Intense talk continues online about sexual assault and rape. All week it's been making me think about an incident that happened to me in college. It is not one that I counted on my fingers and posted about about the other day, but it was, perhaps, one of the most dramatic times I realized that I was at someone else's mercy simply because he was stronger than me.
He was tickling me. We were in a room full of people who were laughing. I was laughing, too. Then something shifted. I don't know if the shift was just in my mind, or if it was also in his. He had me pinned to the floor. He was intent. I couldn't breathe. I started to panic. It wasn't funny anymore. I didn't want to laugh, but I couldn't stop because I couldn't breathe.
I knew he couldn't read my mind. I knew I couldn't expect him to.
I needed him to anyway.
What if we understood more about listening? Not just to words, especially if people can't or won't speak them. But listening to other forms of communication. Body language. Facial expressions. Even silence. Or the subtle change in the way someone laughs.
I think about that experience, how trapped I felt, every time I realize that I'm holding my son against his will when he is upset. As a mother, I so want to believe that if my arms are around him, he will be able to pull back from the edge of whatever abyss he is standing on. That might work with another child, but it is not what he needs from me. It's a lesson he's had to teach me more than once.
What if we learned to honor what we hear, to respect another's humanity when it is not what we want to hear? Especially when we are the one with the upper hand? Or the desperate desire?
Could we make the change we need in this world?