Opening Up….

I have had a ball this last week. I have had personal encounters of every kind including cleaning up the Creek, working out, discussing finances and just some good conversation. I had an email from a dear friend that was beyond touching and to be honest,humbling. You don’t realize how you affect people and they in turn leave their imprint on your life. Marvelous stuff.

They all involved communicating and that is chance taking at its best. You are involved in a chat and something in your mind says let it go further. Then there is that slap on the back of your head that asks if you have lost your sanity? What is that person going to think of you? Is that last statement you made really out there? Guys don’t do this stuff. Yes, there is good stuff inside of you but there is no way you want to let it out…or do you?

When you are young you can say anything. Out of the mouths of babes so to speak. There is a 50/50 chance you are going to be cute or get an unapproving glare but hey, you are a kid. As we progress towards puberty you have the feeling that everything you say or do is under a microscope. There is a jury of your peers that is willing to jump on you for the slightest transgression or shred of other than cool behavior. Being a dork is not a passing thing but a scarlet letter for the major portion of high school. At least in your mind. If you are lucky,you have friends that get it.

College is a little different. You can completely change your persona and the tribal elders are still in flux at least until the end of the first semester. Then you are pegged one way or the other but at least the populace is larger and more diverse. Your studies take you to new landscapes and your conversations and perhaps your loves become more intense. And of course beer or pot in the prescribed amounts brings you to the level of just short of genius.

During these stages comes a deeper communication and the accompanying risks. Remember when you first got to know a girl and the first few dates you wanted to share everything with that certain someone. You were soul mates and the world was your oyster. The more confident you became the more you told. And then you hit the point of no return. No, not that one, you slug. You really started to speak of the inner you. The one that you always protected and never let out. By opening up in a word you became vulnerable and that was scary as hell.

Progressing through life it does not get any easier. College gives way to corporations and clients. You don’t have dorm mates but neighbors. Club members and couples round out the roster. A whole new set of standards and challenges. Where do I fit and who is a kindred spirit? Sooner or later you winnow down the mob to a controllable few. It’s not a secret society but a comfortable mix.

Strangely enough as we grow older for the most part we have less friends. We become more selective about our environs and comfortable in old shoes. Why go to all the trouble to start up all over again? That is too bad but all too true. Just at the time we have more leisure time we find crazy ways to waste it. Too busy or too content. Leave well enough be.

I have had a totally different experience over the last few years. I’d like to tell you it was intentional and pure brilliance on my part. Not so. Of course years of therapy have slowly brought me out of my shell but seriously I look at most things as an absolute adventure. It is almost as if I wander down dead end roads and dark alleys on purpose only to find a whole new world. In my work on the Creek I have probably met well over 100 people whom I never would have known before. People in business, volunteer work, government and just neighborhoods. Wonderful people who are open and giving. A lot more giving and gracious than me. The bar has been raised.

That whole giving thing is serious stuff. If I share a piece of myself to anything or anyone there is an automatic responsibility. I have made a commitment to a thing, an event or a person. I have started a relationship. I can no longer turn my back and claim ignorance of you or your travails. I think that is why the elders like to shut the door. Courteously, but firmly saying no. I have enough they say and yet the true fun is seeing how far you can get out there. The hardest part is reeling it back in. It is addictive.

In a contrarian thought I find as you move on in years you become less concerned about criticism. I like to think people aren’t sure whether I am just nuts or eccentric. Probably a little of both. I ask questions without reserve. I probe but am not afraid to be called to task myself. If queried I probably will thoughtfully consider a response not to appear PC but so that I can properly elucidate what the hell I have in my mind. And I want the same from you.

The only real drawback is when things fail. I have had a few wonderful friendships go bad over the years. In most cases they are heartbreaking because I try to put a lot into things of this sort as I am sure they did too.Alas, I am hopelessly afflicted with Irish Alzheimers. YOU ONLY REMEMBER THE GRUDGES.Just one of my many tragic flaws

The corollary to opening up is learning to listen. Sitting there and looking into someone eyes and yes maybe their soul and shutting up. Not looking for a segue into your own experiences or finishing sentences for them but hearing what’s important to someone else. This is my toughest lesson but one I constantly strive to get better at. It’s a struggle but I am trying. Test me out some time.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of this an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing.

“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

A good listener will stop talking, physically prepare by relaxing, put the speaker at ease, eliminate distractions, empathize,be patient, avoid personal prejudice, listen to the tone, be alert for ideas not words and watch for non verbal communication. Geez Louise!

A study published in The New York Times states that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work get into fewer car accidents, have a higher income and live longer than married men who don’t do so.

Research from the University in Vienna shows that hugging someone you love releases the feel-good chemical oxytocin. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety, and can help improve memory.

(These have absolutely nothing to do with listening but they sounded great….Party on mes amis )

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