To set the scene for the post; this is a quote by my boy, Allen Iverson (NBA legend). The above was part of his frustrated response during a press conference. Some major things happened in his personal life leading up to this moment, yet all the reporters were interested in, was making the point he missed practice. His reaction was justified; with everything ‘important’ going on, why were these people only discussing a basic, who the heck even cares topic - very unlike mainstream media...
So, who is or has been the shoulder to lean on for a friend? Are you lucky enough to have someone to turn to when you’re feeling down in the dumps or on top of the world?
Do you hesitate to share amazing news because you know who you're going to tell will cut your lunch/discredit you for winning at something?
Why do you think people come to you, or you go to the person you do? What makes you more the appealing option than Bronwyn or Shirley?
Are the bulk of your conversations about "practice?" Or is there more depth in there somewhere?
Keep those in mind while you continue reading (do keep reading).
As an amazing listener and one who loves to lend a shoulder, I sometimes find it difficult to be objective and offer support to someone because I’m also not a fan of negative (unproductive, detrimental, yuck) energy and mind numbing conversations. You know, the ones that aren't about anything; 'small talk.' *Important to clarify* TAHI: relationships, quality time and feelings are my jam, so my listening skills for non-related topics are irrelevant (I like to do things my way, to be explored in a future post, perhaps). RUA: small talk is fine, sometimes necessary but not as the foundation of conversation topics. Ka pai? Ok? As you were...
I value the people who make up my life a lot. I take the relationships very seriously; their time is precious, so you bet your pretty little heart I take my role in their lives seriously. For example, the people close to me (you know who you are, there aren’t that many of you) know that when they have my attention, they have my attention. Having fewer people I can count on and who can count on me, means I’m able to focus more time and energy on them and I can commit to being present and focused when we catch up. Spoiler: making time is one way I show you're important to me. So I'd find myself getting frustrated at times because people wouldn't or couldn't reciprocate 'being there' to the level I wanted, but I eventually learned that a. typically, people don't read minds, b. just because I place a huge value on relationships, doesn't mean everyone else does or has to and c. people can show love in different ways to myself (breaking news). And that's all OK.
Moving on... yes I’m a great listener, I value relationships and know a thing or four about us all being different, but I was still in conflict with being a good mate vs not wanting a bar of the negativity and mindless tasks. But then, a while ago I read something in a book that brought new light to this dilemma. It goes something like this:
ʻʻHow special must you be for this person to trust you with the inner workings of their soul? Of all the people they know, they chose you to confide in...”
"I'm of value to someone" comes to mind and fills you up like a warm hug... I'm of value to someone?! Not how I might want to be but in the capacity they need me to be. For everything I may be failing at, I'm important to this person. But be mature about it, recognise the people who come to you ONLY TO OFFLOAD. There’s a difference between people who wear you down, treat you like an emotional dump site and drain all of your light and sparkly goodness vs tangata pai (good humans), who reciprocate the gesture and are there to lean on and replenish your good positive energy.
I feel blessed knowing I have people come to me and who I can go to to talk about things other than "practice." To share successes, or curveballs that have suddenly been thrown our way, or to know when to nod and say 'hmmm' or 'really?' while they figure out their problem themselves... Being there for you means I want to understand you. I wanna know how I can support you or notice the signs when you need some reality slapped into you. Like when you think you're clever, talking about practice to hide what you want to talk about, but are embarrassed to maybe. Like I said, small talk is fine, but that doesn't give me much eg. "How was your day?" - Good. What was good about it? What does good mean? C'mon, if I didn't want to know I wouldn't ask. If there's an avalanche of good OR bad heading for ya, TELL ME! Cut the crap. "We don't talk about that stuff," you say, well maybe you should. Hey, maybe that would lessen the breakdowns from 3-4 a day, to a week, then monthly, then less and less...
A couple posts back, I wrote about how it must be nice to see other peoples achievements and dismiss the background work that goes into it. I believe that is as true as it is for when things hurt us; the failures, the trauma and the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s. Nobody knows exactly what we’ve been through, the thoughts we’ve had, the decisions we’ve had to make, the times we’ve wanted to give it all up, all the little moments that have lead us here. But if you have someone, just one who you can share at least part of your story beyond the complexities of practice; make sure you look after them and love them dearly. If you don't, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share you story with me, we'll start from there. Nōku te whiwhi, it would be my pleasure.
I’ll warn you though, I'm annoying to the people of my life in one way in particular, because I believe our connections should be more than talking about frikn practice (they pretend to be annoyed but really, they love it). As I mentioned earlier, I'm a great listener, so why not choose what I listen to? If I don't wanna hear about practice, I won't ask about it. Instead I'll ask;
What are your three favourite things about yourself?
Why do you think you were born?
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
What do you do? Is that what you want to do for the rest of your life? (if yes) What do you like about it? (if no) What do you want to do? Are you going to pursue that? Why/why not?
How is your heart feeling today?
What is your number one favourite piece of yourself (behaviour, trait, value etc.) you would like to implant into the programming of a robot?
How are you? Good? what does good mean?
If you want to get to know what someone does for work, ask about work. If you want to know about their favourite food, ask about food. But in asking these types of questions stated above (and also being asked myself), I’ve gained so much understanding and perspective as to how I, my friends and my whanau see and value ourselves.
Watch this video of Muhammad Ali for instance; he’s asked how he’d like people to remember him. There’s no mention of his athletic ability, his riches, his titles or his great big ego.. only his compassion and love for everyone around him. It's beautiful.
Talk about practice, don't talk about it. If your conversations and your relationships are perfect, you're an inspiration. If you're after more meaning, depth, significance... or just a change from the same old same old, you can change the narrative. You're in control: experiment a little and find what works for you.