L is for… Listening

Here is a very common situation in my house. SJ will have gone out for the afternoon, usually to offer noble and admirable service to the community, while I sit at home in my pyjamas playing with the internet. Early in the evening, SJ will return, and something akin to the following conversation will take place:

SJ: Did you take the casserole out of the oven?

Me: …No?

SJ: Did you hear me when I said “Please take the casserole out of the oven in an hour?”

Me: …No?

SJ: I see. So the casserole has been in the oven for three hours.

Me: So it will be nice and crispy, then…

As you can see from this little illustration, I’m really very bad at listening. There’s a combination of things that doesn’t help. I take everything that is said very literally. I miss subtlety. Sometimes I can hear a person perfectly well, but I can’t make sense of the words they’re saying. (It’s called ‘auditory processing difficulties’ and my Asperger’s diagnosis finally makes sense of why I have it. If I ever ask you to repeat something three times, I’m really not trying to be difficult!)

But these things are a reason – they’re not an excuse. They do not exempt me from listening. And listening is really, really important. I’m always asking my wife to communicate more clearly, but what efforts am I making to improve my listening skills? If I really value what SJ is saying to me, I should take note of the things that make it difficult for me to listen, and compensate for them. That means putting down my book or turning away from the computer screen (argghh), no matter how painful that is. It means working extra hard to focus on what people are saying, even if that’s difficult. And I should probably listen especially hard when SJ says what time the casserole needs to come out of the oven.

The same goes for my gods and the spirits. Oh, I try to listen. But I can get so caught up in the trying. And I seem to miss so much when I’m working so hard at it. I’ve been getting the oddest signs this week. Rituals interrupted – a bird flies in the window, the wife gets suddenly and violently sick, my knee dislocates randomly in the middle of a prayer. (I got to try the charm against a sprain, though, so that was sort of a silver lining.)  Omens (i.e. Ogham draws) are all saying ‘WRONG TIMING’. Eventually I gave up and asked a friend for a tarot reading – and ‘wrong timing’ does seem to be confirmed. So, I’m trying to listen. Something that I was planning to do is now officially postponed. I am going to America. I am going to talk to the land spirits there. I am going to have a nice honeymoon (only two years late). I am going to see landscapes that I’ve wanted to visit for years, and drive Route 1, an ambition I’ve had since childhood. And then I’m going to come back, and see if all the stopping and listening has helped.

Wishing you all a lovely three weeks! I might post the odd picture. :-)

11 thoughts on “L is for… Listening

  1. I think I may have experienced this issue with /trying/ rather than listening. Many thinky thoughts here :)

  2. Sounds like you and my Timbo have a lot in common and SJ and I do too! He’s a professional jazz musician and sometimes it’s very hard for me to remember how creative he is being ALL THE TIME, not just when he’s sat at his piano. It’s not something he can switch off, the music is always there, going through his head. He’s different to me. I’m very much a words person so it’s easy for me to listen to what people say because I love the words they’re using. Tim can listen to music but he can’t listen to/process words. A few years ago he went back to uni to finally do a music degree and at freshers’ week he took pity on a guy offering IQ tests but who had no takers. When the results came back he was rather taken aback and wouldn’t tell me what it was at first. I was rather vocal about being convinced he had aspergers or some sort of autism. However, it turned out that he’s borderline genius. Just wish he was a genius at closing the freezer door sometimes…

    Anyway, have a fantastic time in America – listen with all your senses!

    • Hah – yeah, sounds like you and my wife would get along, and Timbo and I would get along! I am usually very embarrassed when I leave things in the oven. And I’m only leaving in there about one-third of the time these days! So, y’know, progress. :D

  3. I’ve had this problem too- not only listening but giving value to the signs and taking action, especially when this runs against my plans and assumptions. I hope you both enjoy your belated honeymoon :)

  4. Would it help if she emailed you when there were instructions you neeed to follow? That way you could pick it over and figure it out, and not get confused by turns of phrase or other distractions. There is a lot of encouragement to be doing many things at the same time in modern life, but if you can get out of that way of being, and just do one thing at a time, it might be easier for you. It’s also a thing dedicated Zen people do, I believe – working on one thing at a time.

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