Tuesday, May 3, 2016
My morning had been total crap. I don't say that lightly. I was in the midst of a pretty extreme bout of anxiety due to situations completely out of my control; including an accident down the road from our house, resulting in a road closure and power outage at home. Driving past the accident triggered something and I was having flashbacks from the accident Thomas and I were in back in early December.
I swirled into the Tim Horton's, knowing I had an hour to get some work done. I was frantic. I ordered a coffee AND a bagel, (both unusual for me these days) which were just further signs that I was not myself this morning. As I sat down at a large table by myself and began to get myself sorted, my phone buzzing, trying to hook up the wi-fi on my tablet, switching back and forth between devices, organizing my food, I heard a voice from across the room.
"Is that one of those iPads?"
I looked up and saw a well dressed older lady sitting in front of the fireplace looking at my table littered with devices, notebooks, and my breakfast with curiosity. Normally I'm not really one to talk to people I don't know. A polite response about my technology, she complimented my sandals (I said thank-you) and I assumed we were done. I truly thought she was waiting for someone to join her. I went back to "my work".
After a minute or two
"Ask questions and you will find your way".
She said it with authority, it sounded like she was quoting someone. Maybe she was. I looked up again, and she said "That's why I was asking about your iPad, why do you need that AND your phone?"
I paused. Why do I need both? Truthfully I was navigating text messages on one, and websites on the other at that minute. But were any of them so important that I needed to be using both right at that minute? No.
So I put my "technology" down, and proceeded to have a conversation with the woman sitting by herself.
I learned about her family, her life, and how she likes to spend her time. But as she asked more questions about me, I found it difficult to speak genuinely about myself. Everything felt contrived... I'm not sure why. We spoke a little about my "business", (she found the Jamberry thing pretty intriguing) and about my other part-time job, but mostly I think she was just looking for someone to chat with and spend time with while she passed the time waiting for her next appointment.
But she managed to help me calm the anxiety, just a little. A conversation with this complete stranger helped me in a moment of weakness, without ever knowing.
Or maybe she did know.
I feel like "community" is a concept that has largely been overlooked or misunderstood by people today. I'm not saying "kids today don't go outside and play anymore" or talking about the importance of knowing your neighbours. And how things aren't the way they used to be. Community. Living in one, belonging to one; it's something different and deeper than that. It's being able to rely on each other. Being able to trust each other. My hesitance to share about my life with this woman makes me sad, looking back. She genuinely wanted to know about me. What was I afraid of? As horrible as the news makes this place seem, I'd like to believe that the world is generally full of decent human beings.
Conversation has become a lost art. I don't know where I first read or heard it, possibly in a book, but there's a Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People/Teens/the rest of us) quote that says "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
That's huge. When I think about our over-saturated social media society, even with commenting on each other's posts? Do we try to understand the original post, or do we simply comment because we have something to "say"?
I am absolutely guilty of this 100%, especially with my kids (both at home and at school). Thomas will be trying to explain something and before he's even finished I have it in my head what my response will be. It drives him bonkers.
And how do we begin to "listen to understand"? By asking questions. And listening to the response. Really listening. That is how we learn.
So I will try. I will try to ask questions, and I hope I do find my way, because a lot of the time I have no idea where I'm going.
And thank you Mary for looking past the forcefield of crazy I've built around myself, and chatting with the quirky girl sitting across from you. Our conversation was one of the highlights of my day.