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Once upon a time, I was a world-class grudge bearer. I’d harbor ill-will toward people who’d wronged me for years on end. But when I found faith again about ten years ago, I realized that there’s only so much space in your heart. If you only store the broken china and the ratty old throw rugs of the past, there’s not much room left for good things to come.

So I came up with a couple of personal policies.

  • If you say something to me that is factually accurate, I won’t get mad.
  • If you say something factually accurate, but say it in a “jerky” way (as we say in Jersey), I’ll respond immediately, while (hopefully) keeping my cool. I won’t harbor it in my heart ad infinitum, but will make sure you know that how you said it was not acceptable.

Get it out, or you store it up. Say what you have to say. If not? You put it on layaway.

Before you know it, that person will be doing that same thing again in the same way. But at that point, you’ll really be steamed. Why do they keep doing this? Don’t they know better?

Sometimes they do.

But what if they don’t?

Could it be that they don’t realize that most people don’t stand two inches from your face in a conversation? I had to gently correct one of my son’s friends who had that habit when he was younger. “Personal space, please, son,” I said. After that, he gave everyone space. I actually did him a favor by giving him this advice.

When somebody crosses a line, you’ve got the right to speak your piece, for your own peace of mind. You may even help them break bad habits they didn’t even realize they had.

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I’m starting to think I’m just not being heard. I send emails that get no replies. I ask questions that get no answers. I listen…and listen…and listen to what others have to say, but when I speak up, nobody has time. Or patience. Hello? Is anybody out there? Is this mic on?

We spend our lives — from newborn shrieks to deathbed confessions — trying to be heard. Why? What makes us so important? Nothing…and everything. We are, to ourselves anyway, infinitely important. But out there in the world? You’ve got millions of voices, all competing to be the loudest, the most heeded. What are the odds of an introvert winning that competition?

Once, long ago, a friend at work convinced me to join her in a primal scream. It was very satisfying…except to the company’s security guard who had no idea we were just trying to vent our frustrations. Oops.

If you want to be heard — really heard — you have to turn to prayer. Or poetry.

Even before I open my mouth
my confession is out there. Phrases thudding,
homely, unscrubbed as orphans. Pathetic, crude words
with sharp edges and blunt, dumb sounds.
Big, lumpy, dirt-encrusted words. They fall from me
like a curse, like the girl in the fairy tale
fated to speak in snakes and other slippery critters.
Who hears such ugly offerings?
Only one. The one we turn deaf ears to,
despite the shouts of sunsets, the “Hear this!”
of the scent of night jasmine. The one who calls us
to listen. For in listening, we will be heard. At last.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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