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The Art of Listening.

I entered the threshold of this brand new year and felt it bash me over the head with a mighty dose of grief, anger, frustration and sadness.  I was caught off guard, but as is the way with emotions they are not polite or concerned about whether we are ready for them. And so I allowed them to stretch out and take up space within me. 

I am still feeling the pinpricks of the ‘mother wound’ etching tiny holes into my emotional panorama. At times it left me feeling hopeless, grief-stricken and bone-weary.  Most of us struggle or have struggled with the ‘mother wound’ which I’d like to talk about more fully in my next post.  But for the time being I’d like to express how that has manifested in my interactions with other females.

Late last year I had been thinking so much about the historical, emotional and spiritual evolution of women.  I was so empowered and proud that women everywhere were speaking up about their subsequent mistreatment and what an amazing thing this was to witness.  It got me thinking about equality and more pertinently equality in our own personal lives. Are our relationships equal?  Is there an equal amount of reciprocity?  Do we have the right to ask for more for ourselves?   Equality always starts within.

There is an extraordinarily gifted healer I work with regularly and on our last session he proclaimed to me that I didn’t have the right friends in my life and that it was 80% about them and 20% about me. I actually laughed out loud like he was relaying to me a funny Greek Tragedy but then I remembered that I was the main actor!  ‘Hmm’, he said, ‘but that will change, it’s related to your mother, they will leave and the right ones will come’.  He said it all so matter of fact. Bish, bash, bosh! His words have reverberated sonically around my head for the last eight months.

Of course it’s not funny at all, it’s actually one of the last remaining ‘wounds’ I’ve yet to successfully heal fully. But for the most part he was right and it’s always been that way for me, ever since I can remember and of course the core of this issue relates directly back to my mother. I’ve always felt like a starved, anorexic woman when it comes to reciprocation of support. Apart from with my partner I’ve never really been allowed to fully take up space in interactions on an on-going basis.  Since my early adolescence I always did the running in friendships.  It became exhausting always chasing people, always having to make the effort, always being the one to do all the legwork.  Always hoping that if they hadn’t heard from me in a while that they would be the ones to check in to see how I was but they never did. It seemed like I was on a marathon hoping I would win the race but I never did.

The constant effort on my part was disabling and I was left to wonder ‘what was I doing wrong?’  Of course I now know that I didn’t do anything wrong but I did have a pattern set up within me that I was to consistently be abandoned and disregarded by other females and so it continued, always making the effort for people’s Birthdays and at Christmas and special events and when it came to me – the broken promises, the disappointments – I was always lucky if anyone remembered or even bothered with my birthday, let alone any other significant times.  And this has more or less continued in varying shapes and forms. 

The open page for me is the one space I can be myself, where I am not interrupted or someone is not immediately bashing me over the head with their own story before I’ve even got two sentences out.  A lot of people become writers to inspire and inform others but also as a way to allow themselves to be heard.  To allow themselves to take up space that might not be available for them in their lives or in the world at large.

It has always felt like my whole life was shaped to just be an open space for others to drop into whenever it suited them – or whenever they needed something from me.  And when I did state my need for equal rights, for some degree of equality, the amount of times I’ve been called over-sensitive, insecure or too picky are too numerous to mention.  It was as if I existed for them but that I was also non-existent with no right to my own needs.  It always felt as if they resented that I was asking them to step up, trying to make me feel guilty or wrong that goddess forbid I was I asking that they be there for me when I needed it. But that was okay because they got what they wanted and I was left to wander around my own emotional attic cutting myself on every sharp object within reach.

So of course over the years this translated within me that perhaps they were right that I had no right to having my own needs met. That I should just get on with it and be grateful for any scraps and so I swallowed this truth for years. Even though I spent years listening to their needs and listening endlessly to their insecurities, pickiness and over-sensitivity. I remember a friend years ago bemoaning to me for about 20 minutes how sad and upsetting it made her when friends forgot or made little or no effort for her birthday and on and on she went and I wholeheartedly agreed with her.  This would have all been fine and dandy, were it not for the fact that this friend in question could never ever remember my birthday. The irony!  I think at the time I was too shocked at her complete lack of awareness to even muster anything in retort. 

