Yesterday I experienced three different instances of broken wires, and though completely unintentional, ultimately all of it was caused by myself.
The first encounter occurred when I was weeding around the bush. I knew that I should probably put down the weedwacker and use my hands, but I thought…let’s just see what happens. And just like that, the weedwacker stopped working. I bent down to see that the connecting wires for the lights that were in the bushes had become wrapped around the spindle. I tugged and turned and twisted the wires to no avail. I soon realized my forced efforts would not suffice and that I would have to promptly find some tools to dismantle the parts if I hoped to free this machine from its tiny captor.
Upon unscrewing, and the unwrapping of the wires, I realized the wire itself had been severed. I did not expect to find that at all, as when I had tugged and pulled and yanked it gave me the impression that all was still intact. I was sad and disappointed. I loved those lights. Would I be able to restore them back to their original state, let alone, would my fix-it attempt even be remotely successful? My mind started to wonder where I last put the electrical tape. It was somewhere, as I know I needed it when I had accidentally staked down and through the reindeer's wires last Christmas. I sighed. Another task to add to the list.
Later that day as I was leaving the garage, I accidentally grabbed the remote as I was pulling out. I never do this, as the garage door is missing that important component where it senses something in the way. Instead as I grabbed it today, the door started to close as I was pulling out. I quickly hit the button and it stopped, but in my panic I also pulled back in. It was this move that cost me the antenna on the top of my vehicle.
When I got out to survey the damage I was astounded. I have no idea why I grabbed the garage door opener at that point. I never do that. Yet here I was. If I had just trusted that the door had stopped, and waited, and reassessed my options, I would still have an antenna. Not that I need the antenna. I never listen to the radio. But. Now I had a hole in the roof that I wasn't sure I could JB Weld my way out of. I sighed. Another task to add to the list.
Last night I awoke to a strange noise. I yelled at the dog to stop, but the noise continued. I got up to switch on the light and found my ceiling fan wrapped in wires. At some point, somewhere, the clips for the wires I had strung on my ceiling must have fallen off. I now had a fan that was humming but not moving, and a tight mess of wires. Once again I turned and twisted and gently tried to release them. But this was an even bigger disaster and though I tried to figure out from which direction it all started, it seemed that any attempt only made it worse. My mind quickly calculated the risks. Salvage the lights, in hopes I could return them properly to the ceiling. Or screw it. I didn’t need the lights, they were purely for my own enjoyment and satisfaction. The wires were thin enough. The victim in me thought…yes…everything nice thing that I do for myself that I actually enjoy gets destroyed..and also maybe the store will still have the same ones and if not no big deal. In my frustration and exhaustion I yanked. And yanked. And it felt good. And I went back to bed.
The night before I had asked myself, what is the meaning of all of these broken wires, these damaged modes of communication? The wires that allow things to come to life. So today, as I sit next to the remaining lights now dangling from other parts of the ceiling, I ponder.
Communication has always been at the forefront for me. Or lack, thereof, too. It is something that I have noticed lately, how we are all so awful at it. The biggest challenge seems to be when we don’t know that we don’t know something, yet continue on as if we have everything we need. Yet we still have miscommunication. We don’t realize we need clarification, or more details. Or that anything is missing at all. Instead we get frustrated or angry, or hurt. Worse, we withdraw, withhold, or shut down all together.
It dawned on me that perhaps we all experienced this as children, especially in school. I recount many times where I was confused and didn’t understand something, yet felt I just had to sit and wait and hope the awareness would come. Often, it never did. I learned not speak, not to ask, not to clarify because it drew attention on me. And attention because I did not understand. How embarrassing to be the center of attention because something is wrong inside of me.
Let’s face it. We were never encouraged to ask questions. We were always told to follow directions. Not until high school maybe, when the abstract teacher encouraged you to ask questions, as if it was some brilliant philosophical realization endowed only upon the wisest of brilliant minds. Yes, but too late when you have been solely conditioned to follow the rules. And sometimes mocked or teased for being dumb or not knowing. So the wheel turns and the cycle continues.
You will never get anywhere if you don’t question the world around you, as if this was some astounding insight. It isn't. It's so normal to question the world. We naturally do it as children. Yet somewhere, it became taboo. And then, we were also reprimanded for not asking questions. But oh, the huffs and the sighs and the looks of irritation when we did ask. We could never win. We were set up to fail from the start.
But for real now. It never dawned on me that at the root of most of our miscommunication is the fear of stating that we do not know something. That we are confused. That we require more information to understand. This is some sort of invisible thing that we do, that we cannot see, that we are hardly aware is happening inside of us. Somehow, we inherently find this to be a weakness ... to ask for more details, more clarification, but mostly we do not even realize this is what is needed and what is arising inside of us.
Of course we want to appear that we know, that we have it together, that we are not lost. What a weakness it would be to say or feel otherwise.
But to what detriment are we all perpetuating this? At the expense of our deepest and most important relationships? Rather than admit a temporary state of confusion and lostness in order to gain deeper clarity, we instead hope it will become clear. Or worse, we still don’t realize we are missing anything at all. I imagine there is a feeling somewhere inside that clicks off when we start to get lost in our communication with others, but I imagine that we are very good at ignoring it. It probably feels a bit like vulnerability. Or weakness at being somehow less than the other person in front of us because we are confused. So instead, we cover it up and overcompensate for it. The backlash can be brutal. Coldness, anger, fear, anxiety and upset. All the makings of relationship hell.
I noticed this with my son. He tends to get upset when he is trying to share something with me. It took me awhile to realize that I often had no idea what he was trying to tell me. He will start in some idea and space that exists inside his mind without giving me any context. I am lost from the start. I think I used to try and clarify what he was saying by stating back my own version of what I thought he was trying to communicate. That never went well and he would get quite angry. And I felt even more confused. From his perspective, I think it must have felt to him that I was trying to counter what he was saying, or even dismiss his statements as wrong.
Instead I have learned to ask him to explain what he is saying. I simply tell him I don’t get it. He has no problem with this. He doesn’t find it offensive that I am lost, nor does he think that I am dumb for not understanding. I tell him that I do not understand and it completely changes the dynamic between us. He will then often go back and say something that sounds completely different to me, with a totally different context. It is not at all what I imagined he was trying to convey to me. I find it very curious. And very exciting.
Broken wires, crossed wires, missing wires. That is all that we are when we are trying to engage with one another. The key is in recognizing this. At the root, we all want connection. In fact that is one of the things I love most about humans and their attempts at communication. That is the known foundation that we can work with. If we didn’t want to connect, we wouldn’t even be trying in the first place. So the fact that we have communication breakdowns is a really good thing. It means we care, it means we are seeking love, it means we desire to be understood.
In fact I have come to know that someone’s desire in wanting me to understand them is the deepest expression of love that there is. The intentional act of desiring and seeking connection. This is what it means to be human. It is the ultimate expression of love.
There are no words that ring more deeply or profoundly true for me.
'I want to be understood by you'
'It is important to me that I understand you'
To me, these are the deepest professions of love that exist.