Years ago, I think I scared the living daylights out of a shoe salesman. As I began describing what I was looking for, he stopped what he was doing, looked up at me, made eye contact, and said “Go ahead. I’m listening.” I was stopped dead in my tracks. I smiled, and said (sometimes my filters don’t work so well…..) “I am not trying to come on to you. But let me tell you, when you say that to a woman, you’ve got her!”
I thought it was funny at the time, but indeed, it was true. How rarely we are really deeply listened to.
I had another experience just the other day. I went to my Ob/Gyn …I will spare you, kind readers, of too many details except to mention that estrogen rings are not always easily removed, depending on one’s anatomy….enough said about that. So, here was this young male doctor, and he was so attentive to what I was saying. He listened, validated my experience, and was kind in his responses and treatments, telling me all along the way what he was doing to help the situation…..which he was, thankfully, able to quickly take care of. He listened to my problem, asked questions to clarify, did what was needed, validated that this was indeed an issue and that we needed to change to a different method of treatment, and asked, at the end, if there were any other questions or issues that I needed to ask about. I felt, in those few minutes, completely heard and taken care of. How little it can take to do that….not to minimize what he did, but to acknowledge that it really did not take much time to help me feel heard, listened to, and also given permission to ask any questions that I might have. I hope that this lovely young doctor does not ever lose this quality as time goes by and pressure to produce and proceed more quickly increase.
This is what we need. To be seen, to be heard, to be validated as the human beings that we are. I did not feel, in that appointment, treated as any less significant because of my age, because of my gender, because of anything. I was simply heard and paid attention to. I felt the glow of appreciation of that the rest of the day, and still do…
Can there be classes in medical school about this? Indeed, why aren’t there classes in school in general about this and how to treat each other? How to really hear and see each other? How to proceed in our interactions as if we are not enemies, or numbers, or annoyances to be dealt with? Why aren’t there movies about this great super power (of kind attention and presence ) that can, in my opinion, move mountains and melt hardness and fear? (I do think of one movie that showed this – the one about Mr. Rogers……a true hero in my eyes….)
And as elders, we have much that we can share….that we can teach…..that we can touch….in others. It would be a shame to not dive into that while we still can. To share this human experience, to talk about all the incredible feelings along the way, to help each other perhaps feel a bit less alone for a few moments.
Go ahead…..I am listening……