On my far too long flight home from Zürich recently, I watched a dumb movie. I love unchallenging, predictable, movies. Best of all? Dumb romantic comedies. In this one a man and woman who are discovering that they care about one another, are out at lunch. He invites her “to spend some time getting to know each other better.” As they sit, leaning in together, she asks a question about his work. Then she asks another and, another. Then? One more. We know she is curious and cares to understand him; we can see she is nervous. He answers but, after a bit squirms and jests pointedly , that he feels as if he is being interviewed. She sits back abruptly.
Even in the best of relationships (romantic or parental) there pass small moments of strife. Socks on the floor again, toothpaste left in the sink set us on edge. A comment about what the partner is wearing or their hair color that triggers some deeper insecurity. A word carelessly said. Or, not said. Most of these moments should be allowed to pass by; they are not worth making much of. But, so often we chase them down and chew them apart and, in doing so cause injury. Unintentional injury.
Often as they build, I can feel these moments creeping up on me. There hangs in the air a sense of tottering balance. I could respond with a not really meant vitriol that somehow in these stupid moments can fly out of me. Or, I could choose to walk by the moment without response and take a deep breath. A breath full with understanding that the little things are just that.
If I could wish, I would wish for a warm humor at those times. An ability to shrug my shoulders and laugh at myself and ask, “why take life so seriously?” Socks on the floor, toothpaste on the sink and questions about hair color are just socks, messes and curiosity. They are not more.
While watching the movie I momentarily held my breath. I could see myself there on screen (as the leading lady of my own life) and knew the response to his jest could go one of two ways. I would understand her hurt retreat back into the chair, her stiffened chin and internal kicking herself for going overboard in her attempt to understand him. I could see myself doing just the same defensive retreat.
It was a relief to see her pause, and then laugh and say that “yes, she had a way of going too far when she felt nervous!” What a gift – to accept and to lightly laugh at oneself! What lightness!