Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Snail's Shell

I am upset. I am surprisingly jealous. I never get jealous, my lack of jealousy has been an issue in almost all of my relationships, I am never jealous, that's a fact. But I am, with you. It is uncomfortable and feels crazy. It is an uncharted experience and feels childish, ridiculous, irrational, and overwhelming. You are surprised and a little angry that I could ever doubt that you love me and only me. I can feel your irritation in your sparse words. You can read my unwritten distance. Though we have frugally agreed not to speak on the phone until the rate is free (because we talk for hours) the phone rings. It is you. You don't want this to fester, you don't want me to believe that you could do anything, intentionally, that would cause me harm. We talk, and I think I am done, and we hang up so you can sleep and call me in the morning before you go to work. But it eats at me. And I hate it.

You are to call me at about 3:30 am your time (10:30 pm my time), because you have an early pick up two hours north. I am in a funk, and I decide to skip my usual 5 mile walk in the evening. I rarely skip my walk. But I do, and I work out instead at home, and chat with Mom's evening caregiver about girl things and watch a Japanese historical drama with subtitles on tv with Mom & her caregiver. Of course the drama is very typical for Japanese shows of the type and a critical part of the drama is unspoken. For anything to make sense, you have to already well understand the culture to understand the unsaid subtext. It is frustrating and confusing to watch. I do not understand the culture well enough, and Mom cannot explain it. So I give up and decide to go to bed early, to get an hour or two of sleep before M calls.

I check my email and suddenly up you pop. You are happy and cheery and up at 1:45 am (8:45 pm my time) and raring to talk to me. I had considered sending you a chat to skip for the night for the first time in all of our time, but when I see you pop up, all such thoughts begin to fade. I ask if you want to go back to sleep and call me later, but you are up and happy and say "only if you prefer". I don't prefer. And now I am even more confused by my feelings.

You are full of energy and thrilled to be awake and overjoyed to hear my voice. It is hard to sustain distance when you are like this. But you notice the reserve in my voice, immediately. You are confused by what you think has been settled the night before. I am unable to contain my fear and I do what I have always done when I am upset, I withdraw and become quiet and very very polite. For this, I am used to being left alone or angrily reproached. But not you, you won't let me disappear, and you won't be angry. You say, evenly, "Is this what I should expect in the future? When you are upset you withdraw, you snail?" I say "Yes" quietly, "I guess so," waiting for the shoe to drop. "Ah," you say "but you are still here, one little tiny antenna peeking out, still checking, still seeing what's up in the outside world. Still willing to be connected from deep inside your snail's shell." I laugh. "Yes", I say, as I exhale and push out from my shell, "I guess so."

Sometimes, in what feels like a miracle of instantaneous translation, someone can listen past to the unspoken, can read right through, can reach deep within, and make it safe to be connected. Sometimes, it is possible to remember to trust and love, even from far within an old and familiar snail's shell.


.pomegranate. said...

I love this - sometimes it is so important just to give something a name. Just to verbalize it and acknowledge it. I too "snail up" sometimes, and I've found that as soon as someone realizes what I'm doing and says it out loud - without judgment, of course, that's important - that I am suddenly safe enough to start peering around the corner and soon crawl my way back out.

The power of naming things... I'm happy for you that you've found someone who recognizes it, and can coax you out. :)

Running away with the Spoon said...

I do love that she so clearly sees me, and so tenderly: "but you are still here, one little tiny antenna peeking out", it is hard to maintain distance from that kind of tenderness.

I think blogging, which I also have only started doing recently, is a way of finding the power of naming things.

I love your blog, btw.

Thanks for your comments. :)

Dar said...

I enjoyed reading this very much. Long distance is difficult enough, but reading someone without seeing their expressions is even harder. It leaves too much to be interpreted. So very good for you to have found someone who listens to what's not being said.