Perhaps we make so much noise because we are so desperate to be heard. Like a toddler we ask things over and over again, desperate for someone to give us the answer we want… or an answer we can merely understand. We get louder and louder in a desperate attempt of being noticed. We are loud in person and online. We are loud when there is no reason to be loud at all – we seem desperate for attention, desperate to not be lost in the wave of voices that wash over us every single day. We all stand up, wave our arms in the air and shout into the crowd… ‘I am here. Can you see me? Please, see me.”
I’ve taken quite wholeheartedly to buddhism in the past 18 months… and within those teachings comes a call for silence and stillness.
So I’ve been working hard on being silent. And still. And present. Not in a meditative inward stillness that mindfulness meditation calls for, but an outward, present, witnessing stillness that comes from truly hearing what others say.
The best gift we can give a friend is the gift of our presence. To allow them to talk and to allow them to be truly heard. To quieten our minds so that we aren’t thinking of our own relevant story to chime into their conversation, to quieten our minds so that we aren’t forming the words we will say next. To quieten our minds so that we can merely listen. To give our friends (and our children) the gift of being heard, so that they don’t have to scream… So that we say to them, in silence, ‘you are here. I can see you.’
It’s one of the most difficult things to do in modern conversations. With a thousand noises and beeps and words and people and hands and coffees and designer fucking designs shouting at us… in a sea of noise where people seem to be either selling us something or drowning us in a sea of perpetual discontent… it’s hard to just stop.
It can be hard to witness someone else in their vulnerability. It’s something that we have been trained not to do. I’m excellent at it in my professional life, but in my personal life I find it more difficult. Vulnerability isn’t something I do well. I do honesty. I do strength. I do support. I do hardcore activism and I’m an excellent advocate for inclusion and social equality. But even when I am at my most vulnerable, and I have been lately, I find it hard to admit it… even to myself. So I’m practicing. Practising listening and hearing and letting people know that I can witness them in their most vulnerable state. Practising letting them know that they are safe with me. Practising letting my daughter know that I will hold her in her weakness and I will let her tell me her fears.
I have the tendency to be the loudest when I’m feeling at my most vulnerable – I tend to overcompensate for the lack of what I’m feeling in the back of my own mind. So I’m practicing not being the loudest in the room. I’m practising witnessing others and staying open even when I want to crawl inside my own skin and disappear.
Being louder doesn’t make it easier for us to be heard. Being the loudest won’t make our words the most relevant. Being the loudest won’t make us seen. But seeing others, gives us purpose… with purpose comes meaning and what more could we want than a little meaning in our lives?
Don’t be afraid to witness yourself… Don’t be afraid to witness each other.
The more time we spend hiding ourselves, our vulnerability, our fears and our flaws… the more we encourage that societal belief that we as women, that we as parents, that we was humans – are flawed and flawed alone.
That somehow we are not good enough.
Witness with open hearts and remember… what have we got if we haven’t got each other?