Saturday, December 20, 2008

The conversation is the relationship

A person isn't who they are during the last conversation you had with them - they're who they've been throughout your whole relationship.” Rainer Maria Rilke
In every conversation, there is emotion. In every human being, there are emotions waiting to flow, emotions flowing freely, emotions damned up, or jamming up. Hot or cold, lukewarm or tepid, the temperature of our emotions will affect the conversation, and the relationship, with the one with whom we're engaged.

In Crucial Conversations, authors Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler suggest that the conversation is the relationship. A crucial conversation, they write, is "a discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong” (p. 3) and the outcome greatly impacts their lives.

Now, in my lifetime, I've had some crucial conversations. Sometimes willingly, more often unwillingly. When a simple conversation turns crucial, I'm usually not prepared. I'm usually busy trying to get my point of view across, and then, whammo! There's something crucial on the line. Someone else has a differing opinion butting up against my POV. Suddenly, like a cold front swooping down from the north meeting up with a weather system from the west, our two perspectives collide over the prairies and dump a wet and wolly blanket upon the ground. Temperatures drop. Visibility disappears and frigid weather ensues.

Typically, my favourite way to hold an emotionally charged conversation is to avoid it. Fleet feet are my favourite mode of transportation when the temperature falls and emotions rise. In those emotionally charged moments, I might take a moment to reflect on the situation, reminding myself ever so gently that, disagreement does not equal rejection. Unfortunately, before the truth of that reality settles into my mind, my Nikes are knotted and I am set to hit the road. With the speed of Apollo throwing thunderbolts from the sky, I don my habit of getting the hell out of there and wrestle thoughts of rationality to the ground. Why bother to stretch outside my comfort zones when I'm perfectly comfortable with disengaging before I embrace someone else's POV.

This morning when I awoke, I was feeling blue. No particular reason. My normal too early on a Saturday afternoon to wake up but there I am anyway. Tiredness. Another late night. A party at friends. Outside, frigid air continues to envelope the city in a cold, cold blanket.

The emotion was unbidden, but there it was. In that state, I know my best defence is offence. I mean, really, it's a time worn path I've beaten out of many a relationship and it's always worked for me in the past! Yeah. Really!

In that state of ennui, little things are at risk of becoming mighty objects in my mind. A casual word spoken at the party last night takes on new significance as I nurse the embers of my imaginations early morning ruminations over, "What did he mean by that? Why did he say that?"

Suddenly, 'sometimes' becomes always, 'maybe' becomes never and I fall into a place of 'what's the use of trying?'. That victim place of neediness and want. Of lack and negativity. That place where my spirits desire to fly freely is hampered by my minds desire to 'poke the beehive'. Mired in the muddy waters of the backwaters of my tired thinking, I don't see clearly to the beauty of the rising sun on a brand new day.

Imagine it! Nobody was even awake in the house but me! Even Ellie still slept on her pillow at the foot of our bed, curled up into a giant furry ball, snoring peacefully and there I was wallowing in a vat of self-pity ready and armed to fight the fight for who knows what for goodness sakes.

Spiritual leader, Bagwan Shree Rajneesh, once suggested that, "When sadness comes, just sit by the side and look at it and say, “I am the watcher, I am not sadness,” and see the difference. Immediately you have cut the very root of sadness. It is no more nourished. It will die of starvation. We feed these emotions by being identified with them.”

There was no reason for my ennui this morning. Sure, there are things that need to be discussed, crucial conversations that need to be held. They are simply part of the ebb and flow of relationship, of two people moving closer together, of two people deepening the roots of love and affection. Good thing C.C. is a sound sleeper. Had I tried to hold one of those conversations in my tired, dispirited spirits of early this morning, the outcome would not have been pretty.

Fortunately, I did as Shree Rajneesh suggests. I sat back. Took a breath. Wrote in my journal and moved away from 'being' the sadness, to observing it move through me. Like a cold front moving through, the emotions of my early morning musings flowed into dawn's awakening. In their passing, the way is made clear to a day of sunny prospects beneath a clear blue sky.

In the wash of those emotions moving on, I am once again breathing deeply. The crucial conversation I needed to have this morning was with myself. Not with anyone else. The person I was avoiding meeting this morning was me, not someone else. I've had a relationship with myself, all my life. Deepening that relationship requires letting go of the last conversation I had with myself so that I can once again, surrender and fall in love.

The question is: Are your emotions running your conversations into the ground, leaving you high and dry on the rocky shores of disagreement? Or, are you holding yourself steady in the lifeboat of your peace of mind, letting your emotions flow freely around you as you surrender and fall into the waters of love?

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