Listening to the spoken and unspoken

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By Robert Villanueva

Last Saturday at home, as our Pomeranian Tybalt followed me down the hall, I turned to our canine companion and casually informed him I was going to shave.

I told him this as I stepped into the upstairs bathroom with him standing in the doorway near the hallway window seat. I offhandedly told him he could jump up on the window seat and wait for me.

It wasn’t that I thought he’d really understand a complete and specific sentence like that, but I tend to talk to Tybalt to include him.

To my surprise, and without hesitation, Tybalt did as I suggested. I had not made a gesture of any sort to direct him to the window seat; he just went there.

Last week my girlfriend, Rebecca Ricks, was thinking about someone she knew in high school. The person was not a close friend or anyone she kept in contact with. In fact, it wasn’t someone she thought of often. It was just someone who came to mind.

Being part of a Facebook group for her high school, Rebecca visited the page only to find an obituary had been posted not more than an hour or two earlier about the person she had spontaneously thought about. The woman had died just a few days earlier.

These two unrelated events got me thinking about how we hear things.

Maybe Tybalt was planning on jumping up on the window seat anyway or recognized the phrase “window seat.” Maybe my routine was familiar enough for him to recognize and react to.

Maybe Rebecca’s friend came to mind because she occasionally checks that page, and it created a subconscious foundation for what later might be construed as a spontaneous memory.

Then again, maybe hearing things is too often taken for granted.

I’ve always thought most people miss a lot by ignoring instinct, that there are some things we don’t hear simply because we don’t listen to that instinct.

Tybalt is very instinctive when it comes to his interaction with us. So maybe he just listens to unspoken cues much better than humans do.

Doubtlessly multitudes of others have experienced the same thing Rebecca did when she thought of her friend and later discovered her fate. Many might consider such cases an inevitable consequence of probability.

I don’t dispute that. Nor do I accept it on face value.

Regardless, I feel as if I’m constantly reminded how important listening is, whether to conversation or instinct.

That doesn’t necessarily make me better at it.

I’ve been aware for some time how much can be lost by ignoring instinct or other cues, but I’ve been aware also of the fact that I sometimes must tune out some things. Whether it is to focus on a specific task or because I don’t give credence to my instinct, I have learned not to listen at times.

I’m not alone in this practice, I’m sure.

And I’m certain many others don’t think twice about ignoring instinct.

In the grand scheme of things, basing actions on a hunch or whim might seem like a frivolous thing to do. But I often wonder about the outcomes of alternate choices, of listening to that gut feeling that I should do something specific at a specific time.

What would be the outcome if I had made choice A rather than choice B, even regarding the most trivial of things: a spontaneous errand at a store rather than going straight home, a call to a friend I had on my mind rather than sending an email later.

That errand at the store might have resulted in running into someone who might have had a solution to a problem I might have been facing. That call might have come just when that person needed to hear a friendly voice.

While there’s no way of ever knowing the “what ifs” of daily life, the option of listening more to things both spoken and unspoken has always been a goal.

I’d like to think I’ve done better over the years, but with a new year under way, it’s a good time to renew that personal goal.

After all, I’ve had a feeling about this for several days now.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.