The Unspoken Rules of Disengagement

I saw an excellent movie the other night, titled, ‘A Monster Calls’.  I read this eclectic book of illustrations, intermixed with words, in under 48 hours.  Very few times does a movie’s quality compete with the writing, but this was an exception to the rule.

Basically, without a spoiler alert, it is a story of a boy and a monster and a mother with cancer. Amongst the dialog, wise words were spoken from mom to son about life.  One particular statement by the mom stood above all other words expressed, “life is always in the eyes.”

Yes, and even more so, may I suggest that there is more than just life tied to the eyes, and  that true, authentic connection occurs in this inaudible display of this particular sense?

I first learned of my avoidance of intimate connection at a Proverbs 31 Conference, in which I paid an exorbitant amount of money to receive instruction on my speaking abilities.  Overall, I did well.  My mentor gave me excellent marks on performance, appearance, voice inflection and such, but, she said that I diverted engagement with the audience by looking up when the topic transitioned at a pivotal point–the point when I entered the emotional portion of my message.

By doing so, I kept my composure.

But, by doing so, I disengaged my feelings.

Since Bill’s illness, I am acutely aware of my need to avoid.  Sometimes I divert engagement by switching to topics less intrusive, to keep the conversation on the surface, so the emotions stay safely under control.

Ot, I avoid community all together in favor of staying close to home.

I’ve noticed disengagement with others also.

A quick glance and smile my way, both while in mid stride, but no locked-in gaze to stop and initiate conversation.  I call it the ‘walk by’.  Similar to a drive-by, but without threat of personal injury.

Or, let’s say we are in a conversation, and I sense the atmosphere feels too close for comfort.  But instead taking heed to the internal warning, I start to share my hurt, and in doing so, the conversation takes a quick turn just out of the intimacy range.  Usually it is the cousin of a friend’s next door neighbor, who moved away three years ago to another country, who happened to have a vaguely similar struggle–oh wait, that was the Hallmark movie she now recalls from 2002.

She says, “Yes, the actress was going through the same thing, and I cried throughout the entire movie.”

Or, glib answers to fill in life’s hard terrain:

“It will be ok.”

“He will be okay.”

“You just need to have faith.”

The problem with pat dialog is it is devoid of intimacy.

I get it.  Sometimes closeness is like wearing wool on a warm day, in South Texas.  Intensely uncomfortable.

Still, how do we break through the disengagement ceiling, and be fully engaged? Even when intensely uncomfortable?

Maybe a hug.

A prayer.

Words like, “I’m sorry you are going through this.”

Or, “I don’t know what to say.”

Perhaps, “I’m here if you need a shoulder to snot on.”

Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to acknowledge and address pain.

Today, as I walked into the coffee shop, I had two doors from which to choose, both with tables nearby occupied by people that I happened to know personally.  Both, I knew would involve conversation, which may not be good because my emotional wellbeing was near breaking point.

But, I moved forward on the one I knew was the more dangerous of the two.  The one which was likely to not allow me to disengage.

In doing so, I received eye contact.  Hugs. Words of comfort.  Encouragement. Even when I felt the need to exit, they continued to engage.

It was this depth of engagement that bypassed eye contact, and penetrated my hurting heart– with love.

To you, you know who you are, thank you for engaging me today.


2 thoughts on “The Unspoken Rules of Disengagement

  1. Beautiful words Josie. I admire your courage to remain open and to share these thoughts and feelings. I know time and distance has separated us, but your writing makes me feel connected. 💗

    • Thanks Kris. Your encouragement encourages me. I feel compelled to share this journey, rough patches and all. Yes, time and distance, but I think of you often!

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