I’m sitting at my desk, opening the mail. It’s been a long day. It still feels to me that there’s much to do.
The phone rings. I answer. It’s Sam. He’s calling to ask my advice on something that matters to him. Actually, it’s something that really matters to me too.
A part of me, deep inside, whispers too much to do, too much to do. It has quite a grip, this part. It twists itself around the inside of my chest, squeezing and pushing. And as I acquiesce and reach for the pile of unopened mail, it loosens, but only just as much as it has to. Ah, that feels better.
For the first few minutes of the call with Sam I’m trying to speak with him while opening the mail. Keep it quiet, the squeezing part says, so that he doesn’t know what you’re doing. I open the envelopes as carefully as I can – which even then is not so quiet – and hope that he won’t notice. At least the gripping has relaxed a little so I can breathe.
The thing is, we’re talking about something that really matters to both of us but, caught up as I am in a narrative of productivity (demanded) and deficiency (mine) I’m hardly present at all.
I feel flat, a bit shaky, urgent.
And I’m not listening. Just pretending to listen.
I feel small, shallow, hollow.
And then I remember myself. I remember all the times I’ve called someone I trusted for help and advice and found, quite astonishingly, someone willing to set aside whatever else they were doing to be, fully, with me.
I put down my envelopes, and I set aside the demands of the critic-part, and I surrender myself to the conversation we’re having.
And all at once I’m in contact with Sam, and in contact with myself, and I find myself deeply touched by the conversation we’re in the midst of, which itself moves from irritating to mattering.
And I am reminded that things mattering is what makes us most human.