We are all connected in some shape or form, of that much I am fairly certain. Even if we are connected in ways no more evident or profound than that fleeting moment we lock eyes with a total stranger in line at the grocery store and feel that sudden, subtle “click,” we are still an influence on and are affected by the people around us.
I compare this feeling of connectivity to the way in which gears work and fit together in an old grandfather clock – a finely tuned piece of very precise workmanship that you can rely on to function exactly as it should. Although, at times it may be more appropriate to compare this connectedness to the way two cars fuse together in a fiery collision, or get tangled in a shared knot of metal and glass in a miles-long pile up, but the point remains: we do not live isolated and independent lives the way we think we do.
I am by no means insisting that there is some deep cosmic or spiritual bond uniting us with our fellow humans that we are powerless to escape, but sometimes it’s just undeniable that people can affect those around them simply by being present. People give off a sort of tune, a note in an ever-changing symphony. Just being there, playing your notes in a volume too quiet for the ear to hear, is enough to affect someone else’s rhythm.
In our home of three humans and three dogs, we usually play our notes in harmony. I would compare the connectedness at home to the relationship between the keys on a piano or strings on a guitar. On most days, we play our song well and we complement each other with our tunes in a sweet, flowing harmony.
But a few days ago, in a break from the norm, we played an awful noise – like nails on a chalkboard. I forgot the basics of which musical steps create a dissonant sound, but it is safe to write that we were not playing the soundtrack to a Broadway musical. We were all over whatever frequencies create that agonizing, dizzying, and wavering tremor that we hear when notes are played out of harmony… like when you’re driving with the car windows down just enough to distort the pressure in a way that makes it seem like the air is boxing your ears over and over again.
Well that day our ears were getting boxed in, over and over and over…
My wife started the day stressed and emotional, on the verge of crying and screaming for no apparent reason. It’s easy to chalk this up to “lady problems,” but you do so at your own peril. I woke up from a really rough night of sleep feeling that I had only gotten about a 20-minute nap, depressed and lethargic.
And to cap it all off, our little baby girl refused to nap at all until after 5pm that day, and by then she was a horrible cranky mess who chose not to share with anyone her precious smiling eyes.
There was no external stimulus that pushed us all toward this funk, and there was nothing on which to put the blame for it, at least not that we could identify.
We went through the day like this, basically just going through the motions trying to keep ourselves together. That night, while in bed, our little girl was finally contentedly nestled up against her mom’s chest. I leaned over her and smiled, trying to get her to laugh, but instead she winced, puckered, and started crying.
This actually hurt my feelings.
Rather than being an adult, though, and taking this snub for exactly what it was (just a baby being a baby), I took it personally. I knew I was reacting inappropriately, but the little voice that was telling me to grow the hell up! was fighting against the droning, raucous shrill of our off-kilter home vibes. Instead of kissing my girl goodnight and leaving her be in her mommy’s arms, I flopped over onto my side, my back to the daughter who had just so coldly shunned me, and scooted as far away as the edge of the bed would allow.
I actually had a tantrum, staying like this until I fell asleep.
Just as suddenly as this funk had come over our home, it departed. We woke up the next morning feeling remarkably okay. Everything was normal. Nothing was slightly left or right of center. The air stopped boxing our ears and the chaos of the discordant chords subsided, the harmony returning to our home.
We do not know what tipped that first domino that knocked the rest of us over. We may never understand what makes this sort of thing happen. I guess, when all is said and done, we don’t really need to understand why we are sometimes all a little “off,” it just matters how we react.
I, of course, failed miserably in my reaction. You don’t take it personally when your 4 month-old baby cries instead of laughs. That’s ridiculous. You act like an adult and bitch about it on Facebook.
That’s where that stuff goes, right? Facebook?
Anyway. If there is a moral to this story, it’s this: try to remember that everyone around you has a head full of dreams and ideas just like you do, and all of them are be-bopping along to their own subsonic music of the soul. If you feel like you’re playing out of tune, fix yourself before you bring the whole orchestra down with you.
And if you see someone out of tune, give them a pitch to match. Smile. Say “good morning,” or “god bless you,” or something to that effect. Be a conductor, don’t be a critic.
If you don’t know how to fix yourself or find it hard to smile, then in the very least don’t throw a fit when your infant daughter hurts your feelings. You’re better than that.