This past weekend, I got to see a couple of my closest friends get married. It was a beautiful day with a beautiful ceremony and though it sounds cheap and cliche, you could see love. You really could. I felt it the entire time I was around it.
I’m not a poster child for love. In fact, most people would say that I suck at it. I don’t know why I suck at it, but I do. I don’t feel like I suck — I’m good at “words of affirmation” and “quality time” and even “acts of service.” All of those things that make people feel warm, fuzzy and, well, loved.
But for the majority of my life, I haven’t been able to get it right. Except for now. Knock on wood. Things are going really great right now and I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been in my entire life, but knowing me, I can take things from zero to SUCK in about 4.3 seconds.
Anyway, my friend Erinn came down for the wedding and as we were sitting there talking at the reception, I had this revelation. And epiphany, maybe. We got to talking about a party in 1999 and about a guy, who, at the time, I was so in love with it hurt. I was convinced that I had actually met the mythical “one.” The one I’d grow old with.
Then she said something that jogged the memory — at this party, he was trying to talk to me about something (granted, through a heavy haze of alcohol). I walked away from him. In the middle of his sentence.
He put his fist through a fence.
I could name for you at least 20 times during my marriage (which, well, we all know how that one turned out …) that I walked away. I thought back to a few weeks ago when B and I had a total blowout over something that started out totally stupid and derailed from there. He was trying to talk to me. I walked away from him. He didn’t react well to that. I didn’t respond well to his reaction … and repeat.
It all could have been avoided if I hadn’t walked away. If I would have just stayed there and listened. Not heard what was being said, but actually listened.
Am I afraid of conflict? Maybe a little. Do I avoid confrontation? At almost any cost. Was I giving into an irrational fear that our relationship would be damaged by having some kind of disagreement? Possibly.
If the past is supposed to be our greatest teacher, I hope I can learn to listen.
It’s not even just about disagreements with the men I pick … I do it to my friends, my family, my co-workers. I feel awful for doing it, too. About 95 percent of the time, it doesn’t even occur to me that I’m not listening. I just zone out. I’m thinking of 20 other things at the same time — how I want to respond, what they’re saying, what could happen if I respond the wrong way, whether I left the curling iron on, whether the Pittsburgh Pirates have a chance of going above .500 this season …
You get the point.
Sometimes, I just don’t listen. Most of the time, I don’t even realize it.
I’m learning though. I found myself this weekend not just hearing the words people were saying, but listening to them, too. When B talked, I didn’t just nod my head and say, “Yeah, I know!” or “You’re right.” I thought carefully about the words he said and responded with actual, real thought. Not just “OK” or “Yes.”
The last thing in the world I would want is to think I take him, or his thoughts and feelings for that matter, for granted. I don’t want anybody I’m close with to feel that way — even my Mom or sister who sometimes, I really don’t listen to. But it’s not because I don’t care. It’s probably because I just saw a midget on the side of the interstate or I was screwing around with my BlackBerry.