Just One Thing To Do This Week: Listen

By MARY BETH MAASSEN
Los Alamos

This Week: Listen

I hear my husband come through the front door.

“Hey ya!” I hear him shout cheerfully. “How ya’ been? Did you have a good day?” I can hear the smile in his voice.

I do not respond. This is because I know he is talking to our dogs. He is far more effusive when talking to our dogs than when talking to me. I have come to expect this, and accept this. I am guessing that when he enters the house, if I were to eagerly rush up to him while wiggling my butt with unbridled enthusiasm, he would probably speak to me with a little more exuberance. We all have our limits. Butt-wiggling enthusiasm is mine.

Unfortunately this seeds another problem. If I hear him talking in a pleasant tone, I assume he is talking to the dogs and I do not listen and I do not respond. The next thing I know he is no longer speaking in a pleasant tone and he is accusing me of not listening to him. And he is correct.

As you grow older, and the kids are launched, and it is just the two of you in the house, it can be a lonely place if you don’t pay attention to each other. So lately I have been making a more concerted effort to listen, even if I think he is talking to the dogs.

After just a few short days I can tell our communication is getting better. He has also, inadvertently, become more attentive.

When I heard him ask in an animated voice “Who wants to go for a walk?!?”

I responded with an “I do!” and we enjoyed a nice walk. And, he did not have to bring along a plastic bag.

When he enthusiastically asked “Who wants dinner?!?”

I once again responded with an eager “I do!” and then I sat down expectantly at the dinner table. It took him for-ev-er, but eventually he brought me some dinner. It was worth the wait.

While I have also taken up his offers of snacks, I have declined offers of playing Frisbee and riding in the back of the truck. Once again, we all have our limits.

Another limit I am establishing this week is how much time I spend on the cell phone. I like to think I am a successful multi-tasker and I can text, email, chat, and engage in a face-to-face conversation all at the same time, but I can’t. If the phone buzzes, beeps, or rings, I am then distracted. The warm-and-in-person human being that I am spending time with will feel, and will be, slighted. My family and my friends are truly precious and I want them to feel valued and loved, not diminished.

So this week I will work harder to listen to those I love and yes, even those I work with. I am trying to slow down a bit and think a little more strategically about how I spend my time—what can I let go of versus what really provides value in my life and the life of those around me.

My initial efforts tell me this will be a worthwhile endeavor. I already feel less anxiety just knowing I am making decisions that will result in fewer demands on my time. Or, maybe all these extra walks I am taking with my husband are doing me some good.

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