When I walk on the Naugatuck Valley River Trail, I prefer to walk alone— the steady rhythm of my feet hitting pavement becomes a kind of mantra. Despite that, I do hear voices. In the breezes that sweep along the water, I hear my father’s words, “The wind clears out the cobwebs.” It does for me.
Of course, there are other people on the trail. They pass coming and going within a few feet of me. On the breeze to the distress of my nose, I smell the scent of dryer sheets and their perfumed clothing. Those who walk in pairs and the ones who walk alone while talking on their cellphones interrupt my “meditation” with their conversations. From them, I get snippets of their chatter blown into my path.
Over many foot miles, I have come to recognize a common thread among the portions of conversations I overhear. Most often, I catch the person’s tone before the words. It is either incredulous, critical, or irritated. Their words tell some story of an experience involving a third party.
“Then, I couldn’t believe he said, to me . . .”
“I don’t know WHY they didn’t get . . . “
“I told her she should, but she didn’t listen.”
“Now, they expect me to . . . “
Like most of us, they are recounting experiences and lamenting people’s behavior in them. Why do we do this? I think we all want to be understood, but I am not sure we really want to understand others. I think we see things from our own perspectives and want to be justified in them. Most often, that means we feel others are somehow wrong.
I have these types of conversations, too. I am growing more uncomfortable with myself when I do. I really do want to understand other people. If I don’t, I want to have those conversations with them, not about them. The choice— have the conversation or release it altogether. For me, both are difficult.
I think these kinds of conversations happen because we all want to be validated. It feels like a basic human need, especially when it involves those we love. Validation doesn’t mean agreement. It just tells us that our opinions and feelings matter. From there if we choose, the door is open for a conversation of understanding. The benefit is as much ours as the other person’s, because true connection grows the human spirit.
My book, Good Grief - What you think you feel, is planned for Fall of 2019.