Listen

Day two of my Staycation had me exploring Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. When I was in my 20’s, I worked and played in Old Strathcona. It still is a place that I love to explore but I don’t get here very often anymore because to unwind I tend to head into the forest. It energizes me. Occasionally I need to be around people and that’s when I grab a friend or famjam member and head to Whyte Ave.

We popped into shops, bought books from Wee Book Inn and a tiny plant from The Little Plant Shop. We ate the best ice cream on the planet at Made By Marcus, saw cool and interesting things at the Plaid Giraffe and headed towards Chapters before it leaves the neighbourhood.

Along the way we spotted this sign:

IMG_3928

I was intrigued.

There were two people, one male and one female, sitting back to back with chairs in front of them. The female had a gentleman sitting in her chair and he was talking to her. Her partner looked at me and offered me a chair. Not one to miss an opportunity to try something new, I sat opposite him. He began to explain that he was there to listen to anything I had to say. He promised a safe environment where no one would know what we talked about unless I confessed a murder or something else that was criminal because he would have to report that. But other than that he encouraged me to talk to him about anything. My companion stood beside me and I asked them to leave because I wanted some private time with the listening man.

I looked into his eyes and felt compassion. He smiled and asked me what I wanted to talk about. So I began to tell him how angry and hurt I was over a situation I have been living with and I didn’t know what to do with the feelings. He asked questions that made me think and draw out the conversation. For the first time in a long while, I felt like someone was invested and interested in what I had to say. But me being me, I quickly turned the tables and began asking him questions about why he was doing this and to tell me his story because I am also a listener. He began telling me his story and then as if he could hear the sound of a needle scratching a record, he said “Whoa whoa whoa…You are supposed to be talking and I am the listener.”

I smiled because I am good at gaining other people’s confidences and getting them to talk about themselves. I explained, “This is what I do. I get people to talk so I don’t have to talk about myself.”

Listener: Why do you think that is?

Me: Easy question, it keeps me safe.

We continued the conversation and he had me thinking about my role in my relationships. It takes two to have a conversation. Equal parts sharing and equal parts listening. I do feel as if I trusted the wrong people and maybe that shouldn’t stop me from trusting completely. Not everyone can be who I need them to be, but I do need to accept who they are. I often feel like I take things too seriously when I should be practicing the social norm of How are you, I am fine type of conversation. But I detest small talk. I’d rather jump right into the conversation. I test people to see if they are loyal, trustworthy and kind. When they blow me off, I get my answer. I haven’t found the loyalty I am looking for. With people I am close with, I haven’t shared enough.

I do know far more about other people than they know about me. Listening man gave me lots to think about by just listening and asking the right kind of questions. I briefly fell in love with him while he listened and asked questions for clarity. It was a wonderful feeling to have someone be that …I don’t know the word….intense? Kind? Involved? Interested? Compassionate? Caring?

Me:  I am grateful you invited me to sit.

Listener: I am grateful you sat. I get as much from this as you do. Now, let’s circle back to your original story about your hurt and anger over that friend. What is it that you really want from them?

Me: <I thought about this for a minute or two.> I want them to say what they mean, be truthful and honest so it shows respect for me and my time. Show me that I am as important to them as they are to me. But what I really want is for everything to be different and that isn’t going to happen. I cannot change the past and turn it into something that never happened.

Me: I really appreciated this.

I reached in my purse and he was worried I was going to give him money.

Listener: NO NO NO, keep your money.

Me: Can I take a photo of your sign?

Him: Absolutely.

We shook hands and I stood to leave but I wanted to hug him. I thought about taking his photo but I knew his face would be etched into my memory forever. He was the kindest man, the type you suspect was an angel that came to chat with me because I needed it and he likely doesn’t exist in this realm.

I thought a lot about what he had to say and how he made me feel. I think that is the important part. He listened hard enough so I knew he cared and that made me feel special. I have been thinking about our conversation since.

As you go about your day or your week or the rest of the year when someone talks to you maybe you should listen. I mean really listen.

  1. Ask them questions so you can gain clarity. This helps them think you are interested.
  2. Don’t offer solutions, they just want an ear. If they want your opinion they will ask for it.
  3. Look them in the eye or gaze on their face. Check to see what they are looking at.
  4. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you. It’s about them and how they feel. They aren’t thinking about you at that moment.

