Weekend Assignment #54: Tell us all a single piece of wisdom you've learned from personal life experience. It can be a small thing, it can be a big thing, a simple tip or trick or the most important thing you've ever learned from life. But whatever it is, you should be able to state it in one sentence. That way people will remember it easier.
Extra Credit: Tell us: Would you have listened to your own bit of advice as a teenager? Be honest, now.
Listen with your third ear.
Did you know that we all have three ears? The two on either side of your head process the sounds of life and the words we hear The third ear picks up the background noise. The longing behind the smile. The sadness people try to hide. The fears they cannot share. The evils they have endured.
Listen with your third ear and you can hear the tears that have been shed during long, lonely nights. The nightmares of childhood trauma. The emotions torn asunder by the loss of a marriage. The scars you can't see from internal wars. The humiliation of abuse.
The third ear comes in handy when children can't sleep. When spouses are angry. When a friend seems adrift. Or your boss is disgruntled.
Listen and you can hear the melancholy in someone's hysterical laughter. The envy and the jealousy in their comments. The despair in their anger.
My former mother-in-law had always been described as a saint. She once considered becoming a nun. But she was a lawyer too. First in her class when she was the only woman among all the men in her classes. The first time I met her I remember thinking how short she was compared to me. And what enormous breasts she had. Again, compared to me.
I was six feet. She was barely five. I had been a model. She had once been beautiful. I towered over her. She was stooped from the weight of her chest pulling on her shoulders.
After spending a day getting to know each other, she summed up our first encounter by saying, "Well, I think it's about time we had someone flatchested in the family."
Ah, those lefthanded compliments. That's what two of my ears heard. But the third one had been listening, too. So I honored her need to cut me down to size. And I always made sure that I was sitting down in her presence after that. Now she wouldn't feel so intimidated by me any more.
A friend of thirty years called to chat and our conversation meandered all over. He revealed that he had become a volunteer for a woman's charity that provided babysitting for single moms trying to return to the work force. Many of them had been leaving their kids alone, and unsupervised. He had signed up as a babysitter. I could hear how happy he was caring for children who were at risk. But I also heard a cry for help that may have gone unheard when he had been vulnerable.
What was it exactly that I had heard? A year later in another wideranging conversation, I found out that he had been molested by a beloved cub scout leader. And despite his protestations to the contrary, "It didn't affect me," it was clear that it had left its mark on his life.
Two ears help you listen. The third ear can really hear.
My mother taught me to listen with two ears but to hear the deeper meaning with the third. When I was a teenager she saw how much I enjoyed being in school shows along with writing and performing skits at the dances. One day, some time during my senior year in high school, when I was contemplating going into medicine, she said, "You know, you'd be good in advertising." I poo poohed what she said, of course. In college, even though I was taking courses like zoology and microbiology, I was in the school shows just like high school, writing and singing for competitions between the dorms and sororities. It became pretty clear what my passions were. And when I graduated I knew where I was going.
My mom had heard my voice long before I did. She not only listened to me, she heard what I said.
Like nobody else. Before or since. Thanks, Mom.