It is mating season here in southern Alberta, and this morning I watched a large buck chase a doe down a boulevard in my neighbourhood. The doe stopped suddenly and turned to face her suitor, hopping side to side flirtatiously before dodging towards an elementary schoolyard. It was thrilling to watch from within the safety of my car, and thankfully a chilly snowfall has kept the both the schoolchildren and neighbourhood dog-walkers inside and out of harm’s way.
I was giggling as I drove away, wondering if the amorous pair’s nature dance would culminate in lusty deer sex outside a classroom window. Talk about a teachable moment! This is how kids SHOULD learn about sex. Instead they get twisted messages when Grandma fails to realize Family Guy and South Park aren’t kids’ shows or because the babysitter let them play Grand Theft Auto.
God Bless the brave teacher who doesn’t close the blinds on urban deer mating, because we all need to get more comfortable with reality. Real life is messy, beautiful, ordinary and extraordinary. Real life happens in a flash and then the world moves on. No soundtrack plays for deer sex, car crashes, failure or triumph.
We are bombarded with fake examples of beauty, violence, terror, power or success that are such heightened versions they barely resemble reality. All that added colour and noise put up a barrier that makes us feel removed enough to disengage and observe. It is one thing to watch an over-the-top tv personality like Donald Trump yell “You’re fired!” but have you ever been in the room when someone actually gets fired? It’s awkward and uncomfortable. Where to look? What facial expressions are appropriate? Display kindness or outrage?
Our own realities can be too much for others. Someone who happily watches Intervention on tv may be very uncomfortable hearing about my experiences as a person in recovery. It is difficult to explain that I responded to a growing knowledge that something was wrong, but have no grand “rock bottom” story to go with it.
“Yah but what did you DO that was so bad?”
“Okay but what HAPPENED that made you decide to quit?”
I just knew I had to.
Squirm squirm. Awkward pause. “But you’re not like an alcoholic or anything.”
Yah, actually I am. Sorry I brought it up….
Sandra Bullock in “21 Days” or Meg Ryan in “When a Man Loves a Woman” don’t resemble me any more than twerking resembles what went on between those two deer this morning. And yet…who can blame us for looking away when things are too real?
I said hello to an acquaintance in a book store recently. “How are you?” I asked and he proceeded to tell me more than I wanted to know. Erm. I felt badly for him, it was a sad story. But I also felt badly he was compelled to tell that sad story rather inappropriately; felt badly for his lack of judgment. Then I felt badly for judging his judgment instead of listening with kindness. Pivot! Pivot!
I guess as humans we instinctively look away from things that frighten or overwhelm us. Proximity requires us to respond and perhaps the appropriate reaction isn’t evident or comfortable.
Recently I decided I need to watch the video for “Wrecking Ball” because it’s so often referenced and without seeing it I was missing the joke. I found it on Apple TV just as my husband walked in the room.
“Whoa, what’s this?” he asked.
“Pop culture. We need to keep up with the young’ins,” I said, patting the couch beside me. The two of us sat slack jaw, watching as Hannah Montana’s birthday suit swung back and forth on the screen before us.
Mid-song, our 20-year-old son passed through the room and stopped in his tracks. He paused, and then shouted “OH MY GOD! WHAT ARE YOU WATCHING? Don’t watch that. I can’t watch you two watching that! Why? WHY? Why are you watching this?”
The discomfort was palpable and existed in layers like an onion. Even the dogs were cowering. The only person in the room who wasn’t embarrassed was the naked singer on the tv. “I just wanted to know what the big deal was with this video,” I stammered, feeling more like the child than the parent in this situation.
I hopped up and quickly uttered the magic phrase that restores order in the universe:
“Let me make you a sandwich!”
Sometimes all you can do is let the moment pass and call for snack time.