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Can you hear me now?

A blog by Melody Beattie.  I enjoyed this entry:


by Melody Beattie

It took half my  life to learn to listen to myself.

It took me the next ten years to learn to listen to other people.

Background noise.  Chatter.  I did this, and then I did that.  And then….  The other person is talking.  Meanwhile we’re thinking about what we want to say next.  When our turn comes. When that glorious moment arrives. When it’s finally about us. If the phone rings or something interrupts our diatribe or monologue when it’s finally our turn, we freeze in place, hold our breath and hang onto that last thought or word.  The second the interruption ceases, we jump right back in with the next word, right where we left off — like a heroin addict briefly coming to consciousness after nodding off.  I find it fascinating how a junkie can doze off mid-sentence.  You think he or she is gone to the world and has no idea what’s coming out of his mouth.  Ten minutes later the eyes open.  The words begin pouring out exactly where the sentence stopped.

How do they do that?  It’s not that the person had anything that relevant to say, but  that someone that stoned could remember what the topic was, much less what the next word should be, is a savant-like art.  We can be just as oblivious to the world around us yet totally engrossed in ourselves.  After all, the center of the universe is us, isn’t it?  Is that selfishness?  Or are we longing to be heard in this “if it’s not about me it’s not about anything” world?  I want to do a survey — a controlled study more important than the census taking place now.  Do you listen to people when they talk?  Are you truly present for other people, in a way that’s meaningful to them?  Do you care about what they have to say and how they’re feeling?  Do you engage in altruistic love with no agendas, self-will, or interests of your own?  Or do you only know the other kind of love — the rosy glow of being infatuated with someone because he, or she, promises to fill up that empty space in you — the one the wind howls through?

Is love about getting, having, hanging onto, possessing, obsessing, filling the position currently open in your life?

Wanted:  One human being, age ___ to ___, who will be there for me no matter what, think I’m beautiful/handsome, entertaining, and amazing. Job duties include listening to me, understanding me, nurturing me, taking care of me emotionally and hopefully financially.

Will meet my physical needs on my terms.

Position full-time, permanent. Hours: 24 a day, seven days a week. Peak talk time will be just as you’re falling asleep.  I’ll say, “Honey, can we talk?” Or, when you come home from work, and want to sit down and space out in front of the television for a while to debrief from your day. I will take it personally should you not gladly want to do it because I want to TALK and talking doesn’t work well unless someone listens.

Benefits?  No vacations, holidays, or days off. Compensation? Why would you want any? Aren’t I enough? You will be expected to make me happy, make me feel fulfilled, make up for all the hurts and pain I’ve suffered from the first disappointment or betrayal I felt at my parents’ hands all the way to the last relationship I was in. You will be my reward for everything I’ve been through that hurts – you’re my compensatory present.  If I have children, you will center your life around them too, as if they are your own. However, your job description doesn’t include disciplining them no matter what they do.  They children belong to me.  Don’t even think about criticizing them or their behaviors, no matter how spoiled, annoying, or rudely they behave.

Interested persons contact me at: _______________________________. No references required. I do not ever want to hear that you have loved anyone else this way because I will take that personally too.

“But Melody, I thought we were supposed to get our needs met and take care of ourselves?”

We are.  But the above — although rarely if ever spoken that directly –is what many of us do under the name of dating. We delude ourselves into believing it’s self-care.  It’s not.  It’s narcissism, self-indulgence, wanting, longing, yearning, unresolved issues from the past, and desiring another person to “fill us up.”   It’s not love.

“Okay, well how about if I change the ad to this:

Wanted:  One human being, age ____ to _____, that I can be there for, no matter what (including how you treat me) around the clock, seven days a week with no days off.   I will deny myself, my needs and wants.  I will give everything and ask for nothing in return while I smother (and I mean smother) you with love.  I’ll give you money that I should use to pay my bills, energy that I don’t have until I’m totally depleted. But I won’t expect any involvement from you whatsoever, including interacting with my children. You don’t have to even meeting them.  You can call at all hours of the day or night and I’ll come running. Don’t even bother calling first if you don’t want to; I’ll give you a key to my house. Stop by whenever you want.  I’ll do all the work in the relationship.  I’ll be the one who makes up for all the love you never got but needed to become a whole person.  I’ll even let you abuse me without complaining.

I’ll also ultimately be THE ONE to change you, to make you understand how wonderful you are.  Soon, you’ll see you can’t live without me. I’ll magically anticipate your every need and desire. Soon, I’ll be able to finish your sentences for you in all communicating. I’ll cling to you privately and in public unless you push me away.   I’ll forgive you, even if you don’t ask me to or apologize.  I won’t accuse you of having affairs, even if I know that’s what you’re doing.  I’ll be your everything, your all, while I’m quietly waiting for the day when you realize you want to be all of this for me too.

Should you fail to realize this the way I’ve magically anticipated all your needs and desires, I’ll wake up one morning and begin screaming insanely at you.  Everything I’ve held in will come roaring out.   I’ll accuse you of taking from me and manipulating me, making me a victim – even though it’s clear I did it to myself. I’ll also request you return all the money I pushed on you. I’ll see your manipulations but I won’t see mine.

