I’ve been tapping out Monday blogs consistently for the past two years. For awhile I was also blogging on other platforms on Wednesdays and Thursday, but that started to cut into my other writing time so it hit the cutting room floor.
The core reason I do this week after week is not for web position or so I’ll be discovered or any of those reasons you get if you sit in a marketing section at a writing conference. Instead, what drives me is I’ve always had a lot to say. When something piques my interest I can’t always find an audience at the ready who cares about the same thing. Enter the blah-blah-blog. I can say what I think and maybe it will resonate with somebody somewhere.
This having a lot to say thing sometimes gets me in trouble. Fifth grade in Mrs. Ginn’s class was one of those times. Mrs. Ginn was a larger than life (literally and figuratively) woman who made me sit right in front of where she lectured. As she would babble on about Mesopotamia and things that fifth graders need to know for some reason that is still not completely clear to me, her top lip would gather huge beads of sweat. Simultaneously, her bright red lipstick would stick to her yellow teeth. As she became more animated (and by animated I mean flustered) she would inadvertently spit on the front row of students as she spoke. I’m not even kidding.
The whole experience was wholly disconcerting. Gross, even. The way I dealt with that scene at that age was to turn around and talk to the person in back of me. Admittedly not the best strategy, but in fifth grade, you work with what you’ve got. When it came time for report cards, I got the dreaded check mark in the “talks too much” box.
I’d get a warning from my mom. “JJ,” she’d say. “No more checks next quarter. You need to listen, not talk.”
The next quarter rolled around and report cards were handed out. (This was before Aeries and online reporting systems that are so convenient today.) I skipped over everything and went straight to the checks. Not one, but TWO! And next the comments: Jamie has a lot to say. She just needs to not say it while I’m talking.
Fifth grade went like that. Each quarter there were more checks and more warnings. Last quarter there were 4 in that box and I was grounded off TV for the whole summer. And I loved TV.
That summer I spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be a good listener. I listened to the grass. I listened to the frog’s as they started to croak at dusk. I listened to the wings of the bats as they skimmed the water of the pool in the evening. (When you live in the sticks, and you don’t have TV, you work with what you’ve got.) I learned the value of listening with the ear behind the ear, to the great universal melody that connects us all.
So last week, when nothing came to me to blog about, I decided it was time to listen. I listened to the rain drops hit the pine needles as we went to the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. I listened to the flame on my cool new WoodWick candle that crackles like a fireplace as it sends Cinnamon Chai into the air. And with the live people, I consciously practiced listening more instead of talking over and interrupting those around me. That one still needs lots of practice.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change