I have crossed the chasms of my casual crimes
I have passed the sign at least a thousand times
Waiting for a hand to rescue me
While at any time I could have walked out free
– John Fischer from the songs, “Casual Crimes”
Why does it always seem to take a crisis to bring us closer? I have learned more about my son, Chandler, and myself in this last weekend than I have in years. Part of it might be that a crisis pulls us out of our patterns. Those patterns are probably different for everyone, but for me, it would be a pattern of isolation. I typically hide myself inside the walls of predictability, routine and that catchall: “busy-ness.” Too busy to stop and connect. Too busy to be vulnerable. Too busy to step out of my shoes and into the shoes of another.
I was always Chandler’s personal chauffeur, driving him and his friends where they wanted to go. If I logged the silent hours I spent alone with Chandler in a car, it could probably add up to a year in school. We could have known each other’s deepest thoughts and fears by now if I had been willing to open up mine. I blamed it on Chandler’s disability, but I see now that was just a convenient way of keeping the wall up. He is smarter than I am in lots of areas, and he can communicate just fine, given the time and the effort put forth by the listener. And had I led the way in opening up myself, I know he would have reciprocated as he is doing now.
We all have barriers and comfort zones. Some of us are hunkered down in our bunkers for the long haul. We’re going to wait out the enemy as long as it takes, when all along the enemy is us.
This last weekend it took a total change of environment, constant time together and a therapist to get me out. Is all that necessary? Will I always require that? No, not if I can start stepping out on my own. How hard is that? You stand up, step over the barrier and connect to something important to the other person.
Last night we talked with Chandler over the phone. Well … Marti talked with Chandler and then handed me the phone, “Here, your father wants to talk to you.” I hate it when she does that. Maybe I don’t want to talk to him right then. Maybe I wasn’t expecting this call and I’m into something else in my mind. Maybe I’m neatly ensconced in my bunker and just don’t want to come out. I have no choice. She’s handing me the phone and Chandler just heard that I want to talk to him. So I start talking about the Catch and what I’ve been writing about our experience together and how so many people are appreciating that, and Marti points out that he’s not really interested in that. He doesn’t read the Catch; he can’t use the Internet; he doesn’t know who these people are; and then she reminds me of our horseback ride together, and I start talking about how much fun that was, and what happened when the lightning struck, and suddenly Chandler is engaged. I started by talking about something I wanted to talk about, and then, with Marti’s help, I connected to something he wanted to talk about. How hard was that? It wasn’t really hard at all; it just involved, once again (how many times do I have to say it?) putting myself in his shoes instead of staying in my own.
What would mean something to the other person? Talk about that. What you want to talk about is only what you want to talk about. What they want to talk about is a connection. Let’s connect.