At the onset of my Very Social Weekend, I stopped my world for a moment and made myself promise to be quiet and listen to all that was going on around me as I was living the weekend. I did not want to wake up with a verbal hangover after it was all over. I wanted to hear the voices of others.
It was an easy promise to keep. For the most part, there was a minimum of a 'party of four'. Four is a good number. I think it is my favorite. There is plenty of room for everyone to speak and lots of space left over to sit back and absorb. And listen.
I heard so very much as I opened my ears and shut my mouth.
My conscience speaks loudly to me when I am quiet. I sat back and listened to words that had nothing to do with me directly, but were exactly what I needed to hear.
Sometimes when you wiggle and squirm and feel uncomfortable, you know that you are hearing 'a truth'. As a rule, I hear these things and an internal conversation takes place where I berate myself and 'beat myself up'. This weekend, I felt that familiar feeling but I talked myself down.
The conversation within my head went something like this:
"Yes, you are hearing the truth. Yes, you are guilty of doing this." But then, the other side of my brain consciously thought the words "This is your conscience speaking. If what you are hearing is true, change it!"
When I listen to people speak and tell their story or the story of another, I subconsciously slip myself into their shoes. How does it feel? Why do they feel this way? How would I feel if I walked around in these shoes for a lifetime?
A person simply does not know how another person is feeling, what motivates them, what touches them and what life experiences have guided them to where they are and what they did.
When I listen to the stories of people who act in unkind and unjust ways, I tend to question why they act this way. I only know life from the experiences that I have lived so I don't know too much. In my own personal experience, I know that I want to be liked and accepted for who I am. I live in a 'bubble wrapped' world which is safe and kind so my experiences and reactions come from this place of security. When I hear the stories of others who act defensively or hatefully I wonder if that comes from being raised in a place that is not safe. A place where you have no one to fight your battles, so you come up fighting and see who is left after the fact. I try very hard not to judge what I do not know. But what do I know? When I hear these stories second, third and fourth hand, I have not been the one who has been directly 'hit' so I have the luxury of stepping back and wondering.
I listen to stories of loss and try as I might, I do not have any idea what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone who has faced devastating losses. I can only guess and wonder and listen. The writing that I have been drawn to lately has been about living after loss. I am gaining empathy by reading the honest and brutal words of people who have faced unimaginable losses. I believe that this has helped me gain a perspective that I wouldn't have otherwise. So I just keep listening. I love listening to the stories that people tell about a loved one who is no longer here to tell their own stories. It is music to my ears.
The long and winding road of living life is not a straight and narrow path. It is a road filled with potholes, detours and dead ends. It is a steep and slippery slope at times. It is a roller coaster ride filled with thrills, chills and unexpected turns.
I sat back and listened a lot this past weekend. I heard so very, very much. I hope that memories of these days-well-spent come back to me when I need them the most. I hope that everyone who was a part of the memories feels exactly the same way.
As I try to tell the story of my dad's family, I am not only collecting memories. I am trying very hard to put it all into perspective and tell the story from a wide angle lens on one hand, yet up close and personal on another. It is a little bit like the weekend that I just lived. I stepped back and listened. I sat still and absorbed. And I hope when the stories come off of my tongue, they do the memory justice. That is exactly what I hope for with my Book Project.