The battery in my smoke alarm must be running low, as it beeps every few hours in all it’s pitchy irritation. My eldest dog Rufus doesn’t like high-pitched sounds, other dislikes include thunder, strangers, and half full bowls of food. If a sound is loud and the pitch is high enough he’s been known to quickly hop on a lap, or curl up close to the nearest set of feet he can find until the startling sound storm passes.
Why this morning one of my many smoke alarms wanted to put the house on notice about an apparent lack of battery life at 5 am is a mystery to me, but Rufus wasn’t having any of it. With each pitchy chirp of the alarm his paws would scratch my bedroom door a little faster, my pets scratch instead of knock due to height restrictions. I tossed over in bed, hoping the sound and the canine notifications would go away, of course neither did. After twenty minutes or so listening to the cascading noises of door scratching and insanely loud beeping I got up and took care of it.
Now my home has one less smoke alarm, and Rufus, still shaken by the episode, has resorted to sleeping on my usually off-limits bamboo bathmat, as if to punish my tardiness in removing the battery from the device. Rufus might hold on to this grudge for a few days, or until I get some fresh bully sticks for him to chew on, whichever arrives first.
Our relationships, human ones that is, are a lot like the smoke alarm fiasco described above. We react in a state of panic when we must defy our presented character, in the case of the Pekingese regal, tough, unafraid, protecting, and evolve into survival mode, discarding the normal behavior, which surely at that hour would’ve involved collecting some of the 18 hours he sleeps each day.
Dogs hear sounds up to five times greater than humans experts argue, which would have this already piercing noise to the level of unbearable for poor Rufus to handle, akin to a human being shut in a room with deafening noise played intermitantly over and over again for hours on end. No wonder he had to go primal, he had to get to safety, and show his fear without regard for what either of his brothers or his master might think of him. While the incident is sad, it is similar to how a human might react if their house was on fire, and say someone they’d been arguing with was in the home with them. Forget the argument, let’s get to safety! Is there a way to be this honest with each other when a crisis is not occurring? Or are we never really this honest unless lives are on the line?
Often when we talk to each other we present our character foremost to match the context of the conversation, putting our true feelings on the back burner. The pop culture slang for this is putting up walls. I can’t count how many conversations I’ve had in the past few years where neither of us actually said what we meant, and the more this persists, the more it grows into the norm.
Take your pick of examples, a coach talking to a player, a parent to a daughter, a scorned lover to an ex, anytime there is a context, this notion of whom we want to be perceived as rather than who we really are comes into play. Add in the societal elements that go with being a citizen in the world today and you’ve got a person having a contextual conversation instead of a real authentic one. Sigh, roll your eyes, pause, take it all in, because it’s a lot.
With such a complex web of expectations and preordained rules, how in the world do we ever actually really talk to each other anymore? Perhaps by being above it, literally.
Imagine if we started off each meaningful conversation with each other by collectively stating the following-
Forget what we’re supposed to say, or what people might want us to say, or how people typically say what we’re about to say, and let’s just each get on our own cloud, and float above this place and all the norms that go with it. Let’s really just talk to each other with no preconceived notions, stereotypes, historical references, or anything else, just two people on two clouds facing each other above the rest of it.
What does removing ourselves from our normal place do? Could it give us a way to communicate without all the messy intricacies of following social protocol? Might we actually be able to say what we mean to each other more effectively, and maybe, just maybe, both arrive from our journey better off for it?