I've been watching the TV show The Bear. It’s very good. If you don't know it, it's about an acclaimed master chef named Carmy who inherits his family's sandwich shop after his older brother commits suicide. He decides to come home to run the place, and it's very stressful for him (and for us, watching). The crew is skeptical about the changes Carmy wants to make. In the kitchen everyone is used to doing what they want and yelling at each other.
What I like about the show is how when they are not yelling, they are telling each other where they are and what they are doing. Behind! they will say, when they are walking behind someone. Or, Corner! when they are racing around a corner. When someone gives them an instruction, they say, Heard!
Sometimes they say Heard! when they are having an uncomfortable conversation. I like that, I say to my husband. We should try that.
Heard, he says.
This is important to me because I know I am not always a good listener. Sometimes I tune out without meaning to and burrow into my own head. Or I get distracted by what else is going on or by a thing I'd meant to do. My family will joke about how I stand up in the middle of conversations to pace around or to do a household task.
Some days I literally cannot sit still and feel like I might crawl out of my own skin. I don't know why I'm like this. Well, I do sort of know why I'm like this, but I'm starting to wonder how much knowing can help with potentially changing.
The Bear isn't really about what goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant. It's about a person who is struggling with grief and loss. The long term, seemingly never-ending effects of trauma burrowing into all of the nooks and crannies of the kitchen, into Carmy, and into his family and friends.
It's a funny story too. And most episodes are heartbreakingly lovely as the people strive to do better, be better. How they begin to learn, one by one, that there might be another way to interact with each other without the yelling and the contempt and the casual cruelty.
How when they say Heard to each other, we know they are really trying to listen.