Birthdays are always an emotional time for me – not in a negative way – but it’s a time when I can stare myself square in the face and say “Wow you made it, you are still here what a gift that is”. I want to proclaim it loudly to the people in my life.  Most people love being made a fuss of on their birthdays, and even the ones who say they hate their birthday – which is usually their fear of getting older – secretly love being acknowledged.  After all it’s a celebration of life, of our lives.  For me, most people don’t get what it’s taken for me to get here.  I was a mistake, created from a disastrous, abusive, dismissive relationship.  I was not supposed to be here, I wasn’t wanted.  I almost died when I was born.  I was choking to death.  I also had two dislocated hips a result of the aggressive use of forceps which damaged both my hips and gave me severe dents in my skull.  So had it not of been for my grandmother (who had the wherewithal to firstly notice that something was wrong and then secondly to proceed to stretch, yank and adjust my hips back into place with an intuitive precision) I would have been disabled, because not one of the hospital staff noticed my predicament.  I then spent most of my life trying to run from trauma by drinking, taking more drugs and mixtures of drugs than anyone I knew and stretching the boundaries of life and death constantly.  I surmised that I would never make it to 30. I didn’t want to.  I flirted with death for most of my life, actively pursuing it and even making attempts to nudge it along.  But thankfully I am still here and for that I want to celebrate and feel that people in my life should want to do that with me. I’m in their lives because I had the courage of a warrior to meet the face of death and decide to choose life. I always feel upset when people don’t get that, instead only choosing to see the things I can do for them to enhance their lives.

I’ve met some amazing people over the years but I’ve never really had amazing friendships, not ones that were consistent anyway. Ultimately though I believe it’s the energies running within me that are spiraling out like a giant photocopier giving me the mirror of what I believe I deserve, which obviously has been ‘not very much at all’.  I often feel the constant craving for more depth and sustenance and I realise for some that’s just not possible.  They haven’t scoured the depths of their own being.  I know people are just doing the best they can with the given circumstances. People can only give to you to the degree that their own hearts are open. But does that mean we shouldn’t evaluate the quality and equality in our interactions?  To love ourselves enough to know we deserve to be valued and honoured as an important part of someone’s life. 

How many of us are going through the motions in relationships, friendships, interactions, feeling disappointed, frustrated and empty? I’ve had these conversations many times with friends and associates in my life and each person will relay to me stories, instances and ongoing circumstances where they themselves feel let down or frustrated with other peoples lack of thoughtfulness or lack of acknowledgment.  So I know it’s affecting many of us. There is this disconnect all around us when our natural proclivity is to connect.

So why do we put up with it? As women we have been drip-fed to just allow scraps. Women have swallowed this for years, just accept the crud and crumbs in life, be grateful for any small thing you can get. It’s unrealistic to expect more.   And yes there is a lot to be said about gratitude but what happens when you actually realise that you deserve a lot more than you are getting? 

It all boils down to believing we deserve it.

My mother has disregarded, ignored and scorned my feelings, thoughts and emotional depths for the entirety of our relationship, constantly attempting to make me feel guilty for being ‘a feeling being’.  So it’s no wonder I could never believe that other women would honour and value me. So I took matters into my own hands, learning to honour and value myself and as it stands today I’m at the juncture of acceptance and non-acceptance. I can accept when people are genuinely trying their best but I don’t need to accept when people are selfish or just take me for granted.  The marker for me is how I feel after spending time with someone. Do I constantly feel drained?  Or even if I have only got to reveal 20% of me, am I okay with that?  Sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not. It depends on who the person is.

I hear you but are you listening?

How many faux friendships are people having in the modern world?  Social media can be a minefield of pretentiousness and superficiality. We actually forget what real relationships look and feel like.  How many of us are pretending to ourselves that people care for us, yet we bemoan constantly about others not being there for us – yet still we tell ourselves it’s better than nothing.  Rather than having no one we would rather have anyone.  Even if that anyone is as emotionally available as a dishrag!  Women have been doing this for years in their romantic relationships and it’s the exactly the same with friendships.

I’ve always said the greatest gift anyone can ever give me is to listen – I mean really listen – not this pretend listening, where they just hear your words and then rush onto the next subject immediately after or bring it back around to themselves in some form.  My mother always spoiled me with physical gifts in an attempt to control me and buy my love.  She was always generous with money and present buying but I would have swapped all those gifts in a heartbeat for her to just simply listen to me, to give me space to talk and breathe and reflect back to me. This is worth all the money and presents in the world.

Sometimes in our modern world, listening feels like a dying art form.  Modern day communication is about short, snappy sharing – you share, I share and then we move on.  This is not listening – you might have heard the words but hearing and listening are two completely different things.  Listening requires space.  It requires that there is an open door to walk through and amble around and stretch the edges of who you think you are to meet the edges of who you know you can be.

It’s not very popular this kind of listening, because it takes skill – a considerable amount of skill. And it requires us to learn this. Most people haven’t the time or the inclination for this. But if it’s deeply sustaining and nurturing relationships – romantically or friendship wise – we seek then we must all put the time in.

