Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Lost #Art of Listening #amwriting

Confession time: I'm an eavesdropper. Even worse? I'm shameless about adapting what I hear for use in a novel. The truth is, if you're in earshot, your conversation is fair game.

Listening is a rare skill these days. Life has always been full of distractions, but the advent of perpetually-available rich technology has made us even more easily distractable.

I'm as guilty as anyone else of the sin of distraction. Of cocking half an ear while trying to carry on a text conversation or answer an email. Multi-tasking doesn't work. Not for me, anyway. But I've found a wonderful cure for these modern day distractions: putting that dang technology away. It's so beautiful because anyone can do it.

If you've read my posts, you'll know that my dad had Alzheimer's and was in a nursing home. Every night, my brothers and I took turns being there around supper time to feed him. Convincing him to eat, watching to make sure he swallowed, giving him small sips of thickened liquids worked wonders for my listening skills, mostly because I couldn't feed my dad and scan BBC news or Facebook updates at the same time. (Not that I didn't try.) My dad's willingness and ability to speak deteriorated quickly, which meant we had to listen really hard when he did talk. Visiting with him and with others in that nursing home opened my heart and honed my listening abilities; that ninety-three year old man who used to be a preacher doesn't have many years left to talk, so I took time to listen while I could.

My dad was in that nursing home for almost three years, and you know what I've realized? Listening is a choice, pure and simple. I have to choose to shut up, choose to put the phone or tablet down, choose to focus on the speaker. This actually gives me hope for myself and everybody else who spends too much time hooked to technology.

 It also, selfishly perhaps, reminded me of how much life the elderly have lived, and how many amazing stories they have to share - and the stories they live on a daily basis! From tales of the Memory Care residents who go crazy with the full moon, crawling under tables looking for something that only they can see and starting pillow fights, to stories from a former constable about the crimes he helped solve back in the day - all were pure magic and full of life.

One resident offered a finder's fee if I'd help her locate a man who likes money and sex. I figured that would be easy money, but I must confess, I didn't try too hard. We had a great time talking about her future beau; her continent-hopping dad and thanks to him, all the places she'd experienced as a child; and all the lovely scarves and hats her grandchildren brought her (and that she proudly wore - purple was her favorite).

Their antics and memories are priceless on a heart level, but also in terms of the richness they've added to my life and my writing.

What about you? What tips do you have for finding ways to listen with intention? Where are some of your favorite places for listening?

photo credit: Vincents Ear via photopin (license)
photo credit: ruifo Moon (20:59) via photopin (license)
photo credit: .through my eyes. time. via photopin (license)