Although we don’t often encounter them here in Arizona, mockingbirds have been gracing us the past few days with their expansive bird-call repertoire. Check out this sample I recently caught on video…
To be a witness to one of these mini-mimicking sessions is such a gift; I’m always smiling ear to ear when I’m blessed to enjoy a performance. I’m even a bit envious (but more on that later). How much time, I wonder, do mockingbirds spend listening intently to the calls of other birds in order to replicate those calls so perfectly, so precisely with seemingly little effort. What good listeners they must be! I mean, seriously, I’ve heard mockingbirds replicating car alarms, babies crying, cats in heat screaming in the throes of ecstasy (or whatever the heck it is they’re doing in the wee, small hours of the morning)…
“In the wee, small hours of the morning
When the whole wide world is fast asleep,
You lie awake and listen to the cat,
And give up hopes of ever counting sheep.”
— My variation of a great song written by Bob Hilliard & David A Mann
with far better lyrics than mine called “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning”
I’ve heard it said that humans don’t listen very well to each other. In fact, many or most of us don’t listen much at all. When someone is speaking to us, we’re busy thinking about a zillion other things, mostly self-centric things–What else besides wine [or beer, tequila, whiskey, etc.] do I need to get at the grocery store tonight? I wonder if [the person talking] notices that huge zit forming on my chin? Aww, man! How do I break away for an emergency potty break?! Where the heck’s the bathroom anyway?!?! What if I don’t make it??!!??!!??!! (Etc.; you get the idea.) Not to mention one of the biggest reasons we don‘t listen well–namely, while the person is still speaking, we’re often crafting our OWN responses to some point they made roughly two minutes ago and EVERYTHING after that point in time got wholly and ever so completely whitewashed from our brains. I am SO guilty of this. BUT… I AM AWARE that I’m guilty of it. That means there’s hope for me. [sheepish grin]
I used to be much worse than I am now. But I still have my moments. I occasionally have these times when I’m so intent on conveying information I think is really important to someone that I‘m TOTALLY not realizing the recipient is not in agreement that they need to hear it. Whew! That lesson is a tough one for me when it happens. But again, I am aware and working on it. In a world far, far away, we once used to actually see another person’s face while in conversation. (You remember, don’t you? In the days of old, before face masks overrode our ability to read facial expressions? Before texting hi-jacked our ability to sense ANY kind of visual or audible cue that the conversation went sideways eons ago? I deeply, truly, viscerally miss those days and would gladly trade in my dozen or so face masks of many clever patterns and colors and my hoop-dee-doo swiss-knife cell phone just for the chance to undo the dozens of conversations that ended in a bent nose or a slammed door, or worse–an unfriending on Facebook. (kidding, but not really kidding)
I’ve heard it’s helpful to repeat back to a person what they’ve just said to you in order to ensure you’ve heard them correctly, as in “So you’re saying [blah, blah, blah].” I DO see the beauty in this. It makes total sense. People LIKE being heard. Plus, I’m thinking if I have to potentially repeat to someone what they’ve just said, I’m definitely gonna pay attention… because they’ll be a test. I vehemently dislike taking tests. I even more vehemently dislike failing tests. (I’d like to use the word ‘hate’ but my momma taught me not to use the word ‘hate,’ even though sometimes…. [::shaking head::] mmm, mmm, mmm… sometimes ‘hate’ it’s just exactly what I mean.). Potential failure, to me, can sometimes be a great motivator. And sometimes not. If and when I get around to incorporating this listening trick, you can be sure I’m gonna ace it. Yep, one of these days.
My other listening issue is related to names. As in, I really and truly stink at remembering people’s names. Like a gawd-awful stench of a stank. I’m no academic slacker. I can hold my own (kinda, sorta). But names simply elude me. Just another reason to put that repeat-it-back-to-them technique to use.
And now for the sneaky ending. This is what I was thinking about when I first started writing today.
Humor aside for a moment, I feel called to ask, “So, how about you? Are you a great listener?” How about with regard to your inner wisdom, your gut instinct, your sense of good and evil, right and wrong? Do you listen well to your own heart? Can you hear when it’s trying to tell you important information, like what would REALLY make you feel happier and at peace? Whether to STOP or GO, to say YES or NO? Whether that decision you’re about to make is good not just for you, but for the greater good too? (And no, not like: ’Oh, my gawd, I really need a pint of Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream right now!’ and ‘Yes, indeed, eating that pint will clog my arteries but also will help raise the value of everyone’s stocks in Haagen-Dazs. You all DO own stocks in Haagen-Dazs, right?)
Do something really special for yourself today that you KNOW your HEART needs. Maybe step out into nature and be reminded how deeply connected you are to the earth, to God, to the Universe… how remarkable and fragile it all really is. A hundred years from now, many of the awesome things we need from nature will no longer be in existence. And neither will most people you know and perhaps not even human beings at all. This human experiment on earth is temporary. Be especially kind to yourself. Don’t sweat the small stuff (the imagined important human society stuff). Enjoy the best stuff… the amazing gifts all around you, meant to lift your spirits and make your heart and body smile.
And when you get all that down, that awesome reconnection with yourself and with nature, turn around and do the same to and for someone else. Do something really special for someone beyond yourself—a friend, a stranger, a loved one. Even a foe, a person you don’t particularly like to talk with. Maybe ESPECIALLY someone you don’t particularly like to talk with. Be kind to whoever that person is. Consider NOT sweating the small stuff with them. Consider figuring out ONE THING you DO like about them and let that be enough. Enjoy the BEST of them, the one thing that reminds you they too have a HEART (Yeah, I know, some people make you wonder if there IS a heart in there anywhere, but let’s give ‘em the benefit of a doubt… after all, even the grumpy ole’ green Grinch had one!)
LISTEN! It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it slip away unused, unappreciated, wasted on distracting stuff that keeps you disconnected from yourself and from everyone around you. Tomorrow’s no guarantee. Make this day the best day it can be, starting with being the best version of you that you can be, igniting in others a reminder to be the best version of themselves that they can be too.
Enjoy this day!