Being Listened to Gives us Space to Think.

I really haven’t known what I’ve wanted to say for nearly the whole of lockdown. Every time I have thought I might have something I might like to share, the following week has turned my head and I’ve felt entirely different, leaving me feeling like a complete fraud for the previous week’s mood.

At one point, in full home-schooling lockdown, my emotions shifted from hour to hour. Navigating through an emotional maze, with dead-ends of anger and sadness, to winding lanes of frustration and disappointment, through delightful wide avenues of satisfaction, joy, productivity, gratitude, and then BAM! slap-bang back to despair, fear and anxiety.

Goodness knows how my children have managed to negotiate this pandemic, although funnily enough I’ve had far more patience for their emotional flittings than for mine.

Once it became clear that we were heading the way of the rest of Europe, into near complete lock down, I desperately wanted to hunker down with my immediate family and rest.

The run up to lock down had been pretty fraught with anxiety for me, an emotion I don’t usually entertain for very long. I can usually stay pretty chipper, positive, and confident that things will turn out okay in the end. But things had changed.

I think it’s a product of the time I grew up in.

For example, when I first read The Handmaids Tale, as a teenager in the mid 1990’s, I could revel in feeling shocked at the farfetched female oppressive world the main character Offred found herself in, smugly confident and assured that I was living in an ever-progressive, liberal world where this could NEVER happen.

By the time I watched the 2017 TV production I felt that what I was watching was a bit too close to the bone, far too possible, and I was not nearly as smug about the world I saw developing around me.

I loved reading dystopian novels, used to relish them. Now I just felt I was living in one, ever conscious that I’ve never shot a cross bow and have never lit a fire without using a match.

Not so much a Katniss Everdeen, more a feeble Extra-That-Gets-Shot-in-the-Opening-Act.

I have, however, for the past few years been practicing leaning into uncomfortable feelings as well as practicing allowing myself to fully feel positive emotions; being kind to myself, and focusing on connecting with those around me. For me this mean Listening Partnerships, one of the Hand in Hand Parenting tools.

So I stockpiled Listening Time with my regular listening partners, and reached out for extra time when I needed it.

It helped.

Having a safe, non-judgmental space to laugh, cry, explore, and feel really heard really helped. Knowing my listening partners were holding the truth that I was a GOOD person/mum/wife/daughter/sister/friend/neighbour even when what was coming out my mouth directly contradicted that. It allowed my brain to reset, think better and I found I was able to approach whatever was being thrown at me that week/day/hour with more perspective, more creativity, and feeling generally lighter.

And so during the first few weeks of lockdown I spent my time hunkering down with my family. Being kind to myself, connecting as much as I could with my children and husband, and letting myself off the hook when I couldn’t, listening to what was coming up for them, playing, laughing, wrestling (there’s always wrestling) cooking, baking and eating together.

And re-evaluating.

What did I want to spend my time doing? When everything stopped I saw clearly what I had known for a long time. I was doing too much. And feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing any of it as well as I wanted to. Not because I didn’t know how to, but because I don’t actually have a time-turner, where I can re-live an hour 3 times, (as Hermione does in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”) There are only so many hours in a day. And some of them I have to be asleep for.

So I took stock, made some hard decisions, dropped some commitments and paused working on extra projects like my Hand in Hand parenting work. And went to my Listening Partners about just how wrong that felt.

I’m not sure how I’d be feeling now if I didn’t have the Hand in Hand parenting tools. So many times I’ve been grateful to know about them, thankful that I’ve been to be able to practice and experiment with them within my family, and the children I work with. On so many occasions.

This pandemic has given me a fresh wave of gratitude towards them.

Being a leader in our own family’s takes time and space, and Listening Time gives that to me.

Now that we’re beginning to come out the other side of the latest lockdown I’m still grateful for my listening time as I continue to think about what and who I spend my time on.

Maybe I’ll sign up for a Katniss Everdeen style survival course? Just in case.

If you’re interested in finding out about how you too can use the Hand in Hand tools with your family take a look at my upcoming Starter Class/Understanding Tears and Tantrum Classes beginning in June.