Listen 2


I had a two hour window. We had carved it out of a weekend that seemed to shrink the more people I added to my list of “must see” friends. But this time, it was understood by all who know us, was sacred. No one messes with my time with Bea.

She retrieved me from the craziness that is a race expo and whisked me to Whole Foods. We grabbed a delightful array of fresh quiches and fruits and sassy, mint-infused fizzy water. Perched on her front porch in the neighborhood that had been cleared by Saturday soccer games, we spilled. Not our food but the last year of our lives.

Between bites of giant strawberries and short giggles, we talked, eyes intent on each other, aware of the time we had. Every so often, her hand grabbed mine and we’d just smile, like old ladies with nothing left to say, just happy to be together. She has so many remarkable qualities; one I value highly is her ability to notice, capture and process ideas that seem important to her.

She said, “One thing I want to think about is…” and here she described the situation, why it deserved her attention and just when she planned to assess the idea. She will, too. She will take the idea apart, piece by piece, and assemble it again in a way that makes sense to her, and with the knowledge of its structure that will inform how she proceeds.

Two things struck me about what she said. The first is just that she said it. I love this about her. She does everything* with purpose and intensity. She makes no decision until she is darn good and sure it’s the right decision. My friend is so thorough she sometimes creates questions out of simple things; I will never, ever go shopping for a white t-shirt with her. Don’t ask.

But the issue she brought up articulated something I had been vaguely aware of in the shadows of my days. It was like putting on glasses for the first time. Her words, though they related to her life and her experience, echoed something in me I had not been able to pinpoint. Until I heard her words.

And this is the power in listening.

I am an interrupter. I am a sentence finisher. In my desire to connect and empathize, I often negate a speaker’s words by stealing them from their lips. Bea hates this, and rightly so. It’s a bad habit. (It comes from a good place, okay?) So when I’m with her, I nearly sit on my hands and chew my mouth so that I hear the entirety of her statements. This makes me smart, because she says smart things. So, I focused on her eyes as she grasped for words. I watched her small French fingers with her antique wedding ring twist on the table, pluck at the napkin.

Maybe this is nothing more than what best friends do. Because we made time, because she is intentional, because we are able to say the things we need to say, and because she taught me how to listen, I learned something. When she shared her thoughts, she enlarged and enlightened mine. When her experience intersected with mine, we were not alone.

She finished her statement. I replied. We sat quietly for a few moments, listening to what was unspoken, to the reverberations of what had been said. We put a finger in the pages of our book, saving the spot for the next time on the porch.

*She will argue, not everything. Fine. Most things.

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2 thoughts on “Listen

  • Maile

    Wow, Jen, what a beautiful reminder of the discipline of listening. It really is for our benefit as much anyone else’s. (And I confess I am a sentence-finisher as well and I’m not proud of it.) Thanks for this.