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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Word of the Year

I never thought of having a guiding word of the year until I began blogging. Then I noticed a number of bloggers chose a word upon which to focus. Last year I thought about a few but couldn't settle. This year it seemed so easy.


Listen.

I don't mean necessarily with my ears -- although that certainly plays into it. Listening to different opinions (and then forming my own -- and sharing them if I feel so inclined). Listening to those who need to talk -- whether it is to share a trouble or because that's just what they do and maybe they need my ears because others have given up on them.


Listening to the wonderful sounds of the world -- the birdsong, Lizzie's purr, the troubling clink in the car, waves lapping against the shore, the rustle of fall leaves and the rumble of thunder as a distant storm nears the lake. My footsteps as they walk on snow. The sound of my breath as I struggle on a bad breathing day. Recognizing which are purely joy and observations and which are warning signs.


Do you remember the early evening of 9/11? If you lived near an airport and listened -- all you heard was silence. (Sounds like a song Simon and Garfunkel might sing.)


Listening to my body. The coughing, the breathing are pretty obvious. One can't help but hear them (including my bed buddy who has lost more than a few nights of sleep because of my night cough). But also listening to the silent parts of the body -- the troubling knee, a tight IT band, a troublesome foot. Listening and then taking some action.


Listening to my heart. Is it full? Is it broken? And listening to my soul. What is it telling me to do? What is the right thing to do at this very moment? Will it still be right tomorrow?


Listening to what isn't said. How many times do we hear someone say "I'm fine!" Or, "I've been better." And we may or may not follow up. And who knows? The unsaid may be a plea for understanding, for a kind action, a moment of gentle support or encouragement. I know I've done it back when I was working, even when I wasn't aware of doing so. "I'm fine." "It's OK." Only it wasn't. And it was more than one good friend who listened to what I didn't say and said "It's not worth it."


Listening with intent. What can I do with what I hear? Can I help ease an aching heart? Is Lizzie's bowl empty? Do I need to share what I hear and what I feel? How much is too much? How much is not enough?


I never imagined when I chose that word that so early in the year I would first listen, then not like what I heard, and finally do everything I could to affect change and to make my opinion known. I never imagined that posts I wrote on Facebook would be shared over and over, often by people I didn't even know; that people would send me email messages thanking me for speaking out when others felt unable or unsafe; that by sharing what I heard could influence others or at least inform them. By listening I could provide accurate information and OK, if it's spiced up a bit with obvious opinion, it didn't change the information, just reinforced the passion.

I am an only child. Well, was. I suppose childhood passed by decades ago. But as an only child I never learned certain skills that kids with siblings often pick up in the home. I never learned to compete until I was in theatre. I never learned to fight, for the most part, ever. I am totally non-confrontationaI (and this can sometimes really annoy people who are!) I don't get into politics and I don't argue religion.


I listen, I nod, and I go off and live my life. Do not ask me to fight.

I tend not to sweat the small stuff. I don't get really mad, really angry. A little, sure. Pissed off might be a better term. But I am a cheerleader, not a rabble rouser.


But I learned a long time ago to assess what I can change and can't and to recognize the difference. Some things don't matter, some things you put up with because you have to simply to get by (my last two years at my job before retiring, to name one) and some things matter so much you have to act.


By listening to myself, to my gut, to knowing when to speak (if not always when to stop!), I have learned a lot about myself in the past weeks, not the least of which is understanding that for the most part that those basic character traits are my dominant ones.


But don't attack something I hold dear. Don't ignore or insult people I regard with deep respect for their talents, their work ethic, for all that they are. Or I will go to the mat and I'll bring anyone I can with me. Maybe I've been hanging out with Rick Oberle too long (and after 20 years, that's not going to change!) but I have finally learned how to fight. If, and only if, it matters enough.


That's how I felt about the FCC spectrum auction and our TV station. That was speaking out positively, sharing information and making sure people knew about this so they could take a stand. It worked. The station was saved. (The decision-maker -- our university president -- said that the people's comments didn't make any difference and called those who were vocal "complainers," but between the media attention and the volume of letters and social media posts, she'd be ill advised not to pay attention.) BIG YAY!

It wasn't all good that came from this, though on the surface the victory was won. But like most victories, there are bruised bodies left in its wake. Words can hurt more than actions and our U president chose hers badly, insulting and demoralizing a group of remarkable professionals directly and less obviously but still verbally, our community at large. As I told one person, doing so is an insidious form of bullying and she should be ashamed.


Or, as one individual wrote on social media: "You are 100% correct that it hurt the staff at WKAR to be called "adrift, without focus" in the press conference yesterday." 

