Wednesday, January 17, 2007

So ... Let's Really Talk

Damselfly on Flower, Tucker Pond, Warner, NH, July 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/525 sec @ f2.8, ISO 55, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

I've posted about something similar to this in the past. The issue of superficial chit-chat. Do you ever feel like you are only getting to see the surfaces, and not the depths, of another being? Do you sometimes want to penetrate their defenses, not to gain an advantage, but just to know their soul?

Well, I came across this story thanks to the random synchronicity of the Internet. (If the 'net doesn’t steal too much of your time, it can be a godsend.) Please take a moment to read the story below, and consider the question. Are you prepared for a heartfelt reply? If so, feel free to share a little in your comments.

With a Little Help from a Stranger -- By Beadrin Youngdahl

I met a friend of a friend when they included me in their lunch plans. My friend is a rare enough bird so I could have anticipated that her friends would rise, exponentially, on the scale of non-traditional species. No surprise, then, when I was led into a home eclectically decorated with exotic remnants of extraordinary places. Not a spoon collection or snow globe in this riverfront bungalow. How about a coconut shell, carved into a totem likeness of my hostess; "a gift from the shaman," she explained casually.

Over lunch I had to pretend perfect calm as I noted not one but four wasps buzzing at the overhead plant in her kitchen. "Oh, those are rescued. I had to save their hive and they live in here and on the patio. They won't hurt you." And they didn't.

She supported herself as a freelance art photographer. Her work was tastefully exhibited in discreet clusters. Her name was something ethereal, full of A's and R's, requiring a leisurely roll about the tongue. She was one of the most genuine humans I had ever chanced to meet.

And so it was that in the presence of the free-range wasp colony, ice water with the freshest twist of lemon and a lunch of hummus on pita bread, this most unusual of creatures turned to me, full and attentive, sincere and with absolute meaning and said, "Tell me about you."

I like to think I'm articulate enough, having suffered enough showers and spousal work gatherings to know small talk with some flair, but nothing prepared me for "Tell me about you."

"Well, I. . . ."

She really wanted to know!

"I guess I'm . . ."

She was still paying attention. She wanted me to tell her about Me.

So, I suppose I stammered about being a nurse or a grandmother or winters in Minnesota. I'm not sure. I was quite unsure of my role in this question, and further, my role in my own world.

It was a take-home gift, that kind query. I don't think I was meant to answer it properly there, or ever, for her.

If I'm not what I do, or a person in a relationship, or a resident of a particular place, but all that and none of that, then tell me about me.

If I could return to that luncheon table, wasps singing above (still safe in her presence, I'm sure), I would try to answer her. I might talk about the things I wish for and the things that make me unexpectedly happy, or the darkest thoughts I've ever had to sweep from my mind. I might tell her the things I pretend to be or to feel or to understand when I really don't believe a bit of it. How about when I should be sad but am really only angry, or when I seem red-hot angry but really feel ice-blue with fear? What if I told her all the things I wonder about and how little I know for sure?

So, on those days when uncertainty reigns supreme and I'm tempted to skitter off into a familiar pattern of internal chaos, I can take myself, for just a moment, back to that warm, blessed kitchen table in the house by the river and begin, "Let me tell you about Me."

I'm the one who needs to attend to the conversation that follows.


Anonymous said...

thanks for finding some value in my words- I was surprised and flattered to find it and glad to share it.
beadrin youngdahl

Steven Crisp said...

And I am quite surprised and appreciative to have a visit from the author. Thanks for leaving a comment Beadrin.

I found the story quite moving and in my mind, insightful. Getting below the surface in our day-to-day conversations strikes me as a worthwhile endeavor.