In response to Juanes’ song “Volverte a ver” (To see you again).
Just listen, I have to tell myself, over and over again. It’s really the only action you have to keep practicing. Everything else—exercise, eating habits, paying your bills—you can sometimes let slip, but you must always practice listening.
Try to focus on being present when someone is talking to you, try not to slip away into thoughts about what you would like to say in response, preparing your speech. Whatever is being said isn’t about you, it isn’t a reflection of who you are, that’s your ego preparing for defense. Quiet the thoughts, gently, and simply listen to the person in front of you. It’s respect in action. It’s the ultimate act of kindness, and all you need to do is sit and pay attention.
With so many lessons about mindfulness coming at us daily, you think I’d have learned this lesson by now. Be present. Slow down. Think. Wait. Observe. “Honey,” my friend Carlos says, when we are talking about mindfulness,” you’re asking yourself to be a fucking monk. You’re only human.”
“But even that,” I say, “is mindfulness in action. Reminding myself that I’m only human. I’m imperfect. I have limitations. I can’t control anything, you know?”
“We’re getting really deep,” he says, taking a sip of his Zinfandel. “I think it might be time to watch another Dynasty episode and smoke some pot.
“Okay,” I say. I haven’t exactly mastered this yet, and escape is still a tool.
What I want to say is this: it’s my life’s work to let go of all this longing and to somehow find my tribe. To raise questions and present them to others, to engage in dialogue that helps us move beyond the tortured little places we drag ourselves when we tell ourselves we are not good enough, or beautiful enough, or talented enough. When we feel we have no good ideas and nothing worthwhile to offer. That’s the place I want to zero in on, to come back to. I want to listen to the voice in my head that’s ready to jump in and respond, to choose the concept of scarcity over plentitude, to compare myself.
Even now, as I’m writing this, the Bay of Banderas in the distance, shining flat and slate blue, I slip away from here. I’m home already in a classroom of bored teenagers who are still acquiring language skills. I’m scrubbing floors or paying bills, or trying to make a date with Julio who still lives in the tenderloin and still looks like a skinny Diego Rivera. I’m still not here, right now, at this computer, trying to find my way into the present moment.
In this very moment, I am not yet 50, or dying of cancer, or sitting with a man who doesn’t think I’m tall enough or butch enough, or young enough to be his lover. I am not struggling to lose the weight from all the beer I’ve drunk under the stars on the rooftop of La Noche. I am not downtown trying to decide if I should spend the money on ceramics I don’t need, but want. I am here, overlooking the bay, anticipating the beautiful words that will come from the mouths of my fellow writers.
So I will sit. I will listen.