Sunday, April 29, 2007

Deep Talk

When does deep talk happen? I mean the conversations that touch us deeply, or where one or both of us are revealing things we normally don't share...

I know (from my own experience) it can happen with a psychologist, but that's not the kind of deep talk I mean.

What about the important conversations with kids, spouse, lover, friends? I think they happen partly by chance, when the right circumstances and emotional positions all line up. You can stack the odds by arranging a trip or a retreat; you can learn to listen well, and invite confidences, but I believe the opportunities still come and go largely by chance.

So you need lots of chances.

Even with teenagers, and different work and class schedules, we try hard to have dinner together every night. We succeed better than 90% of the time. The result is that someone is in the kitchen cooking for an hour or so beforehand. People drop into the kitchen, get caught up in conversation, and topics come and go. Dinner is often a continuation, with others joining in. We end up discussing the day's events, music, books, the arts, and inevitably we get around to values, beliefs, feelings. Could this happen on a schedule? Could it happen if we were rushed? Could it happen with us scattered in different seats in the car going out to dinner instead of cooking in our own kitchen?

By chance my love and I ended up in separate bedrooms on our last two week mountain vacation. It took almost the whole vacation to notice that we were not feeling close or relaxed. We realized one thing was a particular cause; we were not having bedtime conversations after the light was out.

I think that many of our most important talks MUST happen by chance, or woven into the natural fabric of the day. They can't be planned, because the moment has to take us by surprise for us to open up enough to talk - or listen.

And this is another strike against the myth of "quality time" that was so popular in the 90s. You can't have a great relationship on a schedule, or built out of really special, but infrequent moments. I would even venture that great conversations need something else going on, something to occupy just enough of the mind to let the rest free, to create the quiet pauses that allow someone to take the talk deeper. This is how we use cooking, eating, walking, and even getting ready for bed. This is what bedtime rituals are about, too - some reading aloud, a song, some conversation at the bedside before turning out the light.

Deep conversation comes out of silence, and peace, and time without pressure. It comes out during a meal with no set end time. It happens when there is no itinerary or agenda. Our feelings and inmost thoughts are shy and slow, and they don't come out until it's quiet and calm.

So when we fill our lives up with events and accomplishments and running, who do we become? Who do we become to each other? And what would happen if we had more open ended time and peace with each other? What would happen if we did less and were with each other more?

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
Luke 10:38-42

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