Who's Lurking

An active listener makes eye contact

Last night Jared and I discussed the cooling temperatures and how irritated and dry my skin becomes. It can be mind-numbing, or perhaps I wish my mind could be numbed.

This is difficult for me to accept, being a person who has a decent diet, gets exercise, and spends time outside. Know you, those things the doctor hopefully tells you to do. My home life is solid. My partner is supportive. I have a few friends I can call and present Too Much Information to. I have a couple hobbies, also. Last, I incorporate natural remedies into my life. So, I expect to not have simple necessities like scarves cause an irritation. And yes, I've worked the laundry angle, too.

We sat on our big, soft couch talking it over. Jared was particularly kind and gentle. I listened to the way he was talking to me. I felt relaxed by his tone. I smiled, "Are you lurking me?"

Over the past couple months, I've been reading about and practicing empathetic listening for a volunteer commitment I've undertaken. Listen. Empathize. Reflect. Clarify. Jared and I jokingly call it "lurc(k)ing".

We can tell when one of us begins "lurking." While we've had good communication from the start of our relationship, this style is new. We're fully partnered in life - married with child, new homeowners, and business co-owners. We communicate a lot. So much. All the darn time. Like a chafing scarf, it can get overwhelming:

What color will we paint the shutters? Will we paint the shutters? I'm not sure we should worry about the shutters. I really want to remove the chimney. There are no shutters on the south side of the house. Look at the crack in the siding. I got an email from someone looking for a million black huckleberries. We need to step up production. We ran out of quart pots. No, I put them over there. Have you seen Beren's shoes/mittens/pants/Cheetah toy/paint brushes?

Remember how the teacher sounded in the animated version of Charles Schulz's Peanuts? Uh huh.

We both went through the post-modern philosophy grinder at Rutgers. We're fairly critical listeners, readers, and thinkers. We can also be critical (ahem, especially me). "Lurking" is definitely the new wave. It doesn't have any hard edges or Foucault or Baudrillard or sign or signifier, though it might have some de Beauvoir. Sometimes I feel a little silly when I'm practicing.

I'll catch myself trying to "fix" some situation or feeling for Jared. I'll pause and resume, "That sounds really difficult, Jared. You've been working really hard." I'll smile. I can't help it. "You're lurking me," Jared says.

And then, Jared will practice on me. Shucks, it really works. It so much easier to talk if someone is listening, not calculating.

I've often heard from women that male partners try to "fix" things. They other solutions to difficult emotional situations, while these women prefer to simply be listened to. Is this a gender thing? Maybe, women and men are quite different.

Regardless, when we ended the conversation last night, I felt like I had support and a plan. Maybe not a fix, but definitely a plan.