“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
The image of an empty chair is to me, at the same time, both melancholy and comforting. It brings to mind people I wish I could sit and visit with but who are either gone from this life or far away in terms of distance or connection. It also surfaces a longing for meaningful heart-to-heart conversation that reaches deep, risks vulnerability, and evokes authenticity.
I remember one such conversation I had on the phone seven or eight years ago (odd, because I am not a telephone person). I lay sprawled on my bed like a teenager talking about real and philosophical things, finding commonality with someone who didn’t share all of my beliefs but with whom I shared something else at the core. Masks were off; we were listening to, and learning from, one another.
Then life intervened and she needed to tend to something immediately.
“I’ll call you right back.” she said. “This is good conversation.”
It wasn’t long. My phone rang and I took it upstairs and resumed my sprawled out conversational pose on the bed. “Where were we?”
But, try as we might, we were unable to return to the same level of connection we had enjoyed earlier. We stayed on the surface and flitted along the top, chit-chatted for a while longer, and then rang off.
I was full and satisfied from our earlier, authentic conversation; yet also disappointed by the surface banter at the end and our inability to reconnect at the same level. It just was what it was.
All these years later, I still hold that first conversation dear even though I can’t remember the details about what we talked about. We didn’t intentionally start out to have a deep conversation and just kind of fell into it, but the gift of authentic connection was sweet for both of us at the time.
We (at least, I) can’t make those types of connections happen at will, but when they do they’re magic. Surface conversation often wears me out (it’s the way of an introvert) where real, deep, authentic connection invigorates me. The thing is, you have to go through a whole lot of the former to get to a little bit if the latter. I suppose that’s part of what makes it all the more precious when it happens.
That’s what I see when I look at a photograph of an empty chair. What do you see?