Learning to Listen

Betsy - Gulf Breeze, Florida
Entered on March 10, 2008

I believe learning to listen is possibly the most vital skill we need ever learn.

I teach Language Arts to thirteen and fourteen year olds, and because I get tired of repeating even the simplest direction two, three, four times, at some point in the year I realize it’s my job to train them. I know they’re probably off wandering in where they’d rather be, or caught up in the maelstrom of their bodies, but I can’t let them get lost forever; therefore, I direct them in games of whisper down the line, and give oral vocabulary quizzes, just as my grammar school teachers did, words I’ll never forget because I was listening for them.

Once you get the hang of listening for information, what comes on the surface of the air, you get better at listening for what’s underneath, which can clear up a lot of confusion. For instance, when I would travel with the man who was my husband, wherever we went, he’d say, “I love this spot, let’s move here,” and I would begin to panic about how I would adjust to this or that elbow of the world until I figured out what he was saying was not, “let’s move,” but rather “this is beautiful.” His embrace was his way to show appreciation.

When I did finally move with him, somewhere I would not have chosen, and after our marriage disintegrated, I began to regret all the hints I’d ignored that just this outcome might have been expected. We have a name for this of course, and it ain’t just a river in Egypt, (‘de nile) but maybe by not listening to him, I was heeding some other directive. Maybe fate is a true force and can’t be bucked after all. I know it hasn’t been what I wanted, that I feel stuck living where I am, but I’m working on changing that, and meanwhile, I’m trying to listen for the lessons.

The one I’ve really gotten is that through the process of divorce, and the resulting almost complete self-sufficiency, I am learning to listen to myself in a way I never had the courage to before. I’m finding I don’t have to take anyone’s advice. I don’t have to ask friends, and I don’t have to pay professionals. I have the wisdom to know what’s best for me, and my kids, most of the time, if I just take a moment to listen to the clear voice inside.

I believe that if I hadn’t learned to listen so intently to what’s around me, other people’s words, the harmonies of nature, the song of time, I wouldn’t have arrived at this gift of finally listening to my own right mind. And so whereas it will take a few turns, I believe I am pointing my students in the right direction when I say, “boys and girls, face forward, eyes on me, listen up, I’m only going to say this one more time.”