This is the first post in a series about choosing to live the moments we are given wholeheartedly, remembering our days are short.
“What’s your favorite subject in school these days?” he asks. I’m wearing pink glasses and have a fresh perm; it must be 1989.
“I love art class, but in Social Studies we’re…” my voice fades away as I notice his gaze scanning the room.
“Hey, nice tie, Pete!” he yells across the room to my father, who’s wearing a holly bow-tie with berries that light up.
I look over at the tie, back toward my uncle, then drop my head a bit as my cheeks flush red. He forgets that he asked me anything.
Roll forward past the painful years of adolescence to age 22. There’s a lady beside me, sitting on a swing under an old oak tree. My legs are shaking in the same way they did on my first date with Rob.
“So, how are you?” she asks. We share silence. I realize that the shaking comes because this relationship feels as precious and as tenuous as my first date with my husband. Someone listening to me?
We talk. She reads me a verse of the Bible, and it nourishes. A sense of being cared for rolls over me.
My belly swells two times, and at least three thousand diapers later my girl, Sweetpea, is four-years-old. Sitting on my bed, she says, “Repeat after me, Mama.”
She’s rhyming in jibberish as her melody wanders all over the place. The pee pop o. The pee pop o, I echo. Larbee-carby-koh, she sings. Larbee-carby-koh, I antiphonate. I don’t like sleeping. I don’t like sleeping.
Bursting into laughter, she throws herself into my arms and wraps me around the neck, shouting, “I love you, Mommy!” My smile beams out the edges of my cheeks.
I love you, Sweetpea.
This carries through the silence, the stopping, when the lips are closed and the heart is open. Love turns not only our eyes and our bodies toward another, but also our attention. We honor a person by lending ear to their prattlings, worthy or not, entertaining or not, welcome or not.
Could it be that each time we open to listen to another human being, a tiny seed of healing is planted, a small awakening to the deep dignity of being human?
To live this life well, to live it heartily, Love invites us to listen. Close your lips, power down the mental treadmill, offer your ears to another this Valentine’s Day.
What happens when you do this? How does it feel? Have you been listened to well? What stories do you have about love and listening? Please share!
Photos by: Peter Thorne, Still Waters, Robert Fusté