A lot goes on inside your head as you lay in a dentists chair during a root canal. I recently had a particularly long, grueling one (2 1/2 hours). When you are stuck for that length of time, your thoughts travel…and when you find yourself unable to speak…the listening skills get quite a tune up.
I have always considered myself to be a good listener, so I have to admit I was surprised how tough I found it not being able to say a single word while my Dentist and her assistant engaged in some juicy girl talk. For 150 minutes, they were conversing quite literally in my face, while I couldn’t even utter a syllable (sadly, grunting doesnt translate well).
I think as humans beings (and dare I say, especially women), when someone discusses an interesting or heartfelt experience, our impulse is to react, engage and assist by offering up our own sage advice.
The torturous part for me that morning, was how the conversation revolved around things I’ve had experience with, great affection for, as well as learned and grown from.
My dentist described a girls weekend she hosted for a close friend who’d just been blindsided and shattered by the breakup of a long term relationship (aka “juicy girl talk”).
The way she described the emotional support offered, the tears cried, the deep conversations they shared – it was everything I believe a loving friendship represents. I was simply dying to chime in and give her my full personal take on all of it.
I had fabulous book/movie recommendations, other break up stories to share, I wanted her to hear how other women I know had gone through something similar then ended up stronger and better off on the other side.
I loved hearing about the nature walk on their first morning after (while slightly hung over and emotionally raw)! Their 1 hour walk turned into 3 hours as they got lost on a trail. Turned out to be the best thing ever, as this supportive group of friends embraced nature, had an unplanned adventure, took in the fresh air/sunshine, cleared their heads and had some laughs. It helped shift all their energy, especially the heartbroken one.
I wanted to spew out how I believe there are “no coincidences” in this life, they were meant to get lost! I was so eager to share how I’ve learned when you are down and out…Mother Nature can be an amazing friend, an emotional healer and an incredible therapist.
Then I heard about the food they cooked and the wine they drank (2 of my very favorite subjects). At this point I could hardly contain myself…we were about 90 minutes in, and I’m sure I would have bitten my tongue if it wasn’t frozen and lost somewhere in the abyss!
I was dying to tell her if only they’d decanted that expensive wine, or added a little fresh sage and juice of one lemon to the chicken dish they made…it could have been culinary nirvana.
Finally, the discussion turned to music…how it had them both crying and dancing (more fabulous therapy). I’m sure I was bug eyed at that point and could only lay there in wide open silence creating fabulous playlists in my head. I had the perfect musical mix to help her friend embrace the many emotions of this lousy breakup.
Yep…it turns out keeping my mouth shut (while it was ironically wide open) was pretty torturous!
Then it hit me! When was the last time I just “listened” like that? When was the last time I concentrated so fully or intently on what was being shared, without any of my own words or opinions being slipped in?
I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had just offered up some simple, silent understanding.
Is it just me, or do we all tend to be this way? Do we get so eager to weigh in, that we tend to talk more than we listen? Although we mean well, perhaps it’s not always what the other person needs or even wants.
As my root canal extravaganza was coming to a close, a great memory came to me of the best relationship advice I’d ever been given (something I may not have recalled if I had been too busy talking and dishing out advice).
Years ago a friend taught my husband and I something called the “Back to Back“…its a listening exercise that helps couples communicate more effectively.
The premise is that you and your partner sit back to back (in the dark, so there are no distractions). A timer is set for 10 minutes and each of you get to speak while the other remains completely silent (trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds).
No matter what is discussed or said in “your” 10 minutes, the other person cannot say a single word…then you switch.
Each of you has the choice to react to what the other one has said, or not. You can use your time to share whatever feelings you have, Again, each person must remain completely silent while the other is speaking. The exercise teaches us to listen, but also allows us to speak without interruption, and to share with no intimidation or distraction.
Its pretty effective and I highly recommend it not just for couples, but for friends, siblings, a parent and child…any two people that may need to work through or share some feelings and thoughts that need to be “heard”. I was grateful for this memory as I hadn’t thought of it in years
It wasn’t until a few days ago when I realized that perhaps there was more to my root canal than just some detailed dental work. Maybe all that digging and drilling going on in my canal, was actually designed to help me get to the root of a few things I needed to be reminded of.
I’ve been quietly contemplating this ever since.
For today friends…this is The World As Eye See It