When They Think You Said Something You Didn’t And All Hell Breaks Loose
But it did.
It began so innocently…
A long time male friend of mine came to visit with his new girlfriend. I’ve known this gentleman long before my (now 19 year old) daughter was born. I have photos of him holding her in the gray striped baby sling, walking through the pink azalea blossoms in an arboretum on a beautiful day in Los Angeles when she was about nine months old.
My friend and I have history. We’ve talked for hours, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve given each other a comforting shoulder from time to time, we talk about relationships, where are lives are going — the usual between friends.
We’ll call her Roxie and we’ll call him Jerry. Yes, the names have been changed.
Anyway, Jerry showed up pulling his trailer with plans to stay for a couple days to explore Asheville and visit friends on their way to the West Coast.
We decide to go shopping for food, which prompts a conversation about eating. Roxie begins a commentary about Jerry’s eating habits — something about how he never turns down good food, and he must eat about a pie a week, don’t you think? And he eats a lot of meat. All of this is done in a somewhat “friendly” way.
I find myself recoiling at this whole interchange, however, in an almost out-of-proportion way. My stream of consciousness thinking sounds something like, “that comment didn’t sound so bad, in the grand scheme of things, maybe this is how they talk to each other and it wouldn’t work for me, but it’s just fine for them — but why does it FEEL so bad???”
Hmmm. Weird. It’s the most unexplainable feeling. Her comments have an oddly-ever-so-slightly-ripping-edge to them, producing a microscopic tear in the fabric of one’s heart. Just the smallest cut. Practically imperceptible. It’s the oddest thing — you can’t see it happening if you listen only to the words of the communication.
But — you can feel the tearing as the words pass over, like a fog with tiny needles in it. And suddenly, you’re bleeding just a little bit and it’s a surprise, like how in the world did that happen? It’s a slight of hand, the soft handkerchief covering the knife — words said with a smile, but underneath, the vibration of the message isn’t kind at all.
Wow, we’re off to an interesting start. “Not exactly safe ground for anybody here,” I think to myself. I wish a great big crane would come and lift me right out of here.
Alas, there’s no crane.
I notice I’m not breathing much, so I take a deliberately deep breath. My kitchen is a safe haven at my house. I imagine white light everywhere and send a whoosh of love out of my heart.
All of this white light will hopefully lighten things up, don’t you think? But all in all, I figure it’s none of my business and do my best to disengage.
So here we are, getting to know each other, a bit of a rocky start, but things can change. I have hope. Maybe there is some kind of underlying misunderstanding causing all this trouble, who knows.
“What shall we do together tonight,” I ask. A movie?
Roxie mentions the idea of going to a David Wilcox acoustic guitar concert . I’m relieved to be talking about music. What a good thing!! Maybe all the “ouchy” stuff will go away now.
Apparently, he’s an acquaintance of Roxie’s, and based on her glowing comments about David and his guitar, we decide to go. We get the last three tickets to a sold out concert. Things are looking up. A musical evening could save the day.
After picking up the tickets and shopping for food, we eat a bite and get back in the car to go to the concert. I’m not exactly looking forward to making more conversation in the car.
Unfortunately, Jerry’s not talking. He’s practically absent. Silent as a mouse. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try to prompt a conversation with him, but it didn’t. Since his lights weren’t on and nobody was home, I didn’t try.
So I continue talking to Roxie, because not talking seems weirder than silence. There are times when one should bow to silence. This was probably one of those times.
Roxie doesn’t initiate conversation, so I do. What could we talk about that is common ground or interesting to her? That always eases the way, doesn’t it?
So I ask her more about her work. She teaches non-violent communication.
Wow. Hold on. I reflect momentarily on the complete irony of this, since I experience her conversation as, well, violent.
She says she hates cities, and avoids them at all costs. She teaches exclusively in lovely retreat centers along the coast and doesn’t deal with cities. Well, good for her.
For a moment, I notice I feel wrong for ever having lived in a city. I smile to myself. There’s that “thing she does again.” It’s not what she says, it’s what she delivers energetically with the words.
I suppress sudden inner laughter. Call me crazy, but it struck me as funny how hard I was trying, and how badly I was doing in the conversation with her.
