A few months ago …

someone at a (very loud) gathering leaned into my ear and said hello. Well actually, she screeched, but I know it was a well-meaning screech, and my ear hasn’t been the same. It hurts every day and night. I went to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor to check whether the eardrum was punctured, but was told that it wasn’t as dramatic as that. “Your ear was shocked,” the doctor said. (Oy, I thought. I know about shock from physical and emotional trauma, from car accidents, but now there was ear-shock to add to the list.)

I’m writing about this because just the other day, I realized that I haven’t been happy with my ear. I’ve treated the pain like a a mosquito to swat away. Still, I’d think? Come on, time to shape up, get over it.

This impatient attitude towards something I’d rather not have (or be) is so pervasive, so subtle and yet so apparent.
Get over it.
Enough already.

I get the message: don’t let screechy people close to your ears. Wear noise-canceling earphones everywhere (note to self: find them in a burnt-amber color with rhinestones). Now go away.

Then I remembered the act of turning towards rather than away from. And I realized my poor ear has been putting up with a lot of meanness from me. No wonder it’s still shocked after three and a half months.

These bodies. They are so soft-skinned, so vulnerable. So time-limited. So steadfast in their willingness to support us. Sometimes I think it’s amazing that given what we feed them (and not just the particulars of food), they’re still willing to carry us. Still willing to circulate our blood. Still willing to do anything for us, despite the ways we treat and talk to them daily, but most particularly when they get sick or hurt.

Everything alive needs to be fed, says a teacher of mine. Not necessarily with food but with attention and appreciation. When I remind myself of this, I think, “Of course. Even the roses, even the rocks, even the grass. They all seem to perk up when I notice them.” And sometimes it’s easier to do this with a rose or a child or a dog than an ear. Or an aching back. Or a sprained ankle.

So, in the past week, I am showering sweetness on my ear, which isn’t used to such attention, since for sixty-five years, despite its inherent capacity to, um, listen, I’ve never talked to it. I thank it for its service to me. For hearing birds and water and people talking. For listening with such attentiveness to music and wind. I don’t do it so that it will heal. I don’t know that it will. I do it because something opens in my crusty heart when I do. Appreciation, it seems, is holy.

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