What a (almost) burst ear drum is teaching me about listening .

I am currently struggling with an ear drum that has threatened to burst.  Seemingly out of the blue.  It was a painful ache, much like when scuba diving, or flying with your ears that don’t want to equalise, that sent me off to the doctor.

The doctor, on examining my ear kept saying OH MY WORD, OH MY GOSH repeatedly. Never a good sign really. She then went on to tell me that the inside of my ear looked more like a haemorrhoid, a shiny (this was apparently a good thing) one than like the inner anatomy of an ear.

I am grateful for modern medicine – hopefully the deaf, blocked, dizzy, unbalanced, ringing, buzzing, motion induced nausea sensation will be passing soon.

It’s ironic when someone whose career is all about listening to people suddenly can’t.

Then I thought about the haemorrhoid thing, and other than thinking EEUWWW…thought about some hard conversations around race that I have been engaged in.

Around how when we have to consider things like privilege, shame, fragility, guilt, we often listen with ears that don’t hear. About how hard it is to listen to the anger or stories of others whose stories don’t make sense to us because we don’t experience life that way. About how uncomfortable or inconvenient, or how much we don’t want to have to keep listening.

We listen ready to explain the buzz, the nausea or maybe don’t even acknowledge the blockage that is the problem.

A friend recently challenged me on not being afraid to listen and speak up less apologetically.

I have realised that part of my buzzing has been not wanting to deal with some of the fall out of speaking up and out, of not feeling like there is enough energy to do so.

I am committed to not apologising for learning and wanting to keep walking with, learning from, and speaking up when I feel I must. I am committed to quote another wise friend to ‘failing forward’ in this as we learn to listen together.

I can’t learn when I am focused on the buzz.  I can’t listen or concentrate on what you are telling me when I am distracted by own blocks. Whatever they are.

I am grateful for friends, like my doctor, who have pointed the ‘haemorrhoids’. I am grateful that we can create spaces where we can learn to listen despite the buzz.

I am dreaming of a South Africa where listening means clarity and being heard, and being quiet when needed. Without the buzz.

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IN TRANSIT

In transit

The waiting areas in airports.  The in between space of starting a journey and arriving at the destination.  The part that I often associate with getting stiff, bored, needing a book or a distraction, with starting to think about what will happen when I get there.

In my immediate family of my guy and I, we are in a waiting space for a specific outcome, the timelines of which are totally out of our hands.

In my extended family, we are waiting for answers to prayer, for relocations, for hopes to be fulfilled.

In my friendship circle, we are waiting for new life to be born, for friends and their life partners to discover each other. For visas, for work permits, for jobs, for change.

In my country, we are waiting for changes long hoped for to be seen, for healing, for people to be allowed to dream again.

Rather than being surrounded by final destinations, I feel like I am surrounded by in transit processes.

Then I am reminded of journeys taken in the past – the ones in which I embraced the transit part as opposed to those in which I wanted to keep asking ‘are we there yet’?  Regardless of how much I asked, I couldn’t make things happen faster.

The journey that was an overnight flight and looking after my co-traveller’s 6 month old baby so that she could stretch, go to the loo and have an uninterrupted nap actually was one of my favourites.

The journey through to Mozambique on the back of an open, uncovered bakkie (in an unseasonal hailstorm) with a lifelong friend making memories for a lifetime, which was then followed by a bus trip in Mozambique (in which the bus broke down), followed by an unplanned plane trip to Swaziland (we got a lift in a plane – yes, you read that right!) followed by a mini bus taxi trip home to South Africa from Swaziland, squished into the back corner.

The journey of moving back to Cape Town which involved a road trip down to KZN, along the Wild Coast, the Garden Route with my guy.

In all of these experiences, which were in transit, there was frustration at points, anger, and an unwavering hope that this was a part of the story, a getting to know my inner and outer world better.  The only way in which this happened was through a sense of surrender to something more than me and my plans and thinking of what would make things perfect.

On Friday morning, at the end of a commitment rather than motivation based run, I was reminded that I can make plans, but God determines the steps (Proverbs 16:9).  I can do all I can, but I can’t control uncontrollable variables, like understanding, or misunderstanding, or timelines that aren’t mine to set, or always know exactly what direction the steps are going to take.  So, the run abruptly stopped, and I remembered:

It’s about SURRENDER.

Surrender to the fact that actually the journey along the way is a part of the story.

Surrender to the fact that in my one specific context, I am choosing to trust God.

Surrender to knowing that regardless of my plans, there is a bigger picture with steps in it – sometimes steps of character, or relationship, or a picture that I wouldn’t have thought to paint myself.

In transit.