An Ear to the Future #listening #1000speak @1000speak

It has taken me most of my life to realise there’s more to listening than the mere act of listening itself. If that sounds gibberish, let me try and explain.

I think, though we are going a ways back, that I didn’t really get listening at all. I was reminded of this recently. You see, my mother kept nearly everything from my early years. At least it seems that way. Dad often articulated his frustrations about this when he said, ‘You know, Barbara if and when we ever move and empty that $%^&*( loft the house will spring off its bloody foundations.’ When she died I found boxes of stuff, one containing all my school reports. Even back as far as my nursery school in 1960 and 61…

school reports

what a perfect summary..

Timid… inclined to watch the other children.. at other moments is too full of self confidence. I was four. I have a sharp memory of that school – the entrance hall where we hung our bags – I had a satchel – and the play room with an indoor slide. And I do remember being told off for sucking my thumb – I was watching a girl on the slide do something I couldn’t – I don’t remember what exactly. But I was watching, learning.

That was me – learning through watching. Rather than listening.

When I was seven, we used to listen to story time on the radio. Probably a 30 minute story. Our form teacher – a truly formidable woman with the outward compassion of Grendel’s mother and a blue rinsed hairdo that wasn’t so much permed as weaponised, Mrs Pritchard – would ask us questions. Early in the first term, maybe it was the first lesson, I drifted off. She ate me whole. ‘Listen to the story, Geoffrey…’ Even that far back the use of my full name spelt trouble. I learnt I had to listen to avoid being singled out. By Christmas no one was better able to recall those story than me. She stopped me putting up my hand I was so good. It was a lesson I absorbed well. I knew all about listening.

People learn in different ways: some by reading, some by writing notes and some by listening. My principle medium is listening. It seemed easy.

I married in 1984 and my spouse is a truly wonderful and remarkable woman. But she has one trait that I and the children have come to dread: variously it is called the ‘hairy eyeball’, ‘that look’ and ‘mama’s death stare’. It is a look to which you just have to listen. Words aren’t necessary. It is noiseless listening. Like listening to yourself or to the world around you or  to the body language of others. I had been taught another part of the listening jigsaw.

In 2004 my father began to lose weight. He became anaemic. Shortly he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and secondaries in his bones and on one lung. He was initially given four months which with cunning medical interventions extended to just over a year. In the first days, post diagnosis, neither he nor mum heard what the oncologists were saying They had one question only: ‘how long?’ and nothing else; not the diagnosis and prognosis, the treatment options and interventions, none of it stuck.

That’s hardly surprising. They couldn’t hear. When I realised that, I asked to be allowed to come to the consultations; I hung around until I met all three oncologists and asked them to explain, in no doubt boring detail, what was going on. One thing emerged, for me the second most painful part of that whole grim experience after knowing dad would be dying soon. He had had many warning signs, many events, big and small which, had he related them to an alert professional might have revealed the cancer years earlier.

Had he done so, and given his overall excellent health, he would have lived for many more years. It is not far fetched to think he might be reading this now (and correcting my woeful grammar).

He listened to his body but he didn’t hear. More accurately he couldn’t bring himself to hear what it was saying because acknowledging the message – he was weak in areas he found too embarrassing to speak about – was a step too far. He was of a generation and of a personality type who couldn’t expose themselves in such a way.

I’m grateful to Mrs Pritchard – Mum always said she was a wonderful teacher – for instilling in me the capacity to listen. I am grateful to my spouse for showing me you need to listen beyond words. And I will always regret I learnt from my father the need to hear what I was listening to, even while he didn’t learn it for himself.

 

 

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to An Ear to the Future #listening #1000speak @1000speak

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Another excellent post Geoffle, you had me laughing at times and crying at others. You have hit the nail on several salient points. We all need to listen, to each other, to ourselves and too nature!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Profound post, Geoff

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jan says:

    Sorry to hear about your dad – sometimes it is hard to hear things. I am definitely a visual learner – my school reports would all say the same thing – daydreamer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Best sort of person Jan. the stories are always so much more interesting inside the head! And thank you for the sympathy. I’m glad to say the old curmudgeon still sits on my left shoulder telling me what he’s thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Solveig says:

    This is such a great post. I do think that a lot of people don’t know how to listen. I myself knew how to listen and then as a teen omitted that knowledge, now info listen again a lot. For some people tend to tell me everything, but I guess it helps that I listen.
    I am sorry for your dad, but I am glad that you learned to listen to yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Solveig. I’m not sure I’m that great as a listener – let’s say a work in progress. And being a trusted listener is both a great compliment (well done you) and I imagine a little bit of a burden at times

      Like

  5. musicwaffle says:

    I could set off on a bit of a ramble here about listening. In the classroom it’s a constant battle to get children to listen. And I don’t just mean stop talking (which is another battle because some kids seem to have no control over their mouths!) but to actually ENGAGE with what is being said ie listen actively rather than passively. I won’t start on the about the youth of today, because there are actually plenty of adults who only hear what they want to, but it’s incredibly frustrating when children are looking at you and for all intents and purposes “with you” but don’t convert this to learning. Most children, in my experience, are visual learners – they need things on the board, pictures, words, vocabulary, prompts to get on with their work, and that’s absolutely fine. But instructions like, “First do this, then do that,” are more challenging than you would believe for the average 10 year old.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      This makes for fascinating reading for someone outside the schoolroom. I’m not sure where I heard it first when some teacher said they needed to be experts, not in some subject but in crowd control but that does seem to resonate.Teaching is one heck of a job and I can see why teachers find it exhausting, using all your physical mental and emotional energy to get through to youngsters.

