Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Listen

There are some days when I forget.  I forget how lucky I am.  I forget to take a step back and list my gifts.  I forget that a moment of laughter is more than I used to have, more than enough.  I forget that I don’t have to wait for ‘one day’ to change, to risk, to play, to grow.  I forget that I get to make my own rules and that success can be measured in ways that have nothing to do with bank account balances and fame.  I forget that being still counts as doing something, and that ‘fun’ can be defined as having a staring contest with your puppy. I forget that anxiety is an option but not a necessity and that breathing can be more powerful than a pill.  I forget that there are simple solutions to most problems but simple doesn’t mean easy.  I forget that it’s not my job to make everything better – not for myself, not for my puppy, not for my friends.  I forget that your problems can remain yours, and that setting boundaries isn’t the same as being cruel. 

I listen to your hopelessness, and I know.  I know that no matter what suggestions I might make or new perspectives I can offer, it’s not going to make a different.  I listen to you give up and I catch a scent of what others must have felt listening to me before.  I listen to you and I scramble through my mental files, searching for the right word, right advice, right solution, right path to offer that might make you take off your blindfold and see that there are hands being held out, hands offering help if you would just grab hold. I ruffle through therapy tools and tricks of the mind, sure that there must be something I can do, something to make it better, to kiss the scrape on your heart and patch the hole with a band-aid. 

But at the same time, I know…I know there’s nothing. I know there’s nothing I can say, nothing I can do, nothing I can force down your throat to open your eyes.  If you’re determined to see distortion and darkness, then the brightest spotlight will only create more shadows.  I know I can list your strengths, the things I love about you, your shiny gifts and beautiful parts, but that just as easily, you will shove them aside – “she’s just saying that to be nice.” “If she really knew me, she would know it’s not true.”  I listen to you plan your finale, listen to you anticipate the last curtain call, and I know all I can do is listen.  I can’t change your mind, I can’t give you new eyes, and I can’t feed you bites of motivation and strength.  

Besides, I know that you are just as knowledgeable as I am.  You’ve been around the block with this.  You know the tools just as I do.  And we both know that having knowledge and having wisdom are two different things.  We know that insight doesn’t translate into finding the courage to change, to do what is hard, to stick with it even when things get worse.  I could show you inspirational videos and send you supportive cards.  I could hold your hand while we push the grocery cart.  I could host doggy play dates and plan for a better future.  I could sit by your side, and yet I can’t transfuse hope.  I can’t fix it. I can’t take it away. I can’t promise better days or offer visions of a life mixed with joy.

  So I listen. I listen because that’s all that’s left to do.  I listen, realizing that there are no magic words, no perfect solutions, and no quick fixes.  I listen as you minimize, brush off, casually suggest defeat, just listening because I'm powerless to do anything else. 

I listen and I remember how grateful I'm not the one speaking your words.  I remember how lucky I am, not only for the material comforts and financial help, but also for having laughter again.  I remember how lucky I am to see hope, to wake up curious about the day rather than filled with dread.  I remember to count my successes, even if they are measured in millimeters. I listen to you and I know that the space between us is small, that your words once were mine, but today I remember to be grateful that the hopelessness sounds foreign to me, grateful that I can empathize but not have to drown in the darkness together. I listen to you and I feel lucky.  Lucky to be able to feel the sun, lucky to know I'm surrounded by helping hands, lucky to have many problems today rather than just the overwhelming crisis.  With your pain, you help me remember. And yet, my hope, my faith, my belief in you and the healing power of puppy kisses are silenced in your head.

Listening isn’t my endorsement or silent agreement. Rather, listening is an attempt to bridge the gap and steal a bit of the isolation.  So I listen and hope that I won’t be listening for the call that carries bad news.  I listen in the hope that someone will find you before then.  But in the meantime, I remember where I was and the black holes I want to avoid. I remember my luck and my choices and my power. I remember to laugh.

And for you, I can only listen and wish for my magic wand. 

1 comment: