perspective

We Interrupt This Program…

I had a conversation with a friend recently about active listening. I don’t remember how the topic came up, but I do know listening is a weakness for me. I am just bad at it. I find it very hard to focus at times. I have a restless mind. I can be easily distracted by the ping-ponging of things I want to check, need to do, or am just curious about. It’s a challenge for me to maintain eye contact and just focus on what other people are saying.

I’ve worked on this weakness several times in my adult life but eventually I stop paying attention. Well, this conversation with a friend brought it to the top of mind and I naturally started monitoring myself and how I behave in conversations.

Just in the first morning of paying attention I noticed that I interrupted people three different times. It happened twice at the gym and once at my job. This was in the span of a couple of hours.

First, at the gym, my coach was telling people something funny I said and I had to jump in and talk over her. Like she wasn’t saying it right, I guess. I don’t know.

Then at the end of class I wanted to give a friend something and they were in the middle of an informative conversation. So I stared at them and waited for them to stop talking so I could do what I needed to do. They did the right thing and ignored me so I just left pretty annoyed. Thinking back, what did I expect her to do?

Finally, the end of the school year takes interruptions to a whole new level. I don’t have a work partner to help manage them this year and my personal workload has increased as well. Time is always on my mind. I try to stay positive but I am sure people can read my frustrations in my body and voice. When colleagues take a long time to tell me what they want and I think I already know what they’re going to say, I jump in and finish their request for them.

Sigh. Here’s what I said to myself after this realization:

Seriously, what the heck?!?!? Interrupting over and over again? Geez. That’s pretty obnoxious.

It truly is. I know that I hate being interrupted and here I am doing it to people. And often.

It makes me think of the book I am currently reading, Ego is the Enemy. The need to jump in and tell my version of the story, add my details, tell someone what I need to say, or speed things up is ego jumping in. My time is more important. My version is better. My needs take priority. My life is always the breaking news. Me, me, me. What am I losing by not listening better? If I claim to care about others, listening is a big part of that.

It’s embarrassing to admit all of this but sharing it can start me on the path to improving it (again.)

awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

perspective

Flip Flopping Frustrations

This morning my frustrations were mounting.  The workouts I decided on weren’t what I expected.  My home gym equipment kept failing or falling over.  I wasn’t sweating enough.  The scale was up.  My morning reading time didn’t settle my mind as it usually does.  Another day of staring at a computer screen (aka working from home) was about to begin. Anger, irritation, all of it piling up, no end in sight.

Woe is me.

I had a come to Jesus with myself and told myself to quit griping.  Yes, a lot of the pandemic pandemonium sucks but we are making it work.  I told myself to make a list of my frustrations then flip them into reasons to be grateful.  Some remind me to be grateful for what I have now, others remind me to be grateful for what I used to have and will hopefully return to.  Here it is:

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It’s in the notebook I’ve set aside to chronicle this crazy time. I’ve read in several places that journaling, while always important, is especially valuable now, for mental health as well as historical reasons.  We are living history. I know I will add more pages of frustration as this time wears on.  I’ll keep reading it and reminding myself to flip my frustrations into appreciation.

Spring break begins today.  What would have been sweet relief and possibly getting out of town is not a shelter-in-place order that will last two weeks.  Our one week off of school will be followed by at least three more of learning from home.  I will spend time preparing my mind for these challenges this week.  I’ll also devote some time to gratitude to friends, family, and those who are serving on the front lines of this crisis.  And hopefully get out into the sunshine and nature often with those who are closest to me.

When you start to get stuck or go down the path of anxiety, see if you can flip your thinking.  Focus on gratitude and what you can control. What switch can you flip today?