In the largest tree of my neighborhood sits an invisible bird who shouts, with great urgency, “Mom! Mom! Mom”. Every morning dog walk is punctuated by this ricochet of demand that registers in my nervous system and puts me on high alert. As I go into autopilot solve-for-the-child-in-need mode, I remind myself each time that the sound I am hearing is the call of a bird.
This morning, it occurs to me that maybe other people hear something else in the call—such as “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” Or “Strong! Strong! Strong!” Or maybe they just hear birdsong. Some probably don’t even register the sound at all. This makes me wonder how my listening influences the messages I receive.
Could my listening for the “Mom” call actually be its source? Could my devotion to my son be influencing what I hear?
I think so.
My old dog Machi who is turning the bend of 14 years old hears almost nothing now. Yet, I still talk to her as I always have, because I believe that in my pantomime of love she receives our age-old transmission of adoration and appreciation. She doesn’t need ears to listen for this. She knows she can count on what I am sending.
I think about what I listened for from my then-husband: his rejection of me. His dissatisfaction. I consider the case I built against him: with each painful thing he said held up and worshiped like a kind of punishing prayer. The bricks I made of my pain and cemented into the wall that rose slowly and indelibly between us.
My cat Diablo sleeps all over me at night. Often, he is walking around and over my head in his endless readjustments. He is almost 17 now, and not as graceful as he once was. Recently, he missed while traversing my sleep and stepped on my face. With his claws. It hurt.
And because the only thing I ever listen for with my animals is love, I told myself simply, “He missed. He didn’t mean to step on my face.” End of story. I pulled my old cat into my chest, gave him some kisses, and fell back asleep.
When I woke, I made myself a new promise. That I was going to listen to my beloved, Mark, in this same way. When I heard something that hurt me, as inevitably I would, I was not going to invest in that hurt. Instead, I was going to release it back up to the enormous tree where the invisible bird sits with intentions I will never know. Free of my self-punishing interpretation.
I promised to simply tell myself, “He missed. He didn’t mean to step on my face.” And pull him close.
I promised to listen only for our deepening connection. To build a case for that in my heart. To only have ears for love.
What are you listening for? And how is it influencing what you are hearing? If you are not getting the kind of feedback you want from an important relationship, I invite you to try simply fine-tuning your listening. What can you give your attention to that’s going to fill you instead of empty you? Start there.