No physical abuse allowed, although in the end I may abuse you physically.  However in the beginning you can emotionally and mentally abuse me.  I have a high tolerance for pain. I’ll show you how much I can take. Salary?  I’ll give you everything I have. If that’s not enough, I’ll get more.  By the time you leave me I’ll be broke and owing money.  My credit will be destroyed. But you can walk away with the car, money, and house.  You can take as much vacation time as you want.  I know I’m a lot of work – a burden.  Oh, and I’ll never ask where the relationship is going.  I understand clearly it’s not going anywhere.   Position is temporary, part-time.  Should I not be available when you need me, feel free to take advantage of my best friend.  In approximately seven years, when I wake up and have the emotional explosion that rocks the entire neighborhood, I’ll inform you that the position you were filling was really the first one, above.  Those were my real intention all along.   You were supposed to somehow know what I wanted, although I said I wanted nothing.  Interested persons call: ____________________________________.

That isn’t love, either.  It’s codependency at its finest.

Some of us learn about true love when we have children, but it’s hard to transpose that to other kinds of relationships.  We don’t want to be Mother or Father to our partner, even though that’s often what the other person wants. In the long run, it doesn’t work out either.

I don’t have the correct citations for the newspaper article.  It’s been many years since I read it.  I can’t even tell you the newspaper it came from but I can assure you it wasn’t a rag.   The basics of the who, what, why, where, when, and how are this:

A woman killed her husband stating that she couldn’t take it anymore. She killed him in the nursing home where they both lived after he said or did something he’d been doing the duration of their married life by beating him over the head with a metal bedpan until she caused his death.

I understood how she felt. Many of us do.

We say one thing, we mean another, and in the end nobody teaches us what it means to love.  We don’t know how.  The first time I heard the story of the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, I didn’t like it. Not at all.  You know the story, don’t you?  A little boy almost dies from a contagious disease, but is comforted by his favorite stuffed animal, the Velveteen Rabbit.  The boy miraculously recovered but the doctor said the stuffed animal had to go. It could still hold traces of the contagious bacteria.  Keeping the rabbit around was dangerous.  The maid threw the beloved rabbit in the trash.

Then something even more amazing happened.  After feeling lonely, sad, and rejected – even though the Velveteen Rabbit was happy the boy recovered — the Velveteen Rabbit discovered that he was more than a toy.  He came alive like other real rabbits he saw running, hopping, and jumping.  He had transformed from being a stuffed toy to becoming real.

Through the story, author Margery Williams teaches this:   when we’re so old our hair is all rubbed off and we’ve been thrown out in the trash, we’ll have finally learned what it means to love.   Bittersweet, the story has a magical ending many of us love.

What made me not like it was that when I first read it in my early thirties, illusions about love filled me.  Even so, some deep part of me knew the story is true.  It disturbed me because I already sensed that my ideas about what love is,  the soul mate stuff,  was crap and that by the time I was old — hopefully my hair wouldn’t be all rubbed off  but I’d have the female equivalents of aging — I’d know what it meant to be real and to  love.

The good news is, by the time our illusions become shattered, one by painful one, and we surrender to the truth, it no longer hurts.  To truly be a channel for love feels good. But I didn’t like anticipating what I had to go through to learn love.  I didn’t look forward to it.  When I finally learned my lessons though, I didn’t mind, at least not much.  Instead it was a relief.  By then being codependent had become a lot of work.

On his audio CD set, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle speaks about being fully present in each moment for the person or people we’re with.  That, he says, is love.   When I practice that, combining it with awareness, an open heart, and lack of judgment, what I experience feels more like love, compassion, and God than anything I’ve experienced yet on this earth.  It matters not where the other person is in his or her spiritual growth.  All that counts is that I’m here, aware, listening to that person, not waiting for him or her to stop talking.  I’m not wondering where the relationship is going.  Instead I’m listening with my heart to the words and to the spaces between the words.

My first husband promised me (back in the sixties) that he’d take me for a Magic Carpet ride.  (He didn’t.) But by practicing presence and listening – whether for and to others or myself – I’m finally going on that ride.

I’ve had the ticket all along, clutching it in my hand.

Listening takes conscious practice.  It requires discipline.  It’s a learned behavior and it’s one we can teach ourselves.

“But Ms. Beattie, what about me?  Don’t my needs count too?  When is it my turn to talk, to be heard?”

If you learn to listen to others, if you seek to master the art of listening, and if you take time daily to listen to yourselves, it will always be your turn. Loving becomes its own reward.  It’s the circle that can’t be broken. It’s the rosy first three-month’s glow.  It’s the Velveteen Rabbit coming to life.

It’s becoming real and in the end, that’s all there is.

It’s real love. All we have to do is listen without judgment and it finds us.

Like we say on our cell phones, “Can you hear me?”  “Can you hear me now?”

I hope the answer is, “Yes.”

Melody Beattie



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Thanks for this.

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