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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

rock-in-water

After feeling cheerful and positive yesterday, back to reality. It is Monday morning and he is getting ready to leave again, his mind already elsewhere, a note of tension in his voice. To be fair, he is trying to make polite conversation in the kitchen – but it isn’t going well. Then he asks me a question which makes me cringe inside; it’s an apparently innocent question about the young friends I saw yesterday but I know there is no answer I can give which will not wind him up and set him ticking like the clock on a time bomb. If I don’t answer, he’ll be furious, so I do my best; I fail, the rant starts …

Eventually he notices that I have stopped trying to think of responses and so he turns the sharpness on me. How can we talk when I’m crashing around the kitchen? (I’m filling the dishwasher) How can he be expected to talk to me when I’ve been so rude this morning? His words bruise me like stones but I know better than to react or show my hurt.

Have I been rude? I’m no saint, but I’ve been trying so hard to stay calm and polite. I stop doing chores, turn around, make eye contact (which makes me realise how often I avoid that) and try- really try – to be soothing, gentle, positive. It’s just so demoralising knowing that his bitterness is crouching there, waiting for a tiny excuse to pounce, even an imagined excuse.

I think when we get to a certain point on our downward spiral we begin to see the world in such a dark way that no-one can make a situation happy for us. Insult lurks in every comment; the life experiences of the sweetest young people become a contemptible heap of errors. We lose perspective, humility, generosity and joy.

And so a dear, dear man, who was once a laughing, loving boy with a thrilling appetite for life becomes a bitter, angry, spiteful old man, hoarding his hurts like a miser’s gold. I say old, although he is the same age as me, because nothing seems to age a person like anger. Anger’s stern grey lines mark his face like time’s mapmaker, but none of the journeys have happy endings.

If you want to be happy and stay young, learn to let time wash away life’s scars; be a rock, steadfast in the river of your experiences, feeling life as a cool caress as it laps and tumbles against your gleaming skin.

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As a very old man who has lived a very long life, I would
like to impart my (perhaps dated) perspective on this matter for anyone
interested.

Now that I have lived a lifetime’s worth of days, I have finally
come to see the folly of my ways. So listen when I speak of the temptations of
this world: nice things, status, success and pretty women.

Since I’m nearing 80, I can confidently say that I’m standing on the precipice of
death, and I can tell you that my perspective is enormous. When I wake up
each morning and go outside, I can see the connected nature and wonder of every
leaf and every cloud and I marvel at the forces which have formed us.

However, ever since the passing of my wife, some days all I’ve
got is a lone nighttime walk. But then when I whistle some sweet melody, and it
sparks some very beautiful memories; and once you are my age those great
memories bring unspeakable contentment to you.

So young people, try your best to ignore what you think
matters, instead bring true joy to yourself and each other. Because when all is
said and done, when your youth is spent and burned, you’ll see that it’s all
about the simple things you take for granted: music, flowers, babies, sharing
the good times, traveling not just for business, accepting your mortality. This
is finally what I’ve learned.

And then in the end it’s family and friends! Loving yourself,
but not only yourself, it’s about the good walk, and the long hard walk and the
relationships and connections you’ve had. It’s about making a little music
everyday till you die; it’s a beautiful ride.

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beach 027

A traditional walk on the beach on New Year’s Day is a fascinating opportunity for watching people in their relationships. Here, of course, are the self-absorbed young lovers, arms entwined; the happy, noisy families, scooping children out of the surf; the teenage tribes, walking off their awesome rave; the quietly satisfied old couples, secure as their interwoven fingers.

And us. Two separate figures walking the tideline, each of us the only person on earth. The day is breathtakingly beautiful; after weeks of gales and rain, the crisp blue sky which frames the sparkling sand and sun-bright spray is a glorious miracle. For a moment I remember summer and turn carelessly to share my happiness, but no, there is no shared moment, no smile returned; just a man alone with his pain.

I don’t upload images usually, but New Year, new idea, and this shot caught a moment; for the briefest time the beach ahead of me was completely without people, and as the spray blew across the sunlight, the momentary glory and emptiness of this image was exactly as the day felt for me. It was like looking at the first day of the world before the arrival of man, and of hope and sadness.