When another is talking are you running a commentary in your own head about what you want to say to fix them?  Even if it’s done with a kind heart of wanting to help the other person it’s not really listening, it’s hearing them but you have covered over the nuances without realising. In a way it’s still about them and not about you. I personally don’t want solutions or fixing unless I have directly asked for someone’s opinion. Or are you thinking about what you want to say, or about your own experiences or story, whilst the other person is talking?  If you want to learn to really listen then the nuances are in the spaces between words, the energy behind the words, the body language, the tone of the words.  Can you be fully present with the other person?  Can you relax into the energy that the other person is emitting, even if it’s uncomfortable for you?  Or are you on a sprint to the finish line?

In a modern world where everyone is jostling to be heard and acknowledged, it’s usually Bam! Bam! Bam! from one story to another without any space in between.  No time to draw breath, no time to digest what the other is saying and another underrated skill of listening is reflecting back to someone pertinent moments that you witnessed, about them and not what it brings up for you. Let it be about them, time can always be created for saying what their words brought up for you, or any shared experiences. We can have a similar issue but no two people will feel exactly the same.   Reflecting back to someone is one of the most powerful and important parts of communication.  Sometimes even just a simple “I really hear you” said with love, can make all the difference.  I often feel people are bewildered, flustered or uneasy when I tell them my back story – where appropriate – or I talk about some of the ways I am healing myself. I think they misinterpret that I am looking for sympathy or a “good for you” pat on the back.  I’m not looking for either of these, but yes I am looking to be seen and witnessed. I can sense the discomfort which then in turn makes me feel uncomfortable and then immediately it’s about the other person again. I think so many people haven’t dealt with their own pain, they are so busy pushing it away or pushing it down into the depths of the basement that to hear or really listen to anothers pain is a source of anxiety or discomfort for them.

I feel like in way I was forced to learn to listen, I didn’t have a choice.  However, it did always come naturally to me but it wasn’t always welcome.  Others constantly told me things – long, long stories about themselves and their lives and I could always sense the gaps between and around the words that they spoke.  If their words interacted with their heart energy and sensing whether they were speaking from the heart or the head.  Most of the time people never really say what they mean.  They will tell you about a story or an experience and within the jumble of words they are really screaming “I am fucking hurt do you hear me?” Why don’t we all just say that? We need to own our pain before we can let it go, instead of relaying a story and then ending it with “but it’s all good” or some other pointless act of disregard. Because how can it all be good? If so, you wouldn’t be taking the time to tell me this.

For me, meditation and silence are very beneficial but I can also find myself and my way out of any perceived maze I’m in through talking. By just being allowed to talk without any interruptions. Because I am a loquacious person by nature but often forced to just be a pair of ears or use my voice to comment only on the concerns of others, I feel my voice has been silenced over the years.  It has never been allowed its full extension.  I have felt that my own physical voice has been papered over and when I do use it it’s usually to offer someone guidance, support, or nuggets of wisdom. It’s often only fully let out of its cage when I am with my partner, he is utterly magical in his commitment to allow me to ‘be heard’ and for my voice to be witnessed. He will let me meander, roam and often ramble away until I find that piece of white gold I am looking for.  It’s always like a healing experience to be allowed space to roam in. I have had so many ‘Aha!’ moments in this open space, so many discoveries about who I am in this golden silence that he provides.  Sometimes I’ve talked in circles and been blundering through sentences, but then the energy shifted and I knew exactly what I needed to do, everything suddenly became crystal clear. The open space was my guide.

It takes long hours of listening and sometimes years of listening to really ‘understand’ and ‘get someone’. People think they know you when in actual fact they don’t, their opinion is based on their perception of you which is understandable when so much remains unsaid, when people rush on with the urgency of one story after another without any bus stops in between and then what usually happens is the words eventually slam into one another causing a head-on collision.  Getting to know someone is a delicate dance of unraveling.  It takes time, effort and commitment and often with a truck load of tea and cake involved!

Hearing and listening have become my most over-used muscles.  If I were a body builder I would have rock hard biceps with severe lactic acid build-up and be incapable of lifting another weight ever!  And sometimes even with the best will in the world I think “Oh god, here we go again, another listening session where I will have to listen more than I talk”. I leave the so called ‘therapy session’ and whilst they are flying I’m left feeling drained and exhausted. I don’t want to do that anymore.  I am a person who has so much to say and not just by simply reciprocating on someone else’s issue. I am tired of living a muted life.  It’s just too much to bear any longer. I need to express myself – it’s a pre-requisite.

