THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Just about every man I know agrees that the four most terrifying words in the English language are, “We’ve got to talk.”
Invariably, they are uttered by a woman we love. And, just as invariably, they mean, “You’re bugging the teeth right out of my mouth and I want you to stop.”
To the women we love this is a simple statement of a need to communicate in order to keep the relationship on track.
To men it’s a declaration that means, “Get ready, boy, ‘cuz I’m about to make your soul bleed.”
I don’t think anyone’s going to deny the importance of making our needs, desires, and intentions clear to each other. But I worry about how difficult it is. How many of us really understand what the next person is trying to say?
Take this “We’ve got to talk” situation.
The other day as I stepped out of the shower Gwen the Beautiful greeted me with those very words. Immediately, my body tensed. My chest tightened. My pulse raced. I came up with a quick list of a hundred and fifty things I’ve done wrong lately, ranging from working too hard and not giving her all the attention I should to still not turning up the heat although she’d asked me to an hour ago.
I expected—make that assumed—the worst.
“It’s the new filing cabinet you bought” Gwen went on. “The one that’s supposed to look like an old trunk. It’s acting like an old trunk too. The bottom drawer sticks, and I can’t find the WD 40. When you get a chance can you give it a spritz?”
My budding fear and building anger retreated. My body relaxed. I wrapped my towel around me securely and went downstairs to get the WD 40…and turn up the head.
All was right with our world after all. But it sure was a close call.
Later that day I saw another example of two people just not getting each other. Gwen and I were walking through the Paradise Town Square when we heard raised voices.
“I’m just saying, ‘here’s how you do it!”
“And I’m saying I’m tired of you telling me to do things your way all the time!”
We turned to see Uncle Ernie and his cousin Jimmy Blue sharing a bench. Jimmy Blue was carving what looked to be a walking stick. Uncle Ernie was, well, here’s how he put it:
“I’m not telling you to do it my way. I’m saying that’s the way to do it!”
“A way, maybe. Not the way!” said Jimmy Blue.
“Ain’t that what I said?”
I took a couple of steps toward them. About to say, “Um…not really….” But Gwen took a firm grip on my arm.
“Burl Jr.’s waiting for us at the music store,” she said.
When we got home another failure to communicate stared me in the face. Huck the Spotless Appaloosa was digging around the corral for some spilled grain. He had a rhythm going, digging with his front hooves, then lowering his head to the ground to pick up what he’d loosened with those amazingly sensitive horse lips.
At the front door, Emmy the Bold spotted him and took off, barking and leaping at the big guy.
Because in dog language Huck was performing the “bow” that dogs do when they want to play, and she was happy to oblige.
But Huck didn’t see it that way. In horse language Emmy’s behavior was an attack. He reared up and galloped away. Emmy gave chase. So did I. As we passed Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang she shook her head. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen this particular scene.
I’ll spare you the details of what came next, except to say that this morning as I contemplate my new bruises and aches I’m thinking about how much better off dogs and horses would be if they could learn not to jump the gun. If they could watch each other, and listen, and try to understand what’s really going down before they react.
Which brings me to where I am now. Trying to teach myself to slow down and do the same.
So that someday when Gwen says, “We’ve got to talk,” I’ll be able to relax and listen with pleasure to what she’s really got to say.
Who knows? Maybe I could even pass the trick on to Uncle Ernie and Jimmy Blue.