We just all want to be heard.
Right about this time last year I was walking home from an early morning yoga class. And I heard her, a block or so before I could see her…
‘you’re not listening to me’
‘no, no, you’re not listening to me’
‘I SAID! YOU’RE not listening to ME!’
She repeated it again, and again, and I listened for the way the sentence changed, her emphasis on you’re, her indignation when she rose up, when she pointed her finger and said ‘me’, the defeat and almost whisper when she would repeat it again and again and again.
It was a loud interaction, that lay over a quiet morning, making it much much louder to hear, and in so many ways, harder to hear.
I took the snapshot of the situation, a middle aged woman who appeared to be homeless, a young looking cop in a handsome, pressed uniform. About a foot of space between them. Now I’m not sure exactly what the problem was…what she felt he wasn’t hearing, what he either wasn’t hearing….or what…I knew I couldn’t solve it, or move it forward. And so, I kept walking.
I don’t know why I think about this moment as often as I do…it’s funny those moments we can play back like that, moments that were never really any of our business, we just happened to walk by.
I have built a career and a legacy on listening…I think that’s why this matters so much to me. It’s why I pay close attention when I’m teaching yoga, to things like how you’re breathing, and the way you place your hand on the ground, which has its own sound…I listen to what happens in the small moments, and I look big across the room in big beautiful strokes when I know that we’re in it together, breathing together…and I know the work it takes for us to get there.
In my job job, I listen, I listen for the truth, and I listen for the spaces where there’s no truth…I call the truth up to the surface.
In my life, my friendships, my partnerships…I am relentless in finding the truth of it all.
In the past few years I have called a million truths up the surface on purpose, and I have had the best years of my life in this, and also, the hardest. A lifetime of truth, and the legacy of truth I inherited…every day something feels take-the-wind-out-of-me-honest. If I have gone awhile and haven’t felt that, I can tell that I’m hiding.
I know there’s a truth in all of us.
I know we are all trying so hard to be heard.
I know that for many of us, that expression has formed into something hard….so that it looks like the opposite. So hard, that no one will ever ask us the truth, no one will look us in the eye.
I try as often as I can, to look people in the eye.
I try, hard and often, to listen for the truth. I don’t do well, when people don’t tell the truth, when they’re so far from it. And so, I am surrounded by an absolutely beautiful group of people…I am surrounded by rich, beautiful, complicated, gorgeous stories of truth. You get what you give. You really do.
Every morning Moose and I take a pretty big stroll…a few miles. I pour a cup of coffee and off we go. More than a month ago, just before 7am, I heard Muoy rattling down the street with her shopping cart. I looked across the street at her, and she put one single hand up in the air, kept it there, waved, and smiled at me, a semi-toothless smile.
Hiiiiiiiii, she called out.
I smiled, and say Hiiiiiiii back.
And then we just stared at each other for a moment. It lasted more than a moment, actually. And I remember being so so everything, feeling everything from this moment at 640 on a tuesday morning, staring across the street.
I hustled down the street, back home to grab the 5 bucks I knew was in the pocket of my jacket hanging by the door, I hustled back, but Muoy was gone.
I thought about her all day long. I thought about her the way I think often about the woman I passed who declared again and again that no one was listening to her. I thought about her, and her hand in the air, and her semi-toothless smile, and her too big sneakers, and her san Francisco giants hat. I thought about how I hoped I would see her again, and soon.
I subbed out my yoga class that afternoon, I had a bit too much to get complete on for work, and I was in a groove working away at the kitchen table.
My roommate walks in the front door then into the kitchen, and were chatting in the kitchen, and she’s all, yeah I think I startled the woman out there who was in our recycling.
And I turned to her, and practically yelled. Was she little! And Asian! With a giants hat on!!!
I mean…yeah…I think so….
I immediately run out the door, and there she is. She smiles at me again. I smile back. We both laugh, for no particular reason then somehow I think we were both relieved.
I go down to her, and I tell her I’ve been thinking about her all day. I put my hands right on her shoulders and I look her in the eyes.
She says plenty back to me, but I cant understand a word.
I grab her by the shoulders again, and I say Muoy hold on, you wait, don’t go.
She smiles and repeats. Stamps her feet into the ground, like I just did to show her. And says, in a small scratchy voice, Don’t go.
