We went away this weekend, just Kev and I, up to my parents' lake house in a very tiny part of Wisconsin. Usually when we go up, the house is filled to the gills with my family, or we choose to invite as many friends as will fit. But not this time. This time it was just us two.
We drank champagne and ate frozen pizza. We dove into a box of Pixies and made hot chocolate spiked with marshmallow vodka and added Frango mints to that. I whooped his behind at Monopoly, then again at cards. I wolfed down two cheesy YA novels (Crossed, by Allie Condie- disappointing end to a trilogy, and The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead, who I unapologetically love when I need Twinkie books). He read The Economist. We talked.
More than any of that though, we listened. To each other. To country music. To snow crunching on a frozen lake. To our eighteen (yes, I said eighteen) year old bartender's unspoken-yet-heard nerves about having her first party at her parents' house and getting ready for college. To an elderly man at the bar talk about his cheesemaking days on that same lake forty years ago, and his pride in his childrens' accomplishments. To how much we need each other. Love each other. Respect each other.
I'm trying to learn to value the listening more. I've always been known for being a notorious talker, but I'm beginning to realize how much I miss this way. I don't get to know other people's thinking or experiences, because I'm busy sharing mine. The truth is, sometimes I'm scared to listen. It's uncontrollable. Unpredictable. I might hear something I don't like, or something I don't like to think about. Putting myself out there is much easier for me. I can control the pace the conversation moves, what kind of mood we have.
I think listening is letting go. I'm always pleasantly surprised by what I hear, whether it be a plan to drink Mike's Hard Lemonade for 12 hours (oh, 18 year old bartender who has never had a hangover, I think your luck may have changed), or about hidden artesianal cheese wells in a tiny lake town. Most of all, I open myself up to letting my husband and others I love surprise me. For a teacher, especially, I suck at listening, but I'm working on it. It's hard, so hard, for me. I'm trying to get better.
I'm glad I had a weekend to re-learn to listen, and a husband smart enough to remind me to do it.