Lately I’ve been listening to others more intently. I’ve been listening to the words people chose versus the things they say. It’s fascinating to start to speak the intimate languages of the people around you.
One of my favorite things to do is to take a word we commonly use, and then look up the actual definition. For me this goes back to “words they chose versus the things they say.” What we tend to do in our human nature is take the perspective that’s the most comfortable or the most pleasing for ourselves.
When looking up the definition to communication, rightfully so, I found 2. The first one reads, “the imparting of exchanging of information or news.” And the second, “ means of sending or receiving information, such as phone lines or computers.” We chose to either exchange information: “are just hearing? Or are you really listening?” or we take in what is said whole heartedly so that we can receive from the person on the other line. “I understand.”
Since I was a kid, I constantly had this phrase said to me, “I’m wise beyond my years.” At 7, 12 and a lot around 17. Adults often ask me about advice about their marriages and relationships with the people in their lives. It was so weird to me. I didn’t understand why they just didn’t understand that, most importantly, I was a child and how could I possibly know how help you live your life? So I kept answering the questions, as vaguely as possible because I didn’t really even know what to say. Within all of those conversations, I noticed that one thing was always lacking: communication. How can two people coexist so closely if they don’t communicate. Communication isn’t in just the words. The eyes, body language and actions work hand in hand to tell the story the person is trying to relay. Think about the closest person to you. How many times have you make eye contact and know exactly what they’re saying based on the scenario you’re in? The “I want to go home look.” Or “ Did you just see that?!”
When you’re a child, you observe and absorb everything. You pick up the habits of your caregivers, you hear the stories they tell to family members and close friends. You listen. So as a child in my household, I was left to take on roles that at the time, we’re bigger than me. I had to maintain a household that was beyond my limits as a child. In those types of environments, children develop techniques to handle these stressful situations better. They begin to function in a state of fight or flight because they’re meeting the needs of others and not meeting their own needs. So I listened. I listened to everything that was happening around me so I can begin to learn the language of those subtle somatic cues. I began to understand that the amount of force used to close a door would determine how the rest of the evening would go for me. I begin to understand what the eyes of lost people look like. I began to understand what our bodies held when or words couldn’t sustain the emotions.
The stories of the adults in my life as a child begin to mesh together. All of them had the same underlying phrase. They just wanted to be understood. They wanted the person on the other end to receive the information they were putting out. The connections usually ended in failures.
I noticed at a certain point people stopped telling me I was wise beyond my years. I was still listening to others and offering the same vague advice I always have. It wasn’t that I missed hearing about my trauma responses, it was more that I wanted to know what changed. Today, the first day in my 29 years. I feel more present than I ever have in my entire life. I realized that the reason why people stopped telling me I was wise beyond my years is because I finally caught up to myself. I stopped needing to predict the future to protect my emotional safety. I stopped listening so intently to individuals and starting listening to the world around me. Today I finally feel like my mind has caught up with my spirit and it’s quite magical. To feel that the possibilities ahead of me are endless and what is behind me can coexist with my present feels like a touch of enlightenment.