I think my superpower is listening. I am very quiet, patient, attentive. But sometimes I think I forget this is a superpower. In the past, I have been too quiet, too attentive. I forget to speak. So on occasion I overcorrect. I get anxious about making sure I say what I need to say and I can interrupt or forget to listen. But listening really is my superpower. Because I love to do it.
When I eat lunch with Maria, I love to ask her questions about her brothers or her fears and then sit quietly for long stretches and listen to her paint her life out in front of me. I love to hear her voice get excited and her deep laugh. These lunches are my lifeline. They help me practice. She asks me questions too, things friends have never asked before. And I like that she makes me think. I like that she cares, that she is interested. She keeps her eyes on me, kind and large as I begin to weave my answer. This is why I think listening is my superpower. Because it’s Maria’s too. And I know how rich and held I feel when she listens to my life. And I know that’s how it must be when I listen to others. I always want those around me to know this feeling.
Sometimes I wonder how two such deep listening wallflowers make a friendship work. In many of my other friendships, I always listen and someone else always talks. But it is natural with Maria, like the balance we have is something ancient inside me, something so innate. I miss this when I can’t have it. Maria is busier now than she used to be, and she has someone she loves in her life. I don’t hear from her as often, and I miss being asked how I’m doing every day. This is partially because I can be honest with her. She knows all of me. And she doesn’t just listen to it, she holds it and checks up on it. She asks but she doesn’t pry. It is beautiful to have a friend who makes you recognize your own strengths, superpowers. So I think my superpower is listening, like real, deep listening, so that I remember the words for years and hold them in me like they’re my own.
My superpower is listening so that others feel loved and worthy and important. My superpower is listening so that I am not just me but a collection of all I have heard and seen and been witness to. My superpower is listening to those around me, but it is also listening to myself. I have this knowledge of my own needs and wants. Sometimes I forget to listen really closely or sometimes I listen but disregard, like a superhero who flies but for a moment can’t levitate off the ground. This is something I’m trying to work on, remembering to listen to myself as deeply as I listen to my friends, my family.
Anna Raphael for The Poplar Grove Muse
(Anna was in the first Bloomington cohort of Young Women Writing (YWW), as well as the first Bloomington Young Feminist Leadership Academy (YFLA); she co-facilitated the 2018 YWW Girls Summer Camp, during which she wrote this fastwrite.)