Bumps in the Path: an Experience of Listening

We've come down quite the path together, you and I, and life goes on with much more to explore and discover. I'm glad you're here with me, dear reader (as Stephen King addresses his readers; hope you don't mind if I use the endearment too), since it is always fun to travel together. Let's see… We've tapped into the instinctual animal within, felt the grass grow, and got the Q-Tips out, all the while separating ourselves into two only to bring those two halves back together again. We're set to continue on. I'm glad you're here with me; yes, very much so.

Unless you kick and scream and holler at me, I'm going to explore something around an experience that caught me this morning. It's not the first time I've experienced this particular situation (though with different people) with this gamut of experiencing, so I'll share it with you, bring you with me through it, and then later, we'll explore.

This morning, while deep in thought about which way to go down the Bumpy Path, the phone rings as it will at this time of day. A good friend often calls while driving to work to chat and touch base, and it was her calling. She is a talented, skilled paraprofessional and we tend to think, problem solve and help in much the same ways. But today, her usual bubbly, lilting voice sounded tired, flat, and more than a bit hopeless. There is no chit-chat; instead, she jumped right to the point after "good morning" was said: Someone very close to her is seriously contemplating suicide. It's 'rock bottom' now, and at a critical point.

She and I have had many, many opportunities to cross over the line between friendship and counselor as we worked together during the last year, and we know each others' cues which role is most needed at any given moment. With her drastic change in the tone of her voice, I knew what was needed. I kicked into my "mode".

I've often described this "mode" of mine as flicking a switch that takes me, my self, and puts it up on my left shoulder. I'm switched to In the Moment as fully as is possible to listen and "walk a mile" along with the person I'm listening to. My self sitting on my left shoulder is silent until something of what I'm feeling is important enough to bring to the surface of my awareness. In the meantime, it records it all.

I listen hard for what she is feeling and try to find where she wants to go and what's stopping her from getting there. As I listen to her describe her experience in a frighteningly detached way, I fill in a word here and there when her mind blanks out, and she will either use that word in her sentence or my interruption unblanks her mind and she puts in the word she really means. Her seeming detachment comes from the struggle to pop herself into her counseling role while knowing very well how tough that is to do when someone very close is in crisis. I admire her strength, help a bit with thinking through how to best proceed in her roles, and let her know that I am available for her 24/7. She arrived at work and ended the call.

When I hung up the phone, the "mode" switch goes to off, and my self immediately hits the playback button and starts flooding me with all the things I was feeling during the call, those things I couldn't let get in the way listening. I damned the distance between my friend and I. I should be there for her in person. I felt angry at the situation for putting such a strain on my friend. I felt her frustration at how many walls she has to continue to climb and break through to be of help to the person in crisis. I felt in terror that the hours ticking away would continue to prove to be a spiral down. It was even more terrifying that my friend was much more terrified of that downward spiral than I was. I damned the distance between us again. As she must still feel, I felt helpless. I have no choice but to wait for an update.

I won't be much help for her when she calls back if I continue to be trapped by all the feelings. So, I went outside to feed my horse, dogs and cats and struggled to get back Into the Moment. One thing's for sure, if you aren't In the Moment around a 1600 pound animal, you become a pancake! It worked, at least long enough for me to write this down.

Can you "walk a mile" in my shoes? Can you pop into your Moment? What are some of the things you are thinking and feeling now after reading this?

I am so glad that you are here to share with, dear reader.

(Image source: http://members.shaw.ca/robelphinstone/finearts/togeth.htm)

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: My friend called during her drive home from work. Her voice was upbeat, musical and positive again! No details yet, but relief is almost euphoric - for both of us.