Life is lived in split seconds. We go along wanting desperately for something to happen and then when it does it’s over so fast that we can’t catch our breath.
Or is it that we willingly let those moments race by because we can’t bear to experience them for very long?
You and your friend are talking to strangers when your friend casually reveals something important about herself that you didn’t know. You look at her in surprise, wondering why you didn’t know, and when you’ll get to hear the rest of that story. You realize there’s an entire dimension to her that you never knew. Treasure chest, discovered.
Someone close to you finally talks about himself, a floodgate opening. You hear all that you had suspected about his troubles, all he wouldn’t admit, and all you couldn’t guess. At the end of it you want to say, “I told you so!” but instead you just realize… he figured it out. That’s why he’s telling you. There’s nothing else to say. He’s already clicked his own heels to go back home.
You were rude, then apologize. The split second before the other person brushes it off tells you that you were right to apologize.
You’re watering the plants and a neighbor stops to tell you all about her love life…
You’re on the phone with someone and you hate talking on the phone. Those silences! But you wait the silence out and on the other side of it is another hour of conversation.
These moments of sharing, of revelation, of discovery, of opening Pandora’s box: these are the moments that push us forward. One of my high school English teachers once told us in class that our IQ grows with our vocabulary; she said new words allow us to articulate new thoughts, that you literally cannot grow smarter without growing your word-library. Today I would argue with her on that one. I would argue that it’s experiences, not words, that expand our IQ. Who gives a shit if it takes you four words or one to express an idea–first you have to have the idea. And the best experiences, the best ideas, come from what happens between two people.
It’s been on my mind lately, a lot of Facebook activity and noticing that the documented “special moments” are rarely the truly awesome ones. I’m sure parents experience this the most. You take your kid in for a studio photo and she spends the entire time crying and squirming. The next day you find her in the living room setting up a tea party with her favorite stuffed animals and she gives you the cutest, happiest smile of her life. Now where is your camera?
We spend a lot of time documenting, sharing and discussing the highlights of our lives. But sometimes all that sharing turns into collecting, which can turn into dissatisfaction when the moments don’t seem collectible.
Sometimes we forget to just shut up and live.
The moments I described at the beginning of this essay are ones I’ve experienced in the last week (details tweaked). They’re not epic Russian novel-level experiences; no one will ever win an Oscar for re-enacting any of this. But they’re intimate. They’re learning. They’re exposure. They’re ah-ha!
They’re kinda what we’re doing all this other bullshit for.
And as is typical for me in the summertime, I experience more of that because I slow down. I sit on porches. I mosey. I chat with people I don’t necessarily know well or have a deep connection with. It’s this moseying, in life or in spirit, that gives me time to let moments unfold.
It’s why I was sitting on the porch with that friend when she happened to mention that huge piece of her history I didn’t know. It’s why I just listened when my other friend unburdened himself of weeks of feeling. Shut up, I kept thinking, just shut up and let him get this out.
It’s why I didn’t hurry off the phone despite the silence.
The other side of silence can be so, so good.
Being in the moment can hurt. Being right here right now involves admitting how you feel and what’s really going on. That could involve too much or too little, the spectrum–your boss has belittled you for so long you feel like a wimp, or you feel so impatient and frustrated you want to pound your fist through the wall, or you’re desperate for some human contact, or you’re desperate for some time checked out in front of the boob tube. Whatever you’re feeling it can be so hard to just feel it, right there around other people.
So we don’t mosey. We rush along, to the next moment, the next fix, the next feel-better. Anything seems better than staying right here, right now.
We’re so busy taking photos of forced grins we don’t notice the quiet revelation in the background.
Bullshit. Let’s put the phones down and just listen.