Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Voice in the Vacuum

My current project involves a book on how to be present with people who are dying. It has been an amazing project for me because it has taught me a lot about how people use their voices and how we listen to each other.I can think of many times in my life when I have felt my voice going nowhere, being heard by no one. But I admit that I have sometimes been the one not listening. I have been the vacuum. Part of being human but not a very helpful part. I have had to sit on this one and ask myself important questions about my role as I communicate to others. I do know that sometimes my desperation or fear interferes with the ability for anyone to hear what I have to say...especially when I have said it over and over and over and over again. So I am learning to take responsibility for myself in this regard. More importantly, I am learning to listen. I don't want my inability to listen to be a perceived as a vacuum that sucks the life out of any of my relationships. Or sucks the air out of my dreams. Or sucks feelings of joy from my blessed life.

Nothing is created in a vacuum. Literally...Nothing. There is no air in a vacuum. There is no personal connection in a vacuum. There is no creativity. There is no intimacy. To vacuum pack something means to suck all the air out of something. It is a void. In the practical world, our vacuums clean up dirt or preserve our food. And sometimes a vacuum is necessary to give us time to clean up, regroup and reevaluate. It can protect us from the toxicity of dysfunction. But I do not want to live in a vacuum. I want to live with life in every way possible. I want to hear my friend's story, her heart, his dreams. I never want anyone in my life to feel irrelevant or meaningless because no one in my life lives within my heart in that way. Given the opportunity, listening may be the first and only lasting validation to the breaths we share here on planet earth.

When my sweet, dear father-in-law passed away nearly 5 years ago all he wanted to do was talk and be heard. He shared stories from his childhood that had never been told. He talked about so many things and passed along some important wisdom to me as the parent to his beloved grandchildren. He was genuinely happy in the last three months of his life. He was emotional, yes. But he was so authentic and genuine. I long for that experience from the people I love now. I don't want to wait until a life is at its end to listen. It is such a waste. The gifts we bring to each other fall to the wayside in a vacuum. They get bagged and thrown away. And when there is distance between their life's end and the life we continue living, it will be the memories and voices we shared that will keep my heart steady as I traverse the rapids and rivers of my life.

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