According to my mom, I began to talk when I was 9 months old and never stopped. Even as a child, I never knew a stranger, talking to anyone and everyone, feeling that I was always among friends. I still love engaging in conversation and at times, I get so excited to share that I burst with all that comes up, interrupting others to say what I need to say. This passion for talk and love of connecting with others is what inspires my work as a speaker, writer and coach where I get to share healing stories that have touched my heart. But the power of listening, being fully present is equally as essential.
Lois, who is 85 years old, is one of my youngest friends in her incessant pursuit to explore, live in wonder and stay open to life. Like me, she loves interesting chitchat but she has also perfected the art of listening. A rare bird, she listens to not only what is said but what is not and asks questions that seem to rise from another dimension, bringing through new ideas and thoughts that leave me in awe.
Shortly after my husband, John, died Lois and I met for lunch. She greeted me with a hug and we sat down. Sitting across from me, she took my hand and said, “Tell me about it, Dearie.” In all the exchanges that I had had at the funeral services with family, friends and strangers, no one ever asked me to tell them about my experience.
There were “pep talks” where well-intended friends, family and strangers told me in their cheeriest voices and with much conviction that I was going to be okay and how strong of a woman I am and explained how all the adversity I had faced in the past would lead me through this too. I wanted to jump through the phone and the email and choke them. I wanted to physically lay my hands on them as the anger and rage over this great tragedy bubbled up exploding like hot lava. I screamed out curse words that echoed in the silence of my empty home, telling them off and explaining with heat the difference between adversity and heartbreak. These outbursts actually relieved the pain of the multitude of feelings within me that I couldn’t language and didn’t know what to do with.
Being with Lois, safely in her genuine care as she held space for whatever I wanted to say taught me the power of presence. She didn’t just listen politely. She sat with me fully in the moment: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. She didn’t try to fix me or advise me. There was no agenda or expectation. She simply let me tell her about it. She let my truth stand on its own. My pain didn’t scare her. She graciously welcomed it all and contained it for me.
This experience has led me to invite others to “Tell me about it.” Assuming that we already know something or that we understand because we have had similar losses or trials doesn’t allow for the miracle of presence and the emergence of truth. The best gift we can give another is our self, wholly. Healing happens when we sit open-hearted and open-minded with another human being.
Meditation: Reflect on a healing moment in your life and what it taught you.
Action: Practice presence: sit with a friend and be present with all of yourself. Observe yourself wanting to fix, to advise and watch your discomfort come and go.