A LOT!I didn't realize this was out of the ordinary until probably college. There have been a few ongoing reactions to that, and, again, I didn't realize until college or even afterwards that those reactions were not standard for everyone. I didn't realize until just a few years ago that I had gotten to a point where I didn't like or appreciate or want those reactions, but I had resigned myself to them because I thought there was no alternative. I thought that to expect an alternative reaction from people would be unfair.
I realize this may all sound very very cryptic. I got used to people not listening to me. I got used to them being in my general vicinity and seeming to hear what I was saying, but not actually listening and certainly not truly considering what I was saying or if it would or should have any impact on their life. Until my friend Nathaniel startled me one day. I had gone out to have dinner with him and his wife and their kids and I don't even know what it was that we were talking about. Probably something to do with our church. A week or two later he casually mentions that he has been thinking about what I said and either implemented it or was going to or something. I stood there truly dumbfounded. It even took me a minute or two to figure out what that feeling was and why it was so strange to me.
Then I realized how very sad it was that the "norm" for my life was to believe that very few people were actually listening when I talked. What a sad thing it is to go through every day honestly believing that few people, if any, will be paying attention and truly listening when you open your mouth.
I concede that not only do I talk a lot but I "Chase The Funny." Meaning I tell stories and nonsense and ridiculousness to get people to laugh. I am totally not above telling a story about something idiotic I did if I think it will make people laugh. I imagine that some people get tired of waiting for the conversation to go serious or can't distinguish when I've moved from one to the other.
All of this is to say that I now notice when someone is truly listening. I notice when someone has taken my opinion or thoughts to heart. I notice when someone says "I've been thinking about what you said ...."
And, I noticed at a recent meeting with students that the 3 young men in the meeting paid attention. They heard what I was saying, truly heard it. Now the topic is not something that can be resolved in a simple conversation amongst a small group of people, but to know that they valued my opinion meant a lot. It truly did. So I texted one of them afterwards to thank them for listening to me and valuing my opinion. I went on to say that I truly appreciate that because it has not always been the case in my life. As if their listening wasn't enough, the one I texted answered back and said that my opinions come from a caring heart and that should always be considered. To which I thought:
I LOVE MY STUDENTS!!!
For me, being appreciated is a new thing. I have not felt appreciated very often or very significantly in my life. Because being appreciated is a new thing for me, it gives me hope that things are changing. That I am changing. That I am not the person I was a year ago or 5 years ago or 10 years ago. I am becoming more of my truest self. I'm dropping the bull and the baggage (hey, that sounds like a good book title or maybe another series ... hmmmmmm). I'm letting my full character and heart shine through my personality. Somehow those all feel like slightly separate things and my "personality" has never had a problem shining. ;) Knowing that someone important in my life values my opinion gives me hope.