Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Stop, Watch and Listen

We all know that schedules can get crazy, overwhelming, and a bit out of hand at times. The truth of the matter is that we tend to create most of our own stress. We take on more projects than we know we can handle, because we don't want to say 'No'. We try to play superhero and do it all. We work, we parent, we take care of aging parents, we take care of our homes, and we try to reach out and volunteer. If you're like me, you feel guilty at times about taking a couple of days off for yourself (o.k. - I hope I'm not the only one that struggles with that.)
Last week I took one day off of work and managed 3 days away with my daughter for some R&R, some mother-daughter conversation, some grueling exercise, a lot of fresh air, and a good deal of people-watching. It was good to get away, to have a change of scenery, to do something different, to not watch the clock, to not answer the phone, and to not hear honking horns (at least while we were on Mackinac Island).
So what did we do? We walked A LOT. We rode bikes A LOT. We talked A LOT. We ate good food (but not too much). We people watched; that can be a sport in itself. And we talked to people ... total strangers. While waiting for dinner at an outdoor pick up window we talked to a retired Army guy from Kentucky. We learned a bulk of his life story (at least the part since 2002) in under 3 minutes. He talked about his desire to tour around the U.S. with his wife and about many of the places he'd been. He talked about wanting to DO as much as they could now that he was retired.
We talked with a young woman working on the island in the Biddle House (built in the early 1800s). She wore a dress from the period and talked about the origins of the house, the family that lived there, and what a typical day would have been like for them. Then we talked with 'her'; about her summers, her job, and about the quilt she was working on (the pattern, the size, how long it would take them to complete one, etc.).
Asking people 'How are you?' and getting the automated reply, 'I'm fine' is easy. It takes more effort to have a REAL conversation; to ask real questions and give real answers. It's interesting, it's fun, and it's educational. We already know most everything about ourselves. It's more fun to actually stop, watch, and listen to other people. We can learn so much, and not just about them. We can learn things about ourselves; the level of our compassion, our interests, and our level of creativity.
Embrace the moment. Take the vacation. Hug your kids. Have a real conversation. Give it a chance. I guarantee you it'll be worth the effort.
What was the last thing you learned from a conversation with a stranger? Was it something about them OR you?

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