I am indebted to
my mother Andee Platt
and to Anya Clark and to Bob Godfrey and to Doug Mobley and to Karen
Junker and to Nazee Ranker and to Shannon Geis and to Tim Hanni and to
Curt Hill who inspired this conversation.
my mother Andee
twice a month. That's my promise. It's always great speaking with her.
The bond of family between us has grown
stronger especially now I have children of my own. Before I had
children of my own I had one kind of relationship with my mother. But
it wasn't until I had children of my own that the full dimension of who
my mother is for me opened up.
I schedule occasions to call my mother as opportunities. I'm not
referring to them as opportunities to simply speak with my mother,
which they are as well. I'm referring to them as opportunities,
laboratories if you will, in which I can distinguish my
already always listening.
The sum total of my opinions,
ascribed meanings, certainties, positions, beliefs, concepts, and
what I already know to be
constitute my already always listening. When a situation, event,
circumstance, or person shows up, my listening, like a station on my
car radio, is preset. It's already welded in boilerplate and
bolted onto concrete. I already know how things will go
from then on.
It's not possible to listen the situation, event, circumstance, or
person newly and openly in the moment when I only hear
of my own predefined opinions, interpretations,
assigned meaning, certainties, positions, beliefs, concepts, and what I
already know to be true. I hear it before anything else. Werner Erhard
calls it the already always listening. It's inflexible. It's
uncreative. It's on automatic. It drowns out newness,
generosity, and possibility.
Inside my already always listening for my mother, I already know how
the call is going to go, even before I press 0-1-1 to start
international dialing. Then, no matter what we talk about, nothing
fresh, nothing intimate ever comes forth. The ambience for
the call is predetermined. Whatever happens on the call can only show
up in a disempowering context of calling
is the right thing to do. I'm a nice guy so I call
... because that's what nice guys do.
Most times I'm aware there's an already always listening going on. In
particular I notice I've got an already always listening for my mother.
Before I call her I already know she'll talk about the
weather. I already know she'll say she doesn't enjoy the heat. But when
it gets cooler, I already know she'll say she doesn't enjoy it cooler
either. I already know she'll redirect the conversation at every
opportunity to talk about herself. I already know she won't ask much
about my life so I'll end up dutifully listening as she talks about
hers. And the truth be told, she may or may not do some or all of the
above when I call her. But that doesn't matter. Even if she doesn't,
I'm expecting her to. I'm waiting for it. That's my already
always listening for my mother.
Although we cover a wide range of topics, the truth is I can't stand
being on calls like those. Once the already always listening takes
over, the entire conversation becomes a chore. But I do it anyway,
dutifully, waiting for either of us to get tired of talking so I
can hang up.
This time before I called her, I stopped, looked, and first got myself
clear about the already always listening. I didn't have to look very
hard to see it. By distinguishing the already always listening, I could
see beyond it to access an open, non-judgemental natural
listening. Once I'd distinguished my already always listening for my
mother, I'd distinguished my already always listening for any
situation, event, circumstance, or person. Once I'd accessed an open,
non-judgemental natural listening for my mother, I'd accessed an open,
non-judgemental natural listening for any situation, event,
circumstance, or person. Only then did I pick up my phone and call.
It was an amazing conversation. I heard an open, frail but attentive
elderly dignified woman. I heard her love for me, her son, in the same
way as I love
Prior to this call I knew she loved me because she said she loved
me. But I wasn't listening her love for me so I hadn't
really heard her love for me. On this call, when I
listened her love for me, I heard it as the same love as mine for my
children. I heard her defend me. I heard her stand for me. I'd never
heard that before. Even if she'd said it before and even if I'd heard
it before, I'd never really listened it before so I'd
never really heard it before.
Everyone wants to contribute to people. Whether they're consciously
aware of it or not, everyone wants to make a contribution. One of the
insights I got during this conversation with my mother is how my
already always listening stops people contributing to me. "I already
know this" says
"Stop telling me what I already know.". With that,
excludes any contribution from anyone because
the voicealready knows everythingabouteverythingandeveryone.
Listening my mother from an open, non-judgemental natural
listening, I got it's not what people share which
contributes. Rather, it's that they share at all which
contributes. My mother, arguably for the first time, was enabled to
talk animatedly about the weather which I, arguably for the first time,
experienced as her way of contributing to me.
When the conversation ended and it was time to say good bye, I told her
I love her. Sometimes I tell my mother I love her when it's the
right thing to do and then it's awkward to say. This time it
was authentic. This time it was easy to say.