Monday, February 13, 2012

Operation Be My Valentine

The week before last I promised to devote myself, and by extension, this blog to love. Specifically, I wanted to focus on all the ways I could be more loving to the people in my life. This seems like a fitting goal for February, the month of hearts, cupids and flowers.

In Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project she focuses on her habit of nagging. I thought about this for a long time and realized that, whatever you might say about me, I'm not a nagger. In fact I'm the opposite of a nagger.

I'm a Not-listener. Which, as I considered it, seems like the unacknowledged step-child of nagging.

We don't have a tidy little phrase for the Not-listener but I would guess that Not-listening is just as pervasive as nagging. I'm careful to say Not-listening because it's something completely different than ignoring. Not-listening is the phenomonen where, in good Carol Brady style, when my husband arrives home from work I say,"Hi honey, how was your day?" 

And the moment he begins to answer I stop listening. It's not that I don't want to listen. My intentions are always good, but while my husband is telling me about the details of his day, any of the following things can be happening (and usually three of them are happening simultaneously).

1. Anywhere from two to five children are sliding down the basement stairs on pillows, shrieking with the kind of delight that is the verbal foreshadowing of injury.

2. My cell phone is pinging with texts, emails, tweets and DMs.

3. Someone can't find a sock.

4. Somewhere in the house, something is burning.

5. My mother is calling the house phone, then my cell phone, then my husband's phone, then texting.

6. I've just noticed someone has tracked peanut butter from the breakfast room all the way to the hall.

7. Someone is injured (see item #1).

8. It's occuring to me that decorations for Halloween/Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Christmas/Valentine's Day/Birthdays/St Patrick's Day/Passover/Easter/Fourth of Freaking July need to be either put up or taken down.

9. The doorbell is ringing and people are wanting me to sign a petition, buy a magazine or wondering whether Child #1 or #2 can play.

10. Someone is running through the house without pants, giggling wildly.

Okay, I confess to being the main offender in item #10. But in spite of this list, I started to wonder if there wasn't some way I could do a better job of listening.

If I manage to listen and respond to my children, friends, blogger buddies and the small village that follows me on G+, it seems like I should be able to do the same thing for the man I married.


Stop by on Wednesday for the full scoop on operation "Be My Valentine"


Sarah Tokeley said...

Oh, I know this one so well. It's not intentional, but sometimes I have to say to him 'sorry, I know I was looking at you and you were talking, but I didn't hear a word of that.'

Jenny S. Morris said...

I LOVE this post. I have my hubby and my SIL to listen to. They both tell me about their day and I try really hard to listen and not think about tall the things you've listed. My 4 year old is the main offender of #10. But my hubby and SIL do the same thing to me. Especially when I'm talking about blogging/writing/blogger and twitter friends. So maybe we all have a bad case of the Non-listeners.

Diana Wilder said...

I've been known to say, to (patient) loved one "I'm sorry. I just came up for air. Did you say something? I promise to listen this time..." And then I try to be attentive. It's only kind, especially when they are paying so much attention to me.

Connie J Jasperson said...

I can't wait to hear more!!!

Alison DeLuca said...

#10 - Excellent!

Johanna Garth said...

Sarah, that's exactly right!

Jenny, I'm sure it's a common phenomonen (at least it's making me feel better to know there are lots of others).

Diana, thanks for stopping by! That's my goal for the rest of the week.

Connie...just wait. There's ice cream involved.

Allie, you know I'm not really kidding about #10!

jenny milchman said...

Oh, am I with you! ESPECIALLY about that shriek of joy that you just know is going to plummet into hair-raising agony in about a nanosecond. (Not the running nekkid, though. That is all you, babe ;) Yes, on this Valentine's Day let's all pledge to be better True Listeners.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Oh my god, this is me exactly! I will have to share this post with my husband. :)

Nicki Elson said...

Well, recognizing the problem is the first step, right? I can't tell you how many times I'll be surprised to find my husband looking at me, waiting for a response and I'll have to fess up to not having heard a word.

Sabrina A. Fish said...

If I am looking at him, I am listening. BUT, he starts talking to me and I was not looking, then I was not listening. The hubs has finally figured this out, though he still forgets from time to time. My son just puts his hands on either side of my face and physically turns my head and waits until my eyes focus on him. He is 5 years old, so I think he is a genius for the waiting for my eyes to focus part.
Thank goodness for an understanding family that loves me despite the way I am.
I cannot wait to read the next installment of this fabulous post!

Tiffany Barry said...

This cracks me up!! I do the same thing, but I'll do it on the phone, agree to something I hate, and come home completely baffled by my agreement to it in the first place!

Tiffany at Mom's Daily Zen

Rick Daley said...

Great post! You made me laugh out loud with your list...

Ross M Kitson said...

Fantastic post and food fro thought as I hurriedly write my wife's card. will try to convince her to emulate #10...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wait a minute! Did you just say you run giggling through your house without pants?????

Unknown said...

Haha well number 10 sounds fantastic. While I find myself running around without pants pretty often (I'm not sure why) I'm never giggling. Maybe I should give it a go...Love the list!

Johanna Garth said...

Jenny, there's that certain pitch that you know means trouble.

Rachel, hope he enjoys it.

Nicki, yes! I've identified the problem!!

Sabrina, kudos to your 5 year old on the waiting for you to focus part. That's a valuable skill.

Tiffany, I've had some of those moments too.

Rick, yay I made you LOL! ;)

Ross, unfortunately the pantlessness comes with the Not Listening.

Alex, now you see why my husband puts up with such a Not-Listener.

Caitlin, the giggling is sporadic!

Teresa Cypher said...

Oh, made me smile, Johanna! You are quite the multi-tasker...and just plain run out of steam when you get to your husband. Sad--that all of us do it. because we know the people we love most will understand. I will be back to read more about "Operation Be My Valentine" :-)

Botanist said...

...I confess to being the main offender in item #10

*SNORK* You owe me a new keyboard :)

Hart Johnson said...

I can really be a not listener, too. I also periodically ignore, but more often it is the not listening. LOVE that you are doing your part in the pantsless movement!

Kathleen Barker said...

Thanks for putting a name to my most blatant fault. You'd think someone who lives alone could never share this trait, but I'm so used to silence that I forgot how to listen when I AM around someone! Wonderfully funny post, Johanna.

The Bookworm said...

I love this post and am happy to see I'm not the only one that stops listening
Zoning people out sometimes is good for my health :P