Monday, January 2, 2012

Listening in for the New Year

Happy New Year Friends!

Something good is going to happen today.   I'm not sure what that is yet, but saying it now will help me to notice when it happens later on.

As soon as the last gift was unwrapped this Christmas and I saw a picture of myself looking rather plump in my chair, and still at this moment, I'm battling a severe case of Irritable Jenny Syndrome. 

This week I have felt the pangs of holiday let-down and it's partner ennui.
I went to the gym and doubled my work outs and avoided most of the baked goods that I'd worked on before Christmas day.  I was cranky and said things that weren't nice. 

I wondered if it would have been better to travel to see extended family no matter the cost.  Perhaps it was better this way...they were spared!

Scrooge and Grinch and the worst of me took up residence in my heart and I've been fighting it for a week.

Something has gone wrong in my happiness wiring and so this New Year brings me to a humble state of mind.  While I was generally cheerful all season (that manic time between October 31 and December 25) somehow the momentum was lost.  And it's not a good place to be when blogging.

I want to write the good things, the happy things, the positive, lovely or beautiful things.

So today I'm going to include a passage from a writer whom I admire.  Her name is Brenda Ueland, a prolific American journalist who wrote hundreds of articles, essays and a newspaper column for the Minneapolis Times.  She's also known for her book If You Want to Write...which is on my list of books for this year.

In the following article taken from Strength to Your Sword Arm: Selected Writings, Ueland writes about listening in a way that I had never considered.  She claims that listening is a creative force.

On the fine art of listening, she says,

     "Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.   This is the reason:  When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.  Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.  You know how if a person laughs at your jokes you become funnier and funnier, and if he does not, every tiny little joke in you weakens up and dies.  Well, that is the principle of it.  It makes people happy and free when they are listened to.  And if you are a listener, it is the secret of having a good time in society (because everybody around you becomes lively and interesting), of comforting people, of doing them good."

    "When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other.  We are constantly being re-created."

     "Now this little creative fountain is in us all.  It is the spirit, or the intelligence, or the imagination---whatever you want to call it.  If you are very tired, strained, have no solitude, run too many errands, talk to too many people, drink too many cocktails, this little fountain is muddied over and covered up with a lot of debris.  The result is you stop living from the center, the creative fountain, and you live from the periphery, from externals.  That is, you go along on mere will power without any imagination.  It is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way."

"I have a mystical notion about this.  I think it is only by expressing all that  is inside that purer and purer streams come.  It is so in writing.  You are taught in school to put down on paper only the bright things.  Wrong.  Pour out the dull things on paper too---you can tear them up afterward---for only then do the bright ones come.  If you hold back the dull things, you are certain to hold back what is clear and beautiful and true and lively."

"Now, how to listen?  It is harder than you think. I don't believe in critical listening, for that only puts a person in a straitjacket of hesitancy.  He begins to choose his words solemnly or primly.  His little inner fountain cannot spring.  Critical listeners dry you up.  But creative listeners are those who want you to be recklessly yourself, even at your very worst, even vituperative, bad-tempered.  They are laughing and just delighted with any manifestation of yourself, bad or good.  For true listeners know that if you are bad tempered it does not mean that you are always so.  They don't love you just when you are nice; they love all of you.  In order to learn to listen, here are some suggestions:  try to learn tranquility, to live in the present a part of the time every day.  Sometimes say to yourself: "Now. What is happening now?  This friend is talking.  I am quiet.  There is endless time.  I hear it, every word."

"The true listener is much more beloved, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective, and learns more and does more good."

I wonder what Brenda would say about blogging...and all the "talking" of the internet.  I think she would recognize bloggers as some of the greatest listeners, because while we have these little, or big, boring or imaginative things to say, we continue to create new posts with energy especially when someone leaves a comment, no matter how brief.  It is the stamp that someone listened.  People who comment have the affect of allowing that life within us to spring forth in a creative way; it is wonderful to feel listened to.  So as I walk into a Monday morning on the second day of 2012, I'll be more aware of the many good things that are happening.  And embrace my need to listen.

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