dawn with a tree and boats and water

This one is very important and very beautiful.

Here is an interesting paragraph, plopped seemingly on a random page, in the book Dusk, Night, Dawn by Anne Lamott:

“My friends are the low note that hold me. Love is the whisper of wire drum-brushes. And while everyone has to make a living and show up for family, listening is optional: you have to make a conscious decision to begin listening harder.”

This is one of those paragraphs that you have to read forwards and then backwards to fully understand. Let’s do that together.

First, Lamott shouts out her friends, again. I want to take a moment to shout out my own friends. Friends: you are awesome and amazing! I have been feeling intermittently deeply depressed lately, and as usual my friends have been coming through for me. THANK YOU. You are my soft sunshine and my tickling rain. Thank you for understanding when I am feeling down and going through a tough time. Thank you for laughing with me and talking with me. ❤

Next, Lamott shouts out her love—she had recently fallen in love and gotten married. And we get a metaphor of background music, a soothing presence underlying her life that is the people she loves.

Then, she implies that some aspects of her life are harder: working and family obligations. She is able to engage in these somehow harder things, she implies, through the foundational strength of her friends and husband.

Finally, she tosses in the idea of active listening. We don’t have to actively listen, she says, but it’s better if we do. What does she mean by that? Well, we have to then read the passage backwards to figure it out. You have to be an active listener to truly show up for your family and to do the best you can at your job. You have to be an active listener to make a marriage work over the long run; and the same with friendships.

This is a paragraph, then, about all of our relationships, and how they all must be continually sustained if they are to flourish. We can take them for granted; but they likely will not last long if so.

And how does one sustain a relationship?

By always striving to listen harder.

Are your ears actively listening?