I had a lovely late breakfast with a friend who just listened yesterday. He did interject, review, and question (for clarity), but mostly he listened. He didn’t tell me everything was ok or that it won’t seem like a big deal in a few months. He just listened. He didn’t remind me that my issues are nothing compared to the majority of the world (true) or indicate that I am a big baby (also true). He. Just. Listened. He made himself vulnerable, he worried on the drive over that he may react wrongly and be judged by that reaction, or be uncomfortable with my burden. It didn’t matter. He showed up, sat down, ordered coffee & breakfast and earnestly listened. He didn’t try to solve anything. He heard me, felt my stress, carried it with me for a while and probably for a while longer after we parted ways. You know how I know that? Because my burden felt a little bit lighter for the rest of the day. I think this is how the world used to be or maybe that’s a fantasy. Maybe it has always been a rarity to have someone give of their time for the purpose of listening. I know the feeling of looking forward to hanging with a friend only to have the friend spend the whole time talking about all their problems, never once asking “how are you?” or listening to the reply if they do. I’ve been that lousy friend more than once. This is different.
The whole purpose of this breakfast was for him to listen to me. To get to know me (and my struggles) better. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I must say it was a great gift.
I see social media posts by women grateful for their circle of girlfriends who are there through all of life’s up and blah, blah, blah… I have never had such friends nor do I really understand how to analyze that concept from the life-advertisement impression that social media posts can have. So, perhaps my friend breakfast is more common than I am aware, but the general chatter is that everyone is feeling less connected and lonelier.
My mom was a listener. Mostly for other people, not so much me. She tried, but I think its next to impossible to listen to your kids without wanting to influence them. But she did try. I was not willing to divulge much to her because she was also a fretter, and I didn’t want her to fret. But my sister and I have many memories of total strangers telling us how wonderful it was to talk to my mom and how she really listened and made them feel heard. I found this annoying because (making it about me) I was jealous that they had her as for counsel in a way that I did not. I would freely say so. I never considered learning from her so I could do the same for others. She helped carry burdens. She felt things strongly. She cared and she struggled. I miss her for a lot of reasons. Today I miss her for the lessons I never bothered to learn.