I haven’t been a good listener or a good friend lately. Listening isn’t as easy as you might think. But when you find that friend who is really good at it, hang onto them. They are a keeper.

 

Then They Came for Me

Listening to everyone, you would think the world is on fire.

It is not and we are all going to be okay.

I was listening to a Scott Hamilton video this morning. He is facing his 3rd regrowth of a Brain Tumour. Do you know what he said?

“You set the tone.”

Every now and then I hear words that knock me off my feet. This was one of them. Recently – well since January –  I gave up behaviours because I lost track of my direction, sense of self and most importantly, my values.

Values encompass who I am. When I participate in activities that stray from my values I feel lost.

I value kindness. This means finding humour in someone’s misfortune is not kind. I had friends  people I knew where this was their hourly fun. I didn’t agree with it but I passively stood by. I have deep regret over this.

There is a meme traveling around the inter webs  about passively standing by.

6555364fec29caa7

This is very relevant today because of the hate being spewed by people. This isn’t new, we experience this in every decade, genocide to cleanse the earth and create superior beings.

I can absolutely relate. I stood passively by and January 16, 2016 they came for me. Granted it wasn’t a world-wide catastrophe. But I do believe the world relies on individuals standing up for right. I failed to do that for for 2 years. I stood passively by and then they turned on me.

I think this is why Scott Hamilton’s words ring so powerfully to me.

“You set the tone.”

Yes I do. I used to long before then and for some reason I did not. But this too is a learning lesson. I learned what happens when you dangerously think, not me.

My entire life I was taught to champion the underdog. It does not make you popular and perhaps that is what I wanted to experience. I wanted to know what that felt light. All I can say is for me it felt like a lie. It was stressful and hurtful and it removed me from my values.

I was 9 when the doorbell rang. A girl I didn’t know very well was standing at the door and wanted to hang out. By being her friend I knew I would give myself the reputation of undesirable. There was nothing wrong with her, but this is how the kids at school marginalized her. I turned her away. My dad called me over to him and gave me a powerful lesson in empathy. How do I think she feels right at this moment? How would you feel? What could you have done to improve this situation?

I put my shoes on and went after her. All I could do was apologize and invite her back.

She did the right thing and threw it back into my face. I deserved that and it stuck with me. It was one of my greatest learning lessons. I went back to my dad and he said, “Well, what did you think would happen?” I thought an apology would fix everything. I  learned that day it does not. That was the second greatest learning lesson of my life.

I eventually learned to balance the need for empathy and kindness between others and myself. It is easy to lose yourself. It is just as important to be kind to yourself as it is to be kind to others. I can forgive others but have a harder time forgiving myself. My passive behaviour of not standing up against bullies over the past two years taught me many things.

The most important thing it taught me was be yourself. Listen to that inner voice and follow that inner compass. It lets you know who you can trust and who you can’t. It tells you to stand up for those who don’t have a voice.

I am now that person who annoys people because I speak up when tears are streaming down the faces of others. I say things that are not popular but defend the weak and vulnerable. I cannot change the World but I can change my corner and in the end, that is all I need because that is where I live. I have lost friends people but I only want to be around people who are nice, kind, compassionate and empathetic. I encounter enough people who are not and don’t need that during my personal time.

You set the tone.

 

With Great Failure comes Great Learning

Bansky-Flower-Brick-Thrower.

I am ready to say good-bye to 2014. It has been not as difficult as I think it was but it has been challenging both physically and emotionaly. I have not been able to finish any race healthy. Not one, not even a 5km distance. This frustrates me beyond words and I have learned more about self-love, self-kindness and patience in a single year than I have learned over my lifetime.

Rise-of-Banksy

Emotionally it was strange not to have to juggle school and life. But I learned about work and life in ways that I had never experienced before. My new job taught me more about empathy and compassion than one might think…especially since I was a teacher of young children with special needs and circumstances that was unbelievable to most – yet all true. The job I have now is not my ‘dream job’ because I have no idea what that means anymore. I like lots of thing about it, hate lots of things about it, but mostly it keeps me busy, validates that I am great at some things and not so great at others and work for a gentleman who in all respects has taught me more about empathy, compassion and self then any other human I have worked for.

banksy-la

I have worked for some people who were just mean, some who worried endlessly over what others thought of them, they failed to do the right thing, some who were ambivalent and some whose values clashed with mine so severely…I had to leave.

