I have always been a firm believer that to have a conversation you need two people – a talker and a listener, that it is turn and turn about, that listening is an active thing and it is almost more important in a conversation than talking. This pandemic has really taught me the importance of that.
During the lockdown I have spent a great deal of my time on my allotment – it is at the bottom of our garden so no travel has been involved. It started as a means to prevent being in the way – Peter was still working (using a bedroom as an office), Brendan was home from University but had study assignments to complete and Patrick was completing “remote learning tasks” or logging on to Google classroom for online lessons. That meant three areas of the house where I had to be quiet and not cause a distraction! The weather was kind so inside jobs could wait and outside I went. I had plenty to do and was glad to be away from the radio, especially the news!
As time passed and I dug, weeded, sowed and tended, my mood calmed. Things slowed. I became aware I was listening to the sounds around me more. I could hear no aeroplanes and fewer cars, but I could hear children playing, a variety of musical instruments being practised (a violin, a piano, a trombone, Patrick’s flute and, even one day, some bagpipes!), the wind in the trees, the bees and I agree it is true that the birdsong is louder!
Then one day my father was taken ill and admitted to hospital. Everything suddenly became very loud and busy even though we couldn’t be with him. Listening became even more important. My mother needed to voice her fears. She didn’t need or want me to say that it would be alright. She just needed to talk. The children had questions - many of which I couldn’t answer - so Iistening was all I could do. There were also discussions and plans with my brother and sister.
Time on the allotment became very different. It was punctuated with phone calls from family and friends and we seemed to be constantly waiting for that important daily update from the hospital. Inside my head became a very noisy place indeed. I now dug, weeded, sowed and tended to the tune of “Please God”, “What if”, “Not now, not like this”. The inability to do anything for him was the most difficult. Then one day I sat down with a cup of tea and thought to myself “Patricia, (full title means I’m in trouble!) you’re so busy talking at God, you have forgotten to listen. I looked around at the allotment, let the birdsong in again and heard the words: “Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”
The feeling of helplessness was replaced by a real sense of calm. Somebody else was in charge! The sense of calm has been restored on more than more occasion since then when I think of those words.
Now my when I’m on the allotment I’m still doing a lot of talking to God, but I’m doing my best to take my turn and be an active listener too.
Stay safe and well and thanks for listening!