We Must Truly Listen

I watched a short film that featured young adults from around the world. They spoke of their anxiety, mental health and social challenges today. It didn’t matter where they were from. Their voices and messages echoed each other. Many of them cried as they spoke through aching hearts…because they were allowed to, because they were listened to, because no one or screen interrupted them. They had important things to express. As I sat watching in silence, I cried along with them.


For thirty-five years I listened to students in a university setting, helping them individually to plan their vocational futures. Whether signing them up for campus interviews or helping them develop resumes, my heart had the same desire, to encourage them. And when they were nearing their graduation, most shared their biggest fear, instilled by the generation before them. “I am scared of entering the ‘real world’.” And I always assured them that there is no such thing. The world is theirs to experience and create, and all of it is an ongoing lifelong and beautiful unfolding process. I had no idea what labels they may have been assigned. It didn’t matter.


It has been four years since I left higher education, and I have returned to school to pursue studies in integrative health and healing, focusing on mental wellness. I have a passionate desire to guide those same young adults on a safe and confident path to comfortable (in terms of what they love as opposed to financial profit) futures. That is no easy task in our materialistic culture. These amazing humans have to search carefully and deeply to find attentive listeners to guide them, a brave venture for sure to overcome the labels many have been assigned by trusted adults a system gone awry. There are not many older adults who aren’t cynical and negative these days, and few have the desire or self-awareness to sacrifice all of our available forms of expressing and opinionating to allow room to share intuitive wisdom, because we have gradually started to pay more attention to our devices than to our children. The algorithms are pleased, yet our resulting distraction and judgmental demeanor is apparent, so it is difficult to maintain trust.

I want to be someone better for the generations that follow. I have been working with a mentor to relearn my listening skills that became lost in the acts of commenting, reviewing, replying. I am reversing an acquired behavior where I couldn’t shut up or resist offering unsolicited advice. In retrospect, I know this was a disservice to those who crossed my path. I am not proud of that previous self, so I am unplugging, regaining my human focus and sending that well-deserved loving attention now to people, because we need each other, the film demonstrated that.


I have been envisioning my house as a place to welcome those struggling with emotional and mental health. This is manifesting as a peer-run resource center…a safe, informative space to welcome and share confidence and nature with anyone, but especially those who have experienced the confusing space that is the mental health system. I was once part of that…labeled by that system that told me I would never recover. So many other psychiatric survivors have showed me otherwise, and I am working with them now to pass that onto others. We represent a respite of health, hope and a safe and supporting place.


Open your eyes wide to spot all of our children and young adults who need this type of environment. They are right in front of you planning suicide or a school shooting as I write this. That is a harsh, yet real truth. It’s time to stop bitching and arguing about policy and start listening to and about their pain and ask them what they need from us to alleviate it. And then provide what they ask for before they spread that pain.

From the Sanctuary: The dames’ rockets have come and gone, blessing me with fragrant pink, white and pale purple blossoms. A mama deer has been peeking at me through my fence, building trust enough to bring her fawn by, once bathing with her fawn in the creek. Two pileated woodpeckers played on the trunk of my maple tree, entertaining me at breakfast and my resident chipmunk sneaks up on my porch daily, expecting to exchange his adorableness for his daily three almonds. It is a fair trade. Life abounds.

Notice nature. You will be well and know the love of each other.