5389066712_63fcb7c8a1_z

Values are important to me. I have learned that compromising values means compromising self. I am worth too much to compromise self. I no longer struggle with what others think or assume. I could honestly care less – unless that person is someone I value. Then I step back and examine my actions.

I failed at that this year.

Skurktur-5

I stumbled upon the artwork of Banksy today and his urban art made me really think about my humanity in ways I haven’t explored before. I discovered that I’d rather be the kind human rather than the judgmental busybody. Flipping through Banksy’s art had me thinking about my dad and how he always said, “It never hurts to be kind and polite. You don’t have to agree with people, but kindness goes a long way.”

14-window-lovers

I discovered a truth this year that shook me to my core. I felt like a fool, I couldn’t believe the impact of the findings could devastate me the way they did. Over a period of many years I thought “IT” was true only to discover that I was duped. Had I know about ‘IT’ when it happened, my life would be very different today. I feel like I wasted so much of my life…if only I had known. If only….

So that left me with some choices. I immediately was angry, hurt and judgemental. When I think about it still, I get very angry. Letting it go has been incredibly difficult. One side of the story was easier for me to be empathetic towards than the other. But when I examined both very carefully, I realized I understood the why and was able to let the anger go and morph it into something akin to pity. How much easier it would have been to know the truth right from the beginning. Clearly this was Karma teaching me a life lesson.

banksy-lies-politics

I have distance myself from the incident. It clashes with values I have and if others don’t share them, then perhaps they weren’t the friends I first thought they were. I have worked hard at not judging. HARD. I never want to be that bitter old woman clicking her teeth because I have judged.

Because I like the human compassionate side of me more than the angry mean side of me, I reached out to one of those friends today.

images-2

I want her to know I understand her loneliness, I understand her need to feel desired and wanted. I understand her not feeling important. I also want her to know, she can do better. There are things she can do to change her life. She isn’t stuck where she is. The choices she made will not rescue her. He isn’t real. That is the fake him and he can’t be trusted.

I suppose that is why it hurt so much. I know the fake him and I guess don’t know the real him.

I learned a very hard lesson a few years ago about honesty and empathy. Empathy is the key. Putting yourself in other’s shoes becomes an impactful reason for honesty IF THESE PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU.

If they aren’t then the questions remain: Why do you stay? Why is everything a secret and for crying out loud, why are you lying?

The answer is simple.

You are afraid of hurting. You may be afraid of hurting yourself or the other person, but either way it makes you scared.

Simple truth.

If it has to be a secret, it is hurting someone.

As difficult as this year has been, my grinchy heart grew three sizes this year.

And what happened then–well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.
And then the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches–plus two.

grinch_heart_grew_two_sizes_tshirt

The Gun Man

I have been reading a lot of posts from Canadians condemning the American’s right to bare arms. Oh Canada, take care of your own backyard before you start judging our neighbours to the south.

I am a Canadian, born and raised. I have worked in Canadian elementary schools most of my adult life. I have been in lockdown situations more than I care to think about. 3 of those occasions were because of a gunman. Gun laws and stricter school policy are not going to change school shootings. Only you will.

The man-child who was involved in the Connecticut shootings was the son of a substitute teacher. He was disgruntled about something. The school has a policy of keeping the children locked in for their safety. The school recognized him. let him in and he went on a rampage. The school policy didn’t save those children. Strict gun laws about assault weapons didn’t protect those children.

Teachers lost their lives to protect your children. They huddled in corners and closets keeping the children quiet and safe. When children cried, teachers would gently take the child’s face into their hands and whisper, “It will be okay, we will be safe. I won’t let anything happen to you.” The teachers lived up to their promise as best they could.

People who wonder why need to look at the broader picture. changing policy and laws won’t help very much other than making life more complicated for the average law abiding citizen. If someone wants a gun, they will find away. If someone wants to create a bomb, they will find a way. We need to think about why these people want these things.

Removing the stigma of mental health issues will help but so will kindness and empathy. Be kind to people, listen to people when they want to talk. Ask people questions about how they are and mean it. Be intentional with kindness and compassion. It may not save everyone but the world will be a better place for.

Peace and kindness is all I ask.