Friday, October 3, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

The 30-something German tourists at the table next to me in the Atlanta airport bar were confused.  They'd ordered margaritas  and had been asked for their IDs. Maybe they hadn't understood, their expressions said.  The  waitress scurrying between tables with trays of drinks had already explained to me in her heavily accented English that she had to ID everyone and now she was asking the Germans a second time.  "Me, too!" I told them, pulling on a lock of my gray hair and holding up my gin and tonic.  Their faces relaxed as they got out their passports and laughed at the absurdity of the situation.  Two weeks ago, I might not have spoken to them and instead stayed hunched over  my laptop, but I'm working on being a different person. Their English only covered the basics and I know only a couple dozen German words, but we kept talking. The experience made me think of two of my  friends.  During our big European backpacking trip when we were in college, Kathy was never put off by the language barrier and talked to anyone.  Once she even got directions to an automobile junkyard so we could buy a used carburetor for the wreck of a VW van we'd bought off the street in Paris. Back then, this special skill of hers seemed to me like some kind of miracle.
My new friend Rick, who just traveled to Greece alone, set out to connect with someone every single day that he was there.  He met a lot of people over a meal or a glass of wine, and  he talked to folks from all over the world.  Talking to people across a language barrier or to complete strangers doesn't seem so outrageous to me anymore.  What's weird is that I can't talk to someone I was married to for thirty years.
Miscommunication, a failure to communicate at all, silence when there is something waiting or wanting  to be spoken can destroy a relationship.  I'm just going to go through the rest of my life imagining one of those flaming holy spirit tongues over my head and keep  on talking.

1 comment:

Jules said...

I have resisted talking to people because it was painful to make a connection and then move on never to see the person again. It was a sort of exercise in futility.: to open your heart to someone and then leave.
I taught myself to be more reserved, protected, to avoid the pain of separation. No wonder it almost killed me when I lost my partner after 22 years: it triggered all the pain of all those losses of 55 years. The people I went to college with and then pretended I didn't miss even though we had established relationships friendships, had open our hearts as much as we just doesn't work this living "protected" there really isn't any protection against that pain of separation. Even if it is simply an illusion, it still hurts. I ran into my ex-partner in a coffee shop. He was treating his girlfriend's son to pastries while he struggles to understand how he has destroyed his relationship with his own kids. Or not. Could it be that he is simply on survival mode trying to hide the pain of being separated from his kids, something neither of us imagined would ever happen. Did he assume that they would forgive anything he did? Was he so convinced that they would put his happiness before their own? Or that it would even be healthy for them to do that? Is he clueless? Damaged in some way that is not obviously apparent to me? How is it that there is still a part of me that wants us to have another chance knowing it could cost me everything I have accomplished? This has been 3 years on October 27th since our divorce was final. I remember standing in line at the court house to file the "quit claim" document on the house we bought together. In the same building we had repeated our marriage vows 23 years earlier. It was the first time I let my self cry. It was the beginning of the dam breaking and it still hasn't stopped. However the river now flows uninpeded by a lot of the shame and self-blame I had used to protect myself from the realization that he had at least an equal part in the betrayal, the msiscommunication. I take responsibility for my part whatever it was...but I will no longer pretend I had any control over his decisions, ever, in the 23 years we have known each other. And he is still a master is with-holding information. I sat in a meeting with he and his girlfriend, watching her play my old role of "rescuer" and I watched him play her for all she was worth. She tapped danced around to please him no matter what he said. And when he lied, she looked away, When he changed his story, she looked away. I wouldn't trade places with her for the world. Which is exactly what it would cost me, unless I am wrong. In any case, silence does not protect us, and neither do excuses