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The Fault in my Listening

In the past week or two I have seen the fault in my listening.

My husband can listen to people talk about the health ailments of their aunts in Australia. He can sit quietly and listen to a whole life story unspool in front of him. He can sit in silent, formal living rooms in Saskatchewan, where dust catches the light as it floats sloowlllyyy through the room, and methodically turn page after page in a stack of photo albums, while I start to die inside.

At a writing workshop I attended (and this has happened at almost every writing workshop I’ve ever attended), participants shared mini-glimpses into their lives and why they were there. It went on a bit. While the instructor listened patiently and kindly and asked follow-up questions, I strained to see the clock on the wall. I barrelled and blurted through my turn, hoping to usher in a new speedy template for those sitting to my right. But no, these people wanted to talk. And there was someone present to actively and patiently listen with interest and compassion. I twitched and turned and got a nervous tic.

I realized that, for a writer, I am a crappy listener. For someone who likes to tell other people’s stories, apparently I want them to be short and sizzling when they are being told on my time. This also makes me a terrible minister’s wife.

Listening is a deep water discipline. I am still doing the doggie paddle.

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