I received a phone call from a friend the other night. In as many words, this is what she said. I can’t get a word in edgewise. She was mad, but in as kind a manner as one could use, she shared with me her unfiltered truth.
Her truth is that, for a while now, I’ve been dominating our conversations. I felt a tinge of familiarity in the words she was speaking, I’d heard them before. But only ever from my mom, to whom I speak several times a day and have a rapport of “you tell, I tell” each time we talk. It’s often a tango, when you only have ten minutes here or there to unload your latest. One time you tell, the next time I tell. I suppose that’s how I begin to get with good friends, too. Which means I think highly of my friend to be this comfortable with her, but that does not necessarily make it a polite way to be.
What really irked me was that she said she’d been feeling this way for months. What the what? Communicate! The top tier of the irk-cake was when she revealed her true mental reaction to a comment I’d made back in early July. She’d set me up with this guy who ended up being kind of a nightmare, in terms of communication. I’d said to her, “I couldn’t get a word in edgewise with this guy.” It was true! He interrupted everything I said to tell his own stories. I was genuinely curious about him and asked him questions, but when the natural time came for me to chime in with my two cents, he barreled right on through.
Now, I know I don’t do this. But I also know I can dance on the edge of forgetting to save enough time for the other party to sing out their spiel.
Which is, let’s face it, rude.
Now, to my defense, this friend had run into me at work and decided to join me for my never-long-enough thirty minute lunch break. Glorious timing! But the truth of the matter is I spend all day long talking to people, letting them talk at me, unable to have a moment to just be, totally unable to relax and just chat with a girlfriend…but all I really want to do when my precious lunch break rolls around is zone out.
What an odd thing for such a social butterfly to crave, right? So while it was cool to run into her in such a way, the honest truth is that all I was really craving was some quiet time. Perhaps that would have made the perfect opportunity to practice my listening skills and let her unload her news.
I guess I missed the memo that it wasn’t just chit-chat catch up time. I often get anxious on my lunch break, trying to eat my food, juggle conversations and soak up some vitamin D all at once. Hence my enjoyment of solo lunches. Well, the problem is, this friend of mine really had important stuff to tell me. She started out by asking me some questions, which made me think we were going to just rally back and forth, catching up until it was time for me to scamper back to work.
Not so. I learned later that night, upon receiving her call, that I’d totally stampeded over her precious time to tell me some exciting stuff. Stuff I really want to know! I knew she was peeved because she got up suddenly and said goodbye, while I still had a mouthful of spinach. I was left wondering what I’d done wrong.
Gratitude for the communication, dear sister, because now I know. I just couldn’t help but feel burned a bit by the gingerly scathing words that came through my cell phone that night. There seemed to be a shelf-full (odd analogy but for some reason it’s begging to be used) of pent-up frustration towards me and it hurt my heart.
It hurt my spirit.
But the hurt didn’t last long. I took her truth and thanked her for sharing it. Her Truth is not my Truth. I capitalize that word because “truth” is a fact. One’s “Truth” is something much higher, much more holy. It’s the essence of one’s being. Woven into one’s dharma. So, that being said, my friend’s and my Truths differ greatly, as well they should.
The facts of what happened, what I’ve shared with you here, yes, I own that. I fully climb into that suit and say yes, I’m a gabby girl, I’ll blammer on and on if you don’t ask nicely for me to put a sock in it and let you have your turn. But I am also a good listener. Yes, I can work to cultivate better listening skills, absolutely. But I’m still a good listener. This is part of my Truth.
I was hurt deeply to hear that my listening skills that day on my lunch break, and another pointedly detailed account of a blabber-fest encounter, were being compared to the listening skills I might offer my clients. That stung. Even though I know this friend cares for me, or else she wouldn’t have climbed out on the limb to make such a phone call, I couldn’t help but feel completely and utterly judged.
Now, this is the important part…that’s my reaction. Enter: my Truth.
What she was saying? That’s her Truth. They are not one and the same. Never really are two Truths one and the same.
That being said, I’m still processing her words days later. I extend love to her for speaking her Truth with such fervor and honesty, and I also humbly accept it as the way she feels rather than the way I am.
Nobody can tell you how you “are.” Nobody can define that.
So when people tell you what they think of you, try to listen as an unbiased party (SO hard, I’m not even kidding). We are so eager to defend ourselves. When a friend tells you what they think of you, listen a bit harder. They care for you, they’re likely telling you this so that your friendship can grow stronger, rather than fray and send your spirits in opposite directions. Now, when a family member tells you what they think of you…depending highly on the circumstances, of course, listen closely. You don’t need to own it, wear it or drink their kool-aid, but note this blood relative’s opinion and thoughts and file it away for later study.
I’m talking about Truth here people. Not insult. Not injury. Truth. Things like, “I don’t feel heard by you,” or, “I feel you don’t make time for me.” Concerns about your direction or intentions that don’t strive to injure or break apart your character. Those are viewpoints worth listening to, digesting, wrapping your mind around.
But, while you do that, make sure not to gulp it down as your new Truth just because someone you care for spoke it. That’s not at all the case. It’s actually deliciously refreshing to see yourself through someone else’s eyes when the filter is taken off. It happens quite rarely, and when the criticism is constructive it offers such profound opportunity for growth. I encourage you (as I lovingly encourage myself) to resist the urge to take this as a negative experience. It’s Truth! What we seek in everything we do! Cherish it. Treat it gently, like a parcel of precious mail. It’s not who you are, it’s not who they are, it’s just something to look at, perceive and then let go of. Recycle. Learn from it and then let it go.
This friend of mine is much older than me. She is kind of like an older sister or aunt to me, and I love her dearly, which is probably why I felt so scolded after our conversation. I even cried, a few heated tears at the end of our phone call. Like a child whose hand had been slapped.
Slapped with Truth, that is.
While it stung and took a few days for the bruise to fade, I am ever grateful for the Truth that anyone is willing to offer me on my path. Constructive and loving Truth, whether it comes in the form of criticism and anger, or exalted praise, is golden. You can’t find it just anywhere, and you have to earn it.
Nothing happens by accident. It’s no accident that I’ve come off this way to my friend for the past two months. That happened so that this could happen. We both learned, we both grew and, hopefully, it will strengthen our friendship.
This is what life is about. Learning more about the Self through the lens of the Universe. We are all One and we are here as mirrors for each other. My friend held herself up as a mirror for me, this week, so I might see that I have a karmic tendency to sometimes do all the talking. Without her voicing that, I might be less equipped to work through that karma. But now I have more tools in my toolkit, more Truth with which to light the path ahead.
There’s always darkness ahead, that is the nature of life. We never know what’s coming. But we can see easily through the darkness the brighter our little headlamp glows. The fire inside of us, the fire that radiates from our eyes, is what illuminates the ground on which we’re walking. Step with purpose and charge the battery of that light with Truth. Keep the embers burning with honesty and clarity, and radiate it with open eyes. Sight is the sense, and eyes the sense organ, that corresponds to the fire element. Think the fire in her eyes.
If the eyes are shut, one stays shrouded in darkness. If the eyes open, that fire spills out, brilliantly lighting the path that lies ahead. Let it spill out. Light the path that sprawls before you.