Speaking To The Heart

We often hear about walking in another person’s shoes, but what does that mean in practice? I think it means set aside our fears — what we are afraid of losing — calming down, closing our mouth, and taking the time to listen CAREFULLY. Even though we have two ears we can’t close and a mouth we can close, listening is remarkably difficult. I suppose I will never be a master listener, but before I die I hope to be a decent apprentice — if only I don’t go deaf first.

See, there's this thing called biology...

Something that’s been really useful to me in marriage is speaking to the heart, rather than the words or the person. Another way of saying this is “divining intent.” Never mind the actual words, behavior, rationale, what is the heart’s intent here?

That is an extremely challenging form of communication, one I still struggle with after decades of practice. My hubby can be very bossy, dominating, quick on his feet when he wants to be. Believe it or not, I am actually right behind him, perhaps not quite as overwhelming, but pretty close when I have something to say. We can quite easily talk over one another, butt heads. It’s somewhat funny, hubby can soften his tone a bit, he’s a gentlemen sometimes, he understands you can’t just mow over women even when you think you’re right, but me,  I’m usually just prepared to go in for the kill.


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3 thoughts on “Speaking To The Heart

  1. My Lady Anne was bright, intelligent, articulate, and could be brutally pragmatic. But our love included a strong mutual respect.

    Hmm… Here’s an except from a novel. The characters are essentially octopuses (descendants of them, really). They’re sisters, and they’re both married (entwained, they call it). Their mates come up in the conversation when one visits the other at work. She was hoping to find her mate instead, and maybe apologize for the night before, or get an apology … or something:

    They “speak” with colors and textures, and thus have to look at each other to talk. But their relationship issues are human enough:

    “Hello, sister mine!”

    No answer; Dola faced the other way and both eyes were occupied with things in front of her. Jeva protruded her siphon, braced herself, and fired a brief pulse across the biology lab’s common room.

    Dola’s eyes swiveled behind her. She turned so that she could talk to Jeva, and raised an arm in greeting. “Ho, sister! Relax a mit; I’ll be done here quickly.”

    Chemist Yata had shown Jeva into the common workroom; she was a little friendlier now than in days gone by. They’d chatted briefly, and then Yata had jetted off to do some work, waving off Jeva’s invitation to join her and Daq for lunch.

    Daq wasn’t immediately evident, but Dola was. And now she finished the sand she was writing and turned her attention fully on Jeva. A ruffled smile lit her skin. “Hello, little sister. How’s work? And how are things at home?”

    Jeva had lit up at the first question. Work was going well and she was happy to tell her sister all about it—but she stumbled into the second question before the first symbol had formed. It caught her up short.

    Dola saw this, apparently. “Let’s stick to the first part. Tell me about work; any new jobs going on? Juicy clients, powerful patrons?”

    “Well, nothing all that dramatic. Work is going well, and there seems to be a little club forming at the Senate of octans who want me to do work for them.” She blushed pinkly for a blink. “I think that Leader Koraq has been pounding my work pretty hard.”

    “Hey, you deserve it. Good for you. How about the coral platforms?”

    “That’s fine. It’s good, steady work if not as exciting. And I really like working outside; the scenery around the platforms is just so wild and different.”

    Dola shuddered, the ripple reaching far down her arms.

    Jeva flashed a blink of astonishment. “Dear sister, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you frightened of anything. Surely the outside holds no great monster that could intimidate even you?”

    “Well … I don’t like sharks.”

    “I don’t think anybody likes sharks. Except one or two haulers I know who brag about having them for lunch. But you learn to trust the guards to take care of you.”

    “Yeah. Hey, when was the last time you saw the place here?”

    Jeva blinked. “I visited Senex in one of the labs briefly not long ago, the day Daq was hurt. I was preoccupied; it’s been a couple of moons at least since I spent any time.”

    “Let me show you around.”

    “Sure. But where’s Daq?”

    “Oh, he’s off running an errand. We’re short on test animals, and he’s arranging to have a bunch brought over. It’s a good time to show you my area especially, before the water is clouded with the crap of a few hundreight new frightened babies.”


    “Well, Nakan’s charges at the crèche, and mine here … maybe they’re not so far apart.”
    Jeva looked at her. “You’ve got a funny sense of humor, fem.”

    “Well, funny yourself. Let me take you on the two-chip tour.”

    The basket from home could keep for a bit. Jeva set it on an open worktable, ignoring the tempting demands for attention from waving claws. She headed off to catch up with her sister.

    Dola’s first stop was the holding pens just off the biology wing. Jeva watched with interest while Dola ran her charges through their limited paces. Jeva half-expected some sort of trained-animal trick, but the “paces” here consisted of being measured, being examined, and being cleaned.

    “Hey, Dola … Daq tells me that one of the animals here is named after you. When I asked him about it, he said that you’d explain. So explain.”

