Off the wall
Reflecting back, perhaps I could have handled things better. But personal conversations can be tricky even when people know each other very well. How we are feeling at the time can determine what we hear. Do we pay close attention to exactly what is being said or simply latch on to what we think the words may really mean?
With Em, this was a case in point. I have known him for virtually as long as I can remember and can feel when things are not quite right. And on the night in question he was clearly concerned. Initially not saying a word- just pacing up and down the long front room.
I gave it a couple of minutes, then asked him how things were going.
“What did you say? He screeched to a halt, turning sideways to look directly at me. What did you just say?”
I opened my mouth to try and respond but Em kept on talking.
“‘What’s wrong now?’ I heard you say ‘what’s wrong now?’ “.
I held both hands up, trying to look neutral and calm, waited a few seconds then explained. I had just asked him how he was feeling, as he clearly seemed stressed.
I tried a self- deprecating smile.
The communication skills course I had once been on popped into my head. People often do not pay attention to the actual words being used and may focus more on tone, body language or what they may be expecting to hear. Or perhaps, I thought to myself, they could try listening properly and not talking over the other person.
I gave a little sigh. Em also held his hands up and smiled.
“Ok sorry,” he explained,” this Awareness group I am attending, isn’t going all that well. I don’t know if I am expecting too much or what.”
Trying to choose my words very carefully I asked him to tell me a bit more
“I’m not sure it’s working or if I am really cut out for it. I find it really hard to commit to doing the regular home practice. And it’s not really dealing with the bad things I keep thinking.”
Hoping I had been nodding in all the right places I asked him to recall any key tips that went with the exercises.
“Yes I know he responded immediately, ‘let go of ideas of success or failure’, ‘let go of any expectations of what the awareness scan will do for you, the more you try to influence this, the less it is likely to’ etcetera etcetera.”
I acknowledged this was often easier said than done but wondered if he might be avoiding the real issue.
“Talking of clichés, “Em retorted, “How’s your writing going these days?”
I did a double take. Had I this heard correctly? I asked him to clarify what he had just said.
“Chill,” he replied, “I was just asking if you’d had any responses from those magazines you contacted about publishing your work.”
I opened my mouth to reply and noticed Em had started nodding before I had even said a word. I shut my mouth again.
“Look no offence mate but I wondered if you had considered changing some things starting with that short biography of yourself?”
I tried to smile and asked him to continue.
“You know where you say –blah blah, trying to write regularly, wonders if the meaning of life can be found by reading the phrase ‘rats live on no evil star’ backwards?”
I blinked a couple of times and thanked Em for his incisive feedback based on his great track record of completing things.
We stared at each other for a moment. Then Em continued.
“All I was saying, was perhaps, it could be good if you made a few changes and didn’t rely on the same old palindromes maybe?”
There was a silence. I felt my chest tighten and took a few paces towards him. Em was also walking towards me.
Thinking better of it, we both stopped.
“Uoy Kcuf,” I very carefully pronounced.
I turned on my heel, strode toward the front door and threw it open.
Em shouted after me.
“That’s right. Avoid the issues. As usual. We’re not so very—“
I slammed the door shut behind me with angry force. The frame shook. A moment later I heard a loud shattering sound from inside the flat.
“Are you alright?” I shouted pulling my keys out of my pocket in a panic, opening the front door and rushing back in.
The room was silent.
I was all by myself.
There was broken glass all over the floor from the large mirror that had just fallen off the front room wall.