“Calm down”, he says. “Just you calm down.”
He says it in a calm but stern voice. It makes me everything but calm. It incites me. In the moment, when he says it, I am instantly anything but calm. I hurl away from Planet Calm at warp speed. It wasn’t even an argument. Or a misunderstanding. I was upset, emotional, doing my external processing like I do of something unrelated to us. I was speaking rapidly and in a loud voice which over international phone lines might seem like a police hostage negotiator yelling through a bullhorn. In the moment, I cannot see myself, cannot sense the dervish into which I have transformed. I am all whirl and fury spun up by a gentle, kind-hearted plea to calm down.
How impotent it must feel to him to be unable to help me. He cannot hug me, cannot see me, cannot pick up those thousands of micro-cues we vacuum up from hand gestures, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice. He wants to hear what I am saying, wants to understand. But who can read a tornado from the inside?
Even I cannot see the pattern until after I have – wait for it – calmed down. And in retrospect, I see the improbability of communicating effectively. This is why retrospective data is so weak. In medicine and science, it is the prospective study that has the most power and relevance. Anyone can do a meta-analysis on past data, re-crunching and re-analyzing information.
And he was right. I can just calm down. But somewhere in the center of that funnel is me, absurdly, trying to be heard. Who could possibly hear me? I cannot even hear myself. I spin up this force field, claiming all I want is to be heard. But to hear me, The Jedi Master must get through the force field. And who am I kidding? Jedi Knights are fiction. Also, as long as I keep the force field in place, spinning it up whenever I get challenged, then I am protected….or imprisoned. If I want to escape this pattern, I am good to listen myself. I am the progenitor of this. I can just spin it down and step out of it. But, therein lies the rub. That means being vulnerable. That is the wizard stepping out from the curtained booth voluntarily. Be a person, bare of her emotions, frustrated with her circumstance and powerless to do anything in that moment except to let him be kind and present with her.
It is the ultimate risk, right?