What the heck. Let’s see. What else can we talk about?
I ask her about other teachers she likes. She likes a few, Eckhart Tolle for one, and tells me she spent 80 days with him before he got famous. I wondered how it helped her. She told me that it was wonderful just BEING with him. She had listened (or tried to listen to him) on CD but it wasn’t even close to what it was like to BE with him. She mentioned the 80 days several times. Maybe it’s her trump card, I don’t know — that nobody can come close to her level of — whatever — because she’s spent 80 days with Eckhart.
We talk about Eckhart for a while longer, but it’s a report from her, and there’s no real interchange, no curiosity, no exploration, no discovery. It is my least favorite kind of “conversation.”
We haven’t arrived at our destination yet, so I ask about another teacher, and I see that she doesn’t seem too wild about this subject and states her (very negative) opinion about these people. Thank goodness we finally arrive at the concert location.
As we step out of the car, the evening air touches our faces — cold, clear and beautiful. We walk into The Grey Eagle — it’s a super casual venue, with folding chairs for the audience, and a short order type restaurant and bar. We find seats, leave our coats, and Jerry says he’s going to go get something to drink. He asks Roxie what she wants. She mentions lemonade.
I notice my thirst as well, and realize that, in the rush to leave and get those last three available tickets, I forgot my water bottle, and so did everyone else. I decide to buy water for all three of us.
My path to the water puts Jerry and I next to each other in line. I think to myself, “What a good time to talk to him by himself — how cool is this! I can finally SAY something to him — maybe wake him out of that deep slumber and have a little more fun. At least there would be one more person to talk to, a friendly face and a big heart to relate to.
“Jerry, do you think we could be a little closer while you’re here with Roxie…”
I’m saying those last words of the first sentence of my incomplete communication, when what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Unfortunately, not a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer….
Right. Roxie on his left.
She interrupts and starts talking to Jerry. I can’t really hear her, but she whisks him away before buying anything to drink, and I continue standing in line to get my water, wondering — what just happened here???? Since Roxie said something about lemonade, I buy one for her and three waters.
I go looking for them and find them deep in discussion and not in a fun way. I hand her the lemonade. She practically scowls as she states she’s having an important discussion and can’t drink that right now.
OMG. Everybody’s in trouble. I can feel it. All Hell Has Officially Broken Loose. Where are my supplies to survive this disaster? I hand them a bottle of water and walk away leave them to their important discussion. Maybe this will blow over quickly.
The concert begins, and it’s fabulous. David Wilcox is a master storyteller with his guitar. He makes us all laugh, he moves us deeply, he makes us appreciate life and all of the hard lessons, and how to learn from even the most difficult circumstances.
Perfect message for me right now. I begin to relax. This man can play a guitar, his all-knowing fingers move effortlessly through the cords and he tells stories in the most intimate way. How beautiful.
The two seats next to me are still empty, however.
At the break I go looking for them and Roxie explains how there is a big upset going on.
I see what happened and how my incomplete communication got interpreted by Ms. YouCan’tAndWon’t TakeMyManFromMe, but since I didn’t say what she thinks I said, not even remotely, I say, “Well, I didn’t say or want what you think I said or wanted. So there’s nothing wrong. Why be upset about what never happened?”
She’s been around Eckhart Tolle. She’ll understand that.
I turn to Jerry and say that I just wanted to have a better time with him, and that he seemed to have left his body and I missed being able to talk to him.
Didn’t matter. She “knew what I really meant” and was not having any of this follow-up explanation stuff.
And I thought to myself, “NO.”
“No, I’m not walking into that dimly-lit-MUD-up-to-your-neck-CAVE you’re in. Nothing of any value will come from three out of three folks sinking not so slowly into the dark abyss.”
They told me they were going to continue the conversation on their own. Not long after that, they called me saying they had taken a cab to a hotel for the night and would come get the trailer in the morning.
I listened to the second set of David Wilcox, and it was fabulous. Every song gave an answer to the dilemma/drama that had been created. Every song told a story with a suggestion about what works in relationships. Every single one.
My favorite song of David’s said exactly what I wanted to say to both of them. I don’t remember the name of the song, but it contained this line: “…beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, lies a field. I’ll meet you there.”