    Dola’s color turned a little sad. “Nothing to explain, really. They called her Dola II because she had this propensity to bite everyone and everything around her.”

    “Ah. Ouch.”

    “No, that’s okay. I can’t tell you with a flat speaker that I didn’t deserve that. Besides, the real ouch was the little stinker’s bite.” Dola waved her first left; there were a number of small scars visible.

    “It seems to me, dear sister, that ‘propensity to bite’ is no longer a fair description of you if it ever was. Being entwained has certainly agreed with you, I must say.”

    “Thanks, but that wasn’t the trick. Let’s go see the microorganism area.”

    Down the passageway she went, with Jeva in close pursuit. Dola’s eyes were resolutely forward; speaking to her would do no good.

    Finally, at the other end of the hall, Jeva literally put out arms to stop her. “Dear sister … did you think you could leave an open bait dangling like that and just jet away?”

    Dola greened back at her. “No, but it was fun to see you chase the bait down the passageway. Besides, it’s really all your fault.”


    “I was messed up. Broken inside, sort of. And Daq was smart, but in some ways too full of himself, you know?”

    Jeva said nothing, but colored an invitation.

    “Well, you fixed Daq … and then he fixed me.”

    Jeva raised eyes at her. “What about Nakan?”

    “Oh, Nakan was fine. I love him, and he’s just the sort that I needed, but I also needed … something else, someone who maybe wasn’t so endlessly patient with my bad habits. And yet was someone who still cared.” She eyed Jeva seriously. “I was in pretty bad shape, sister.” She started to turn, and in an offarm fashion added, “Just as you are now, if I’m any judge.” And Dola was off down the next passageway.
    They sat in the room with a hundreight-plus culture dishes sealed from the open water with sticky matrix, and Dola told her what had happened that day in the lab. And what Jeva’s mate had done for her.
    “I … I don’t know what to say, Dola. Daq is wonderful, and there’s no question that I am as dear to him as he is to me, but we keep arguing about—”

    To Jeva’s astonishment, Dola slapped four arms over Jeva’s speaker.

    “Gray up, sister.” Dola eyed her menacingly, and Jeva stayed blank, taken aback.

    Dola’s arms dropped away.

    Jeva found her skin again after a few blinks. “What was that about?”

    “You were about to tell me private details of your home life.”

    “No, it’s just that we—” Dola’s arms had come up again, threatening. Jeva grayed up.

    Dola’s colors were intense. “If there’s some problem between you, you need to figure out how to solve it. Somehow. It doesn’t matter what it takes. Is there anything more important to you?”

    Jeva’s head went side to side, briefly.

    “All right. And what you don’t need to do is tell me about it. Or anyone else.”

    “But…” An arm raised again. Jeva pushed it down with her own. “Hold on. You were just telling me all of your private problems, and how my Daq was able to help you through them.”

    “What’s the difference?” Dola asked.

    “That’s my question.”

    Dola remained firm. “It’s too late; I got to it first. What’s the difference?”

    Jeva thought hard. It was a silly conversation, but still felt important somehow.

    After a few blinks, she shook her head. “I don’t know, Dola. It’s not obvious to me, sorry.”

    “That’s okay, little sister. It’s what I’m here for. The difference—and this is important—is that I told you about my problems. Not mine and Nakan’s.”

    “You and Nakan have problems? I thought you two were great.”

    “Give the fem the crab. That is exactly the point. No, we don’t have problems; yes, we’re great together … and if we had problems, you would never know.”

    “But … but I’m your sister.”

    “Yes, Jeva. But Nakan is now more than that. He is my lifemate, and I expect to spend a long and happy life with him—years yet—and then start a family with him before we’re gone.”

    Jeva looked at her, but it didn’t click.

    “Dear Jeva, you always did so well in Culture … but this is a trick you should know.”

    “What’s the trick?”

    “Only this: Your relationship with your lifemate is based on a shared treasure: your love and respect for each other. Right?”

    Jeva colored assent.

    “So that treasure is all bound up in the secrets you keep for him, and the secrets he keeps for you. Not from you; that’s the wrong way. For you.” Both eyes stared intently at Jeva’s own. “Because if you tell his secrets, you lose his respect. And eventually, you lose his love. And you know what? You might even deserve that.”

    Jeva stared at her, blank. After a few blinks, some color returned. “I’ve never seen you talk this way.”

    “You’ve never tried to paint your private home problems all over the place.”

    Jeva thought she had it now. She was aware of Dola watching her intently, reminding her of Ferida. Jeva resisted the urge to shudder.

    Suddenly, Dola seemed satisfied. “There are only a couple more places to see.” She moved off down the next passageway.

    I don’t know how much sense this will make as the protagonists are quite alien in a sense, and literally cold and slimy. But a friend who read the novel called us up to say “Hey, you’ve given us the same lecture!”

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


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