often, and I’d be shocked at what came out. Like who knew your throat could hurt so much with such a short yet vicious spitting of words? Or how your whole body gets involved when anger comes out. Sometimes, not every often at all, it was sadness and the relief from just letting it all go, and sobbing because that is exactly what every pore of your body longs to do. To expel. To empty. To let it all down.
I’ve written, because I’ve been asked, of what piece of advice I’d give friends of someone who is diagnosed. And I’ve cleverly said that even more than my book, the gift that every cancer patient (and in fact any human being in any situation good or bad) wants is for you to listen. Just listen.
People, it is hard to listen sometimes. It takes a certain amount of self control. You have to not interject what you want to say, and instead just receive what that person has to give. Sometimes it’s over in a minute. Other times, it will take half the night. Or 3 weeks. Or a year.
I’ve had a number of pretty heavy conversations as of late, spanning topics and situations. Because, that is life. It’s sticky and messy and oh, oh, oh so confusing sometimes. We all just want to live in peace, and that is true whether there is some foreign thing attacking us from the inside out, or a relationship that is just not firing on all cylinders like we wish it should, or a job that no matter how hard we try to make it work, it’s just not behaving. Children. Husbands. Health. Stuff.
I’d be lying if I said I am a good listener. I am a doer. I want to fix. And although I just spent all those words saying that one really must just listen, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that sometimes I have this need to wade into the deep end with people.
Because if all you’re doing is being a sounding board, and you maybe have something to say that might change things (even the tinest bit), maybe that interaction or interjection could be the tipping point for change. Because, you know, things do tip. It may be something you read that offers a different perspective. Or a comment from a friend that makes you ponder for a moment your position. Or a stranger. Maybe you’ve been teetering on a decision, and all you need is that featherlight tap to hurl you into an action that will change your life.
I just recently learned that the act of speaking raises our blood pressure from 10 to 50%. The act of listening? Lowers it. So with our overall health in mind, both physical and mental, here’s to listening to each other. What we fear. What we hope for. What we wish our life could be like.
Let’s listen anew.