Whatever one in charge feels privately -- be it board president, office supervisor or teacher -- is one thing. Decisions made in private or in the board room belong to that person in thoughtful, candid discussions. There is a big difference between discipline for poor behavior and public dressing down. There are a multitude of political elements up in the air and leaders juggle lots of things. No one will say that one in control always has an easy job.

But words hurt and we're not all seasoned political candidates who take blatant insults, many of which are false, with the same "water off a duck's back philosophy" that we've seen in recent news footage. When my colleagues and community are more or less slammed, when a public broadcasting station is snidely degraded for wanting to serve the mid-Michigan community by serving them the PBS schedule, despite the fact that the people have spoken, it becomes my fight, too.


We all, at one time or another, have the opportunity to voice things that others can't, simply because it isn't in their best interest. When we have the opportunity, it is an obligation to do so. And then at some point, you pull back and let them take the charge and carry on.


It's time for me to go back to listening mode and believe me, I'm not looking for a cause. (Although lead in the water of the city of Flint, MI and our governor's role in all this is mighty tempting! But Rachel Maddow and Cher have done a far better job reaching out than I could ever do!) This one exhausted me. But our TV station will stay. My friends have jobs. And I'd write a recommendation for any single one of them if they had been forced out. But not, I think, for a woman whom a very clever friend called "The Dowager Countess without the warmth and wit."


Meanwhile, as our "esteemed" university president calls it, "DownTOWN Abbey" is in full force and I think for a bit that's where my public tv zone will be. (Really? Is she deliberately trying to insult public broadcasting viewers or is she just so out of touch and uninformed she doesn't know the title of a show that is an international hit -- and why on earth don't her "people" correct her? Say it once, it's a mistake. Say it twice and it sends a message -- "I do not care about you and your silly show.")

I will listen to posh tones of Lady Mary and Edith, the tears of Anna (will they turn to joy?), the determined stance of Mrs. Hughes to have the wedding she wants, the cleverly barbed interchanges between the Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley and all my other favorites. I'll follow the discussion in Arti's Ripple Effects and dig into the books I have stacked up for 2016! Oh yes, there's that art journal calling me, too! Maybe it's time to listen to a good tutorial or two as well!


But I'll be listening.

25 comments:

Mae Travels said...

Amazing insights! Wonderful post!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com (blogging about only the trivial)

Victoria Zigler said...

A wonderful post.

I'm not sure what to say, except that it might be a better world if more people were to listen a little more often.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

I am on my phone and can not type all that I want to say in response but your best is the best. There is so much to say but rather I will listen to your words herr and start my day in the battle zone of the work place. Bravo.

Joanne Huffman said...

It's a good word and you se it (and, frankly, all words) well. I enjoy listening to you.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

As always, wonderful post my dear. I am happy to hear that the right decision was made but am sad to hear that she drug your good friends at WKAR through the mud in the process. In the end she is the one who ends up looking bad in the process. But it's a shame that someone like that is in a position of power as that sort of attitude is not the kind of attitude that person in that position should have.

Now that I am Amazon Prime I'll finally get a chance to watch Downton Abbey! I plan on starting it after I finish watching The Gilmore Girls. Everyone I know that has watched that show has loved it so I know that I will as well.

I love the word you've chosen for the year. After reading so many posts about people's one word, I've come up with my own - less. Less saying yes to things I truly don't want to do. Less accumulation of physical possession that I don't use or need. Less worrying about things that are out of my control. By doing less of these things I'm hoping to have more time to invest in the relationships that matter most to me, and more peace and joy in my life.

Marilyn Miller said...

Love your word. Listen is a good thing for that is how we learn. You are still an only child no matter how old you are. I had a sister growing up, but still didn't learn how to fight. It took me a long time to learn to stand up for myself. I thought everyone else knew more than I did, oh was I wrong. Happy Listening!!

Lynne said...

Wonderful post . . .
No word for me this year . . .
Instead, at the end of each week, I write down something I liked about my week, saving those written thoughts in a jar, to read again in a year . . . I wonder if that will become a
REMINDER . . .

I love the word, thought, action of . . .
LISTEN

Tammie Lee said...

listen is a fabulous word to have as a companion through out a year. i used it once, let it teach me, enlighten me and bring joy to life. it sounds like you have already let listen share the world with you. lovely images to consider too Jeanie.

Karen S. said...

