The Importance of Being Heard

I’ve been writing this post in my head for over a month, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

The importance of being heard?  What, hunh? It’s simple; once you strip away all of the nuance, the line-in-the-sand- advice, the pleas, the heartfelt and/or open letters to the media masses, the temper tantrums, the stubborn adherence to strict doctrine, the foundation mortared together with noise, what’s left is a grinding need to be heard.

I was chosen recently as part of the cast of this year’s Listen To Your Mother Show— and no, this post isn’t just a commercial,  though I do hope that you find yourself scrolling back up to click on this link for show information and to purchase tickets.  Or clicking it right now.  Okay, that was a tiny commercial.  Carry on.

I listened to the stories during our first read through and spent the rest of the evening completely overwhelmed at the depth of my emotional attachment to the stories of these women.

Imagine meeting your favorite viral post in person– it was like that.

In the weeks that followed I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head.  That from the first drawing on a cave wall, the first wail of a baby’s cry, the last breath before death, every moment in between centers around wanting to be heard.

Elliot and

Elliot wearing one of the Paperhand Puppets

The newborn baby cries for all of the reasons babies cry– hungry, wet, tired, scared, bored. Prior to identifying anything else about its surroundings, baby, barely more than an un-uterused fetus, already instinctively knows the vital importance of being heard.

The toddler crashes full-body to the ground, face purple with rage, arms and legs jabbing at you like a prison shank.  Screaming with all of the twisted, powerful emotions coursing through his little body.   Indignant, righteous fury at this injustice– neither relevance, nor rationality need apply– toddler asserts loudly, publicly about the importance of being heard.

See where I’m going here?

The elementary-aged children, beginning to learn in earnest the adult method of self-containment.  My first grader reminds me of a can of biscuits– life rolls along, pleasant and calm and then BOOM.  I’m surprised even when I know the can’s about to explode; more so when it occurs spontaneously from the backseat.   It’s tricky, navigating this age. They struggle to balance the importance of them being heard, with the natural need for autonomy.

For two months I listened to my kid mumble grumpily about not having lots of stuff, about how haaarrrddd my husband and I are on him.  For two months, any moment of consumerism requiring his participation filled me with irritation beginning at the first click of the fastening seatbelt.  Until, finally, he confessed to being jealous of a classmate who had bragged about a 600 dollar a week allowance, and a 5-story house– neither of which containing a speck of truth.

Now from memory– mine– the middle- and high school children.   Struggling through the importance of being heard by the right people, at the right time.  At an age where being overheard by the wrong people, at the wrong time very much feels like the end of the world as you know it.  My parents offered the well-intentioned advice on a how a future me would be completely unaffected by these humiliating horrors in contrast to my pre-teen/teenaged insistence that the only solution involved leaving the state.   Their (true of most parents deep in battle with hormonal overlords) inability to hear me created a world where the importance of being heard transformed into the importance of remaining silent.

Nothing– none of this– goes away (or gets easier) as we grow older; as we settle into a young adult’s life of facebook, and twitter, and tumblr, and reddit.  We being to navigate interpersonal relationships, boundaries within our own control.  Sorta.  Little things become Huge Things; simple tasks, like proper towel folding become a metaphor for demonstrative emotion.

Becoming parents– or not–  we find ourselves banging against our drum of individuality, trying to reinforce the importance of being heard over a wall of background noise. The Pinteresting  vs The Pinhating; The Elf Elite vs The Shelf Scorners; The Safety Rotors vs The Abduction Riskers; The Indignant Attendants vs The Indifferent Iphoners;  The Village Dwellers vs The Validation Seekers.

When a gazillion people share a post about stopping holiday madness, and another gazillion people get self-righteous in their justification of house-destroying leprechauns, the original message of being overwhelmed gets swallowed by the static.

It’s not about everyone drinking a homogenized Hippie Peace and Patouchili smoothie, either.  I can be comfortable in my paint-covered shorts while another mom is comfortable in her designer white pants.  We can both wonder at how the other manages without the addition of scorn.

For me, the importance in being heard  has nothing to do with anyone else’s priority list at all.  It’s about strengthening my own voice, comfortably tucking into my own confidence, seeking my own council, and accepting that everyone just wants to be heard.

Now the challenge for me is not in the hearing, but in the listening.  Double bonus points if I could learn to listen without offering solutions or advice.

What? Nobody’s perfect.

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