"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

March 19, 2017

Two Women Sitting Around Talking (...and Listening)


The main reason I left Facebook recently is because so many people I have known (in person or as a "Friend") were at each other's throats, no matter their politics or persuasions. [As soon as Lent is over I will be back, but not much more than a few minutes a day and only for a quick check or a garden, farm, book, article, food-related post–and a vow never to post anything political there for the rest of my days!] Several acquaintances as far back from high school–and even a few here locally in the past few years–had also unfriended me because of our differences of opinion. That, as well as the negativity and constant political sharing, was my tipping point. I've always prided myself on having a wide swath of friends–on Facebook and in real life–who have different backgrounds, perspectives, religious views, and politics.

I am objective enough to see that there are impermeable bubbles on all sides and that so many of us have the need to be right, including myself. But perhaps what we really want is just to be heard? And that requires real time conversation, validation, or at least the lost art of listening.

Everyone has their thoughts on something and everyone has a right to them but then there is the whole fact vs. fiction thing and that, to me, is even more disturbing than disparate views on issues that affect us all. I don't want to make things political on my blog, either, but I will say this: we need to do more listening and less talking. And to do so with empathy and understanding and an objective mind. It starts within each of us. That is how I was raised: to enjoy a lively debate in the right forum or with others who are willing, but to not shove my beliefs on everyone else. But if you ask for my opinion or thoughts on anything, I am delighted to tell you.

This quiet, warm Sunday afternoon a strange man stopped at our door. I said "come on in!" because one of our boys said, "Oh Dad, that's the man you met at work." As soon as the man walked in and started speaking, I thought I was back in New Hampshire. His accent was spot on old-school Yankee: broad "ar"s as in "BAHN" (just the way my husband says it) and the kind of speech and cadence you don't hear much any more in New England unless you are on a back road or with an old farm family (both also increasingly rare).

Turns out he and his wife moved here last year for many of the same reasons we did: shorter/warmer winters, better cost of living, a different way of life, and a rural experience that is increasingly (and less affordably) difficult to find back in New Hampshire, or in much of New England for that matter.

So my husband and his friend went off to the shop and his wife and I spent time talking in the house over a cup of coffee. She was as politically interested and aware as I have been, and as engaged as I was on TV and other media until about a month or so ago. To be honest, I've enjoyed a welcome break from it all.

I was prepared to make small talk about New England and various places we'd lived or things we'd done or animals that we love (she trains horses). But she brought it all up first and, as she was a guest in our home, I was determined to be polite. Rather than spewing my own thoughts I listened to hers and only pushed back sometimes, and respectfully, just to make sure she knew I didn't agree with everything being said. Initially she seemed surprised but then she said, "You know, the only way to learn is from each other and the only way to do that is by listening." No truer words.

We had a real conversation without huffing or shaming or getting upset. Since living in Kentucky I have seen and heard other viewpoints and approaches to a wide variety of things. Because of that I knew the drums were beating loudly and consistently in the direction that they went in November 2016–at least from much of rural America. [But the pundits and pollsters were not interested in this reality, and neither were some of the politicians.]

All I will say now, before forever holding my peace on the subject, is that the conversation was very enlightening in both directions. She even said so. We are very different women from very different upbringings and perspectives and, like many people I've met or heard about, she voted for the first time in her life because she felt inspired to do so. Like others, she's been holding out for a hero.

We talked but we also listened to each other. We spoke of the great divide in the country right now but recognized that there was also some common ground between us–that we all as humans basically want the same things: a roof over our heads, the ability to work and earn a living, affordable healthcare, a safe(r) world.

In the old days people used to go around "visiting" on a Sunday afternoon. It was generally an open door "we're at home" policy. We have found that tradition exists here, too, especially among our Old Order Mennonite friends.


Real Time vs. Facebook Time is so much better, even if you don't agree or know each other well. Do we like having our opinions and ideas shared by people and friends who agree with us? Of course. But as long as we can talk with each other civilly about our differences, while also saying when something is wrong, I think we'll be alright. The rest is just noise, distraction, and diversion–even in much of the media. We just need to occasionally look up from our Smartphones and our computers, and our televisions, and have a real conversation.

You come back when you're ready!

Catherine

2 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed reading this post! I completely agree with everything you said. I too gave up Facebook after the inauguration but I don't know if and when I will go back. My friends are split down the middle on politics but this election both sides have been so nasty. Since when do we all have to agree on everything?

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