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Last night I got very drunk, today I will be so, so sorry; I will probably read this and be very sorry indeed. But we all need a break and it doesn’t look like one is coming my way any time soon so I have taken the easy option for now; a bottle of wine, a lot of crying and a night of self pity and oblivion. Happy New Year.

I have tried so hard. I have been understanding, I have been patient. I have made myself as near what he wants as I can be. I was so pretty and I smelled divine and I kissed him – and he held me a little too firmly by the arms and said no, behave.

No, behave.

The Samaritans, he told me, have a support group for despondent men and my despondent husband is part of that. This dreadful disclosure filled me with guilt and pain for him – until he explained how he has to remain in control to ‘manage the damage’. Then I realised that it is this control which is orbiting our marriage like a cold, ominous Death Star, crushing it with restraint and fear and threat.

I’m alone and desperate and drunk enough to fall down. The Samaritans intervention on one side of this relationship has left me unchampioned and alone, their support system has creating a monster, giving an implacable justification to the distance, the denial, and the cruelty of everything he does; permitting him to step back and abandon me, to save himself rather than our marriage.

From somewhere nearby I can hear Kermit and Miss Piggy singing ‘Love led us here’ … Ha Ha.

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New Year’s Eve is surely the loneliest day of the year. What to do this morning but stand alone on the miserable, windswept plains at Year’s End and look backwards on desolation, or strain tear-stung eyes into the gale to catch a glimpse of an empty, awful future? Behind me, the virgin mistletoe hangs withered and dry, the Christmas cupboards are bare, the Yule fire lies cold ash. The present is bleak and comfortless.

Yes, today I am sad, and more than sad; a night lying awake with my partner’s snoring ringing in my ears and my head ringing from that knock has left me too much time to think. I am overwhelmed with sorrow and regret – the things not done, the things I will never do, the many things I wish undone, all crowd my thoughts until no room for positive thoughts remain.

I know I should raise my head proudly to look into this rising sun and visualise my future, to remind myself that I have within me all I need to achieve my dreams; I am a burgeoning seed waiting for the promising spring, a sleeping flower waiting for the warmth of a helpful sun. But I have woken from the comfort of my dreams into a harsh reality, and as I stand on the porch watching a stern, grey day break over the exhausted, wind-whipped garden, I cry.

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We are discussing the fact that he wants to watch a war film and I would like to flip channel to catch a weather report. A polite, quiet conversation – I see no signs, I miss any warning – yet suddenly he is roaring, the tv remote flies across the room and punches into the wall behind me, some sharp thing rapping his message against my head as it explodes.

Stunned, speechless, reduced to nothing, I stare as he breaks from the room, far from silent now and looking both wild and shocked. I am left alone in the debris, thrown back into my memories; a child standing on a lonely staircase at Christmas, listening to a man’s anger and a woman’s tears. I hug my fear to myself, holding tight to how very much I do not want to be that child again, and how entirely ill-equipped I feel to be this woman.

Ever helpful, Google tells me how new figures today show that one in eight emergency calls made to the police relate to domestic violence. The pressures and privacy of Christmas increase the likelihood of violence in the home for too many of us, with at least one in four women falling victim to abuse. A badly aimed tv remote hardly counts as abuse, but I feel the blow to my confidence as sharply as the knock from the broken remote. And I wonder, if we are failing so obviously to communicate, if we are losing control of this situation, what next?

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Silence; not the deep, reverential hush of a religious moment, not the crisp, sparkling quiet of a midwinter midnight, surely not the snug, safe content of a happy family curled up on a holiday sofa. Only silence; cold, numb, unfathomable.

There are no words to describe this lack of words or the fear it brings as I blunt my dreams against its senseless mass. I want to press my hands into the holly, hold my fingers in the candle flames, just to prove that there is still pain, still life and so perhaps, still hope.

When we are alone together there are so very many things not to talk about that the weight of the unspoken words crowd in on us, the silence presses my face with ugly hands, grimy with guilt and the bitter reek of the past. I want to scream, to fight; do something to tear open this silence which is the exhaust of all the words ever spoken. It chokes my lungs and I suffocate, hour by hour, in a horrible ecstasy of unspoken regret.

Into my heart an air that kills

From yon far country blows:

What are those blue remembered hills,

What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

And cannot come again.

AE Housman

Speakers tend to chant these lines as a comfortable elegy, but for me the words are filled with despair, anger and finality.

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