I also acknowledge that perhaps others might find it hard to give to me because they think I don’t need anything or that I’m a one-woman show. I’m not.  But I am an only child, forced to be a loner for endless years who had to deal with everything herself. I never had the luxury of support, so often I don’t let others in, not because I don’t want to but because it’s my default setting, or I doubt they can really listen to me or the pain I share.  That, coupled with being knocked sideways over and over again by the weight of others expectations and the intensity of their problems, makes me feel that I’m probably not as effusive about any struggles vocally as I would like to be. I’ve been burned so many times when I’ve revealed aspects of myself and my life only to be disregarded or abandoned. I tend to shut down when I know there is not the space for me to be heard, when there is not the equality I seek. Sometimes I need coaxing out of that space, that I need to know it’s safe to reveal and obviously that requires awareness on the other persons part. I always deeply appreciate when people try to get to know me and try to give me what I need. This always means a lot to me.

I often find it interesting that if I’m angry or in a bad mood or I have some issue I’m dealing with friends will avoid me like the plague instead of doing what I would do and say “Are you ok, you don’t seem to be yourself today, what’s up?”   Sometimes I need to be drawn out with questions.  I really love people I know to genuinely ask me questions – questions about my life and myself. It doesn’t even have to be that deep – sometimes even the basics will suffice as long as it’s natural and not forced.  I’ve always taken an interest in the details of other people’s lives but it’s not always been reciprocated.  Maybe people feel it’s prying, but if you are asking them questions surely it should be an open invitation that they can do the same to you? It seems obvious to me.

I’ve always found that people have a vested interest in me continually being a beacon of light, or an inspiration to them.  But if I’m not my absolute best self then it’s of no interest to them – they feed off the light I offer like vampires and if my light is lying in the shade for that day then my role is defunct, they don’t want to hear if I’m having a bad day or I’m going through something.  But I don’t have to engage in that energy any longer. 

I have decided this year to give myself the equality I seek. Every day without fail, especially the times when I feel lonely or abandoned, I try to check in immediately, offering myself kind words and affirming to my inner child that I hear her, that I’m listening to her and that I will never abandon her like my mother has done to me.  I tell her over and over again that I will never leave her and I will always support her.  Forming a relationship with this vulnerable part is so important.  It’s the groundwork for healing the ‘mother wound’.

My wild woman within no longer has any interest in being ‘perpetually domesticated’ or being seen as the sweet, good girl anymore. Or being seen as the gentle healer.  I have gentleness but I also have fire, a mountain of volcanic fire that I would like to use to cut through bullshit and fakeness, to use to create the life I want and impact the world for the greater good.  I’ve spent my whole life doing things I don’t want to do, for others who don’t give me the appreciation or reciprocation I deserve.  It’s just not something I am prepared to do anymore. I am tired to the bone.

Maybe people will think I’ve become hard or call me harsh but that’s okay, I don’t need to please anymore. I am sure in time I will find balance in my sweetness and my fierceness.  Why can’t I be fiercely sweet? My free time is the most precious, abundant commodity I have, I want to use it wisely and only with people and experiences that I have 50-50 equality with – not an 80-20 discrepancy. If I want to support someone I will, but only because it comes from a full heart. This is something I think every over-giver must learn. Giving because we feel we have to is a no-win situation for anyone involved. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or guilty for wanting more and for not having the energy to tolerate lack of depth or fakeness any longer. Part of healing the mother wound for many women is no longer feeling guilt for wanting more in their lives and refusing to stay small in order to be loved and accepted.

Giving back to myself is the only way I know I can create the energy of abundance in my own life that I feel I deserve. I need to take up space in my own world first and then it will follow through to everything else.  This ‘mother-wound’ will fully close in time and it’s usually when one has completely let go of needing something that it’s then free to enter our lives in a beautiful, unbroken line of energy. Any wound we still have is an opportunity to heal to become whole again and ultimately this is a gift.

So whether this healer was a 100% correct and people will leave my life for new ones to enter, or whether he was incorrect – I’m ready either way. I have so much to give, and to give to the right people in my personal life is an honour and a blessing.  I have so much I want to offer the world but it always has to start in our own circles before we can have the sustainability to give consistently in the outer world.  We need those allies, those friends and especially those sisters that we find and gather around us who know our strengths and our weaknesses and love us anyway, providing a safe haven where we can grow and flourish from.  I wish that for all of us, not just myself.

 Equality begins within before it can spread throughout the world.  Check me out on Instagram.

This post first appeared on LunaBellaRoses, please read the originial post: here

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The Art of Listening.


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