      Liked by 1 person

    • roweeee says:

      Welcome to my life, Musicwaffle. I have an 11 year old son and a 9 year old daughter. Our son is stone deaf whenever he’s watching TV or looking at the computer. Actually, I think he does hear me but you seem to know exactly what I’m talking about.
      I am a highly visual learner and get really frustrated by the incredible weight given to auditory learning. Churches to me seem to be the worst offenders where sermons ramble on without any visuals even though the Church has the latest equipment. Talking at someone isn’t teaching.

      Liked by 1 person

      • musicwaffle says:

        Mine are 18 and 15 and it doesn’t get any better. It’s just that they are bigger than you! X

        Liked by 1 person

      • roweeee says:

        Humph. Not looking froward to the boy getting bigger. He is going to be towering over both of us. Our daughter, on the other hand, is likely to be much shorter than me so I might be in with a chance there.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Oh size doesn’t stop my daughter from utterly ruling the roost, cunning minx. At the end of a negotiation equally draining of the bank and the emotional balance she will say, ‘I’m not spoilt, am I?’ Of course the concept of the rhetorical question is lost on her.

        Liked by 1 person

      • roweeee says:

        I can so relate. Mine also seems to have convenient memory lapses. What do you mean you bought me something yesterday?!!! Humph! Might start giving her the bank statements.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Both negotiate like experienced brokers but the son accepts the handshake as the end of the process whereas the daughter sees it as setting a new base line from which to re-activate the bartering. I’m not suggesting a gender bias here, rather an understanding that being a princess involves certain privileges….

        Liked by 1 person

      • roweeee says:

        I think mine are quite similar. I am needing to be more firm and reinforcing some boundaries. It’s never been my strength.

        Like

  6. That was a wonderful post. I think that many of us have selective hearing, missing some very important messages.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. roweeee says:

    Geoffle, So many things to respond to in this post.
    Firstly, I , like your mother, have kept all my children’s artwork since pre-school. In my son’s case, that hasn’t been much of a challenge as he might produce one or two things a year if that. My daughter’s mind is incredibly fast and she’ll whizz up so many craft projects that I can’t keep up and some are even 3D so not that easy to store. She recently turned our empty dishwasher box into the box elaborate cubby I’ve ever seen complete with mail box, door bell, shelf and it also included a pond for the wind up turtle she bought but it got knocked over creating a tsunami in the house, which unfortunately my husband found. I had to gently explain to him that her creating things is the reverse of pulling an engine apart and putting it back together again like he did.
    I am quite the extroverted talker and a few years ago, decided to improve my listening skills and started asking my friends more questions, rather than talking at them. Well, this didn’t go down well with some of them. I’d ask very generic, harmless questionslike : “How’s work?” and they’d brush me off with “I don’t want to talk about it”. They didn’t like being in the hot seat.
    I have also noticed that some older women seem to talk for hours without stopping to draw breath and really do need to be reminded that conversation involves turn taking. I have the same issue with a few aspie friends who are also inclined to bail you up.
    I can talk you ear off too if I’ve been home all day and haven’t spoken to anyone. However, I defend myself and say that that doesn’t mean I talk a lot because if you spread these words over a day, I don’t think it would be so bad.
    I need some verbal equivalent of a pedometer to test myself out.
    xx Rowena

    Like

  8. wonderful post, Geoff – and listening to yourself is certainly from physical, as well as emotional view.

    Like

  9. Oh I considered myself to be a great listener but, having now read your post, I probably don’t always hear the words that I am actually telling myself. Thanks for the nudge Geoff, and if ever you want to talk then you know where to find a great listener.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Autism Mom says:

    Wonderful! Maybe for those who so desperately want to be heard, the first step is listening.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yvonne says:

    It is sad that your father, and so many others like him, wasn’t able to hear what his body was saying till it was so late. Interesting that you wrote about the difference between listening and hearing. I was also thinking about this recently.
    And I loved the report cards!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Charli Mills says:

    You manage to hit the highs and lows in life’s lessons of listening. It’s difficult, yet worthy to be an advocate for another who cannot hear. we all need to be heard, yet often are afraid to hear the big stuff. Thoughtful, yet beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Learning About Compassion – #1000Speak | Solveig Werner

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