I run back into the house, and run into my closet, and grab all the things I think make since for Muoy, things she can layer with. That kinda of stuff. Anyone who knows what a lululemon vinyasa scarf is, I even grabbed one of those, my sharpest one may I add, Muoy needed to look freshy fresh. It made me smile thinking of Muoy trying to figure out what the heck all those snaps are about. You can wear it one hundered ways you know, Muoy. I grabbed a blanket off the couch as a final effort, and ran back out the door.
We spent about 5 minutes together, I shoved the bag into her hands, and smiled at her. She set the bag down, grabs me by the shoulders, and pulls me in for a hug.
Like a big one.
I hug her back, and there we are just standing in the street, two woman, in a big ol hug.
She lets me go, and I can see that she’s crying now. (and anyone who knows me know that of course I start immediately crying too)
And she says again.
We have a small fashion show, and this is all hilarious for the both of us too, modeling scarves and what-not.
And she cries a bit more, and tells me in a language I don’t understand all about something that I know hurts. I know it hurts, because I don’t need to understand her words to know that…I know she’s talking about her son, but I don’t know anything else. Her hand movements are jagged, and she keeps looking to me, again and again, and again…I cant say anything back. So I just look her in the eyes, and I say, Oh Muoy. I’m sorry. Oh Muoy I am so so sorry.
We ended that visit, with a hug, and a big exchange of smiles and what feels like inside jokes. I tap the brim of her hat, and off she goes.
I saw her again, 2 weeks later, about a mile away from my house. She totally recognized me, and we laughed and hugged again, she told me more about her son, and cried. Oh Muoy I said, I am so sorry. I tapped the brim of her hat, and off she went.
Just today, I was rounding the corner from a run…feeling good, feeling actually quite free on a perfect 60 degree day. I saw her about halfway down the street, and I shouted for her. She turned around, and truly, she started booking it towards me.
She punches me on the shoulder like we are old pals, and I tell her to hold on Muoy, hold on. And I drag out the recycling that I’ve been saving for her. Run inside to grab her some food and what not, and come out, and we chat again.
I tell her I like her new hat.
She smiles. And tells me things I cant understand.
I tell her she looks beautiful today. I take her picture and show her.
She laughs and laughs, and tells me things I cant understand.
I see Moose in the window, who wants out, so I let him out, and Muoy. OH MAN. Did she love this. She literally runs after moose, picks him up, and goes to place him in her shopping cart and pretends to pack him in, and then run away.
We are both catching our breath laughing, and moose, well, moose is just in the shopping cart staring at us. I’m taking pictures cause it’s too damn good, and then we both come to, and back to each other.
We start talking again, and she tells me about her son. She sets Moose on the ground and gives him a kiss. She points to the sides of her neck, and says my son, my son. She looks devastated again. She cries.
I look her in the eyes and say I am so sorry, Muoy. I am so sorry that has happened to you.
You know, I’m writing this tonight, and I’m getting all choked up at the finish. To me Muoy is just this angel that I get to meet. This human being I get to talk to, and laugh with, and cry with. She’s got a million years worth of stories in her, I can see them in her eyes.
And what I know is when Muoy stops me to talk…she just wants to be heard.
She wants someone to listen to her.
She needs to know that whatever happened, must have hurt, she needs someone to stop and look her in the eye. Sure she needs whatever help she can get, of course 5 bucks and some clothes are welcome…but I think Muoy and I found each other for an even bigger reason.
I seem to see her every few weeks or so.
But she has reminded me every day since I met her, what it means to stop and listen.
You don’t even have to understand…that’s the thing.
The stopping, the looking into someone’s, listening to what’s painful, giving them a hug. That’s what this is about.
To sweet Muoy I hope you have a place to rest your head tonight and every night, I hope people are kind to you, I hope you had something warm to eat, I hope you are warm, I hope there’s someone you know who you can tell about Moose, and I hope you get to put Moose in your shopping cart again soon. I hope that when people walk by you, they stop to really see you, you seem to really like that, and man, can you hug, I hope you get one of those every single day, I hope there is someone in your life you can be silly and goofy with, the way you are with me. I hope you have sunshine, and a place to go when theres rain. I hope you’re not hungry. I hope you have a pillow, and it’s soft. I hope you are safe and no one messes with you. I hope you know what an impact you’ve made on me, and how special you are. When I told you were beautiful…you better believe I meant it.
I hope I see you soon.