January 28 , 2020
More than ten years ago I was writing a column for a bi-weekly newsletter for the education system for which I worked. Every two weeks, I’d send in my piece, humbly wondering if anything I had to say would resonate with any of the readers, or if I was just being self-indulgent, imagining that someone else would relate to my thoughts and perspective. Frequently I received an e-mail or message from a peer, expressing appreciation for my contributions, and even an occasional suggestion that I start a blog. I dismissed the idea, went on with my career, my life, my career changes, and my life changes, and here I am.
For the past few weeks, mini inspirational moments and whispers in my heart have suggested that I write some things down. I’ve acknowledged the whispers, then ignored them, and went on with my part-time job (not really a career anymore) and my life (much more peaceful and slower paced than it used to be.)
And THEN... I SAW and HEARD Demi Lovato on the Grammy Award Show. I saw her start a song, choke up, stumble, pause, and start again. I saw her whisper softly, nervously, then growing in strength and confidence, until she was belting out her pain and her passion from the bottom of her soul. I knew wasn’t just WATCHING a performer sing her song. I SAW her. I HEARD her. I SAW her pain. I HEARD her plea. I wanted to reach through the TV and tell her! I wanted her to know “I SEE YOU.” And “I HEAR YOU.” "YES! I'm LISTENING!" I won’t say I FELT her pain. I won’t even say I UNDERSTOOD it. I know I have felt pain. I know I have understood pain. But I don’t know that I felt or understood hers. I haven’t experienced HERS.
I am a Social Worker by trade. I work as a therapist in a teen clinic. I've listened to lots of pain. I know I can’t fix anyone’s life. I know I can’t solve their problems. But what I do know is that people want to be SEEN and want to be HEARD. I CAN do that. Too often we try to take it one step further, not just as a therapist, but as a friend or family member and say “I know how you feel.” And then we go on to tell our own story to help convince that other person that we truly do know how they feel because we have had a similar experience. The problem is, now the conversation is about US. Just when they really needed us to see, hear, and care about THEM.
I’m a work in progress. I’m constantly reminding myself too, that when someone I know is struggling, that what they need to know is I SEE them, I HEAR them, and while I don’t KNOW how they feel, I am Listening. And yes, I CARE. That means I’m reminding myself to keep it about them.
So thank you Demi Lovato. I’m sorry about your pain. I’m sorry you didn’t feel heard. But thank you for your song. Thank you for singing it loud and with so much power. Thank you for giving us a reminder to SEE people and to HEAR people. I know I’m inspired to spread that message. I guess it was the inspiration I needed to actually start that blog after all these years.