I like that word listen, and it's something the whole world could benefit from! Lovely photos too.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Jeanie, this might be my favorite of all your posts so far. You remind us of all the ways to listen and learn. And you have explained your passion for defending the television station--I hadn't seen you crusading before but wasn't sure whether this really was the first time. You did a great job. And I suspect you'll be listening to see whether activism is required as things develop. I haven't even picked a word for this year yet...maybe my word is "procrastinate"! Have a great 2016...you're off to a wonderful start.

The French Hutch said...

Well said Jeanie! A great word, one we all need to pay more attention to and just do it!

Emily

Mary Rose's said...

I love you. That is all!

I need orange said...

Good for you for standing up; for taking a stand!

I just read, earlier today, that 3 of 10 leaders are toxic. Seems awfully high -- I wonder if that number might go down, if more people would stand up and take a stand.....

Good on ya. :-)


ps -- I read, in the last week or so, that "slacktivists" DO make a difference, if there are enough of us. ("Slacktivist" being a pejorative term for those of us who sign petitions and write notes, but who do not picket, or call voters, or engage in other active sorts of activism....) So -- there is a continuum of activity -- we can do something, without going full-tilt boogie....... :-)

pps -- all of your containers of paint make me want to MAKE MARKS!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-) :-)

Janet said...

Fantastic post, Jeanie!! When I read about you as an only child you could have been writing about me! I love your choice of word for the year and the way you explained it in so many ways is beautiful. Like you, I only stand up for things I truly believe in and have a passion about. I'm usually quiet but when I need to speak up I can do so quite loudly.

Barb said...

I think listening is a skill often lost amid more pretentious and outgoing communication skills. However, to really listen is a gift not only to the receiver but also to the giver. People wish to be truly known and the only way that is possible is if someone else listens with understanding and empathy. I hope to give people my full attention when they are trying to tell me something. I try not to be thinking of what I can say next. This is my gift to them. Even in our long marriage, if Bob is talking to me, I stop what I'm doing and give him the courtesy of my attention. I love that you chose listening in it's myriad forms, Jeanie, to guide you through 2016. Also I caught the satire of the butt pose - nicely done!

Arabella said...

Great post and great word choice.

Debs said...

I've not thought of a word for the year before but I think it's wonderful. And you have picked a perfect word :)

Becca said...

Well said! I loved every word, and so much of this resonated with me too. I pick my battles, and usually am happy to go along to get along, but when something really hits home with me I am fearless! I so much admire your speaking out with a voice of reason on the WKAR issue, and happy there was a good resolution.

There is much to listen to in this world of ours. So often we let the noise overwhelm is. This wonderful post is a good reminder to train our ears for edifying sounds everywhere.


The Artful Diva said...

i need to listen more and interrupt less!

anno said...

Love this -- listening is reflexive (not purely passive) and requires responsiveness. I'm so proud of what you've done for WKAR, and proud of the leadership and inspiration you've provided. Sinus aches and other pains aside, this is a great way to start the year! Hope the glow from this success brings some healing warmth into your life...

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Jeanie, this is probably one of my favorite posts... Your thoughts came across so very clear and heartfelt.. I think your word for the year is right on... So many issues could be resolved if we all just listened.. Really listened. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Oh yes, my little chef.. I love that you ~get me~ I think you may be right. You made me laugh when I read where you wrote, only you could think of a peanut souffle! haaaa
Enjoy your evening dear friend
blessings,
Penny

Arti said...

That's one of my all time favourite words. It's an essential skill for all sorts of endeavours. When I took my first birdwatching course, we were told to listen for bird calls around us. We can hear them first before seeing them. Often it's their calls that alert us to where they are and who they are. When I took my screenwriting course a few years back, we were told to listen actively in public places, not to eavesdrop but pay attention to how people talk with each other. That's the trick to write great dialogues. Just two life- affecting examples. :)

Sheila said...

What a wonderful post. You have my admiration for standing up for what you believe in, and doing so without being insulting or nasty. Few people seem able to express their feelings without being hostile, it isn't easy. I'm glad you had a positive outcome.
You have chosen a good word Jeanie. Most of us can hear, but not all of us listen..xx

bj said...

I don't generally pick a word for the new year but if I did, I would chose LISTEN...
Very, very nice post, Jeanie.
xoxo

Tracy said...

Hi, Jeanie! LISTEN... that is a terrific word to focus one's life around. We hear, but are we really, truly listening, taking in... I love this description of yourself: "I am a cheerleader, not a rabble rouser." ;) Here's to cheers and positivity in the new year! Wishing you health, happiness, creative fun and beyond in 2016, my friend! Great to finally be catching up with your more here, after my post-holidays slump... ;) ((HUGS))

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