I knew within two weeks of meeting my husband in Québec that I would marry him. It was not a logical choice – he was a Francophone on a student visa from West Africa and didn’t speak any English; I spoke limited high school French. He was a carnivorous athlete; I a vegan book lover – about as unathletic as they come. But there was an unshakeable, unmistakable knowing within me. We married a year later and this summer will mark 23 years of sharing an imperfect but beautiful life together.
Maybe the right choice cannot be determined by logic alone.
When I stepped into each of the two homes I have owned, I knew instantaneously they were to be mine. They were imperfect to the naked eye, and in both cases our initial offers would be rejected. We would need to temporarily walk away. Yet stepping into them I had experienced a deep knowing that I was home and in the end the sales closed peaceably without us compromising our finances or forcing circumstances. These humble homes have prospered us financially and sheltered us as we walked through seasons of struggle.
Maybe the right choice has nothing to do with ease or perfection.
Five years ago I felt a clear call to return to studying. It did not make sense in terms of finances or energy. I was homeschooling three kids, living on one salary that already felt tight; I lived in constant pain from a childhood hip deformity and was awaiting a total hip replacement; my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I would want to travel to spend as much time with him as possible. I would be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in the middle of it all.
A gut decision that looked completely wrong provided a lifeline to me in the midst of a raging storm.
There have been countless times in my life that I heeded an inner knowing and bore the fruit. And just as many that I disregarded what my intuition was screaming to me – because of fear, because of what others might think, because I wasn’t quite ready. There were times I thought I had heard right but then shifted my gaze from my internal compass to the worries and challenging circumstances outside of myself and allowed myself to be pulled off course.
Learning to listen is a journey: a process of building trust, offering ourselves forgiveness, living eyes and heart wide open.
Learning to listen has called me to break up with wine; to begin eating meat after two decades of vegetarianism; to take breaks from my blog or social media when my soul feels weary. It calls me to use my voice persistently with doctors when something does not seem right in myself or with a child; to take personal responsibility for my mental and physical wellness when it would be far easier to defer to another. To let go of a relationship when I am fighting for life and she wants to stay where she is.
Learning to listen means saying yes to scary opportunities that align with my mission and saying no to so many more even if this permanently closes doors to me. It means choosing to offer others the same respect I desire for myself even if this means being hurt or disappointed on occasion. It means walking up to a complete stranger because I see in her a kindred spirit and being gifted with one of my most beautiful relationships ever. It means asking for help when I am in trouble and cannot do it anymore on my own.
We need to learn to listen.
Slowly but surely, as I let go of running and numbing and learn to listen and respond to what I hear, I move closer to freedom. Joy deepens. I begin to walk with greater confidence; not an assurance that I will avoid mistakes or challenge because these are all part of the messy journey, but a trust that I don’t have to fear the process. Sometimes I listen and don’t get an answer right away. So I sit with my impatience, curious, and choose to just do the next right thing that I already know. And then the next until the answer comes.
Waiting can be a critical part of learning to listen.
I invite you to sit, take a few deep breaths, and listen in right now. Notice where tension or joy live in your body. What have you been ignoring or hiding from? Are you filled with negative self-talk and could you replace this with a kinder truth? What is that thing you have dreamed of doing but suppressed out of fear; name it and hang out with it for a while. Maybe you are faced with a terrifying decision and you have no idea what to do. But if you shake off the fear, the outer expectations, the inner judgement, can you hear even a still small voice directing you to one small step? If you tend to only see your struggle or failure, allow yourself to notice one thing you did well today.
Learning to listen is a beautiful, life-giving act of self-care.
If I could offer you two primary gifts, one would be the gift of choosing to love yourself as is and the second would be the gift of learning to listen. To trust that you are the expert of your own body. That you have so much innate wisdom woven within you already and that if you learn to listen you will be directed to that which you most need in each season.
Learning to listen will guide you to a life of purpose, health and joy.
*This article was originally published at hyperbiotics.com
*Photograph taken by magpie3studio