Pecking – Little Deaths
This may be my most important blog yet about our intimate relationships as we live the RV Life! Years ago Maya Angelou was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. These words stood out from everything else she said.
“Do not let yourself be surrounded by people who will
peck you to death like a duck.”
I remember thinking, “I’m guilty of making comments that imply Stephen is somehow inferior in his way of thinking. Or, for that matter, being. I immediately started self-regulating to diminish this behavior in myself. The other day I was thinking about this. The image of a bonsai tree come to mind. You prune it every day, wiring the limbs to create a pleasing form, as you slowly guide the tree into your own idea of beauty. Seems like a creative act, doesn’t it?
Recently, we were with another RV couple. I kept hearing one of the partners making subtle digs. I could see the pain these pecks inflicted. When I heard them, I thought, “Oh no, I’m still guilty of this.” When I heard this diminishing of a loved one come out of the mouth of someone else, I knew I could, and should, do better. I’m reminded again of what I learned from Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong.” I quote, “Men are most vulnerable when they think their competency is called into question.” Read more about how this book has positively impacted our relationship here.
As a result, I asked Stephen later if he’d noticed the pecking, and he said “yes.” Then I asked if he’s aware I still peck at him, and he said “yes” again. He also said, “It makes me want to snipe back.” Oh no, I thought. I don’t want this in our relationship. So we came up with a signal. What could be said that would not cause further antagonism between us? What would facilitate us moving towards each other rather than away? Our signal is, in as calm a voice as can be mustered, the words “I feel pecked at.”
Oh, this relationship stuff can be hard.
The interview of Maya Angelou by Oprah Winfrey delivers the feeling of what it’s like to be pecked. She’s mostly referring to people out in the world. However, her advice can certainly apply to the intimate relationships we enjoy in the RV life.
Maya: Some people don’t have the nerve to just reach up and grab your throat, so they just take little pieces of you with their rude comments.
Oprah: They try to demean you.
Maya: Reduce your humanity through what Jules Feiffer called little murders. The minute I hear someone trying to demean me, I know that person means to have my life. And I will not give it to them.”
Read the whole interview here.
Sadly, this behavior is often seen in couples. Acknowledging our partners boundaries is an important component of intimacy. Unfortunately, intimacy can breed contempt! So what does it mean to be respectful? For me, it’s stretching the ability to acknowledge that my partner sees the world differently. When I embrace and enter his world, I grow. When I embrace and enter his world, we grow closer. Diminishing my partner because he doesn’t see the world through my filters says more about me than it does about him.
Have you ever been to a duck pond and seen how ducks will just peck and peck at each other until pretty soon someone has no feathers?
In conclusion, I’m saddened when I see couples caught in this behavior. I see the wounds each little dig makes. Pretty soon – no feathers and bleeding to death! But, there’s hope!
I’m reminded of Brene Browns book Rising Strong and what I learned. She said “Men are most vulnerable when they think their competency is being called into question.” That’s really what is getting attacked when you peck at a person. The validity of their thoughts. Read more here of what we’ve learned from this book.
Finally, many years ago, the wife in a famous couple made this statement on TV.
“My husband and I decided a long time ago we would only say things in front of other people that lifted each other up in the eyes of those around us.“
Wow. We wanted to be that couple. It’s a high mark to shoot for but worthy of the effort. Still working on it.
Are you ever guilty of pecking at your mate? This behavior can be changed! Notice what you’re doing and the negative impact on your partner. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Since my last post, we’ve left Nova Scotia and enjoyed time along the Maine coast. Ocean vistas have lifted us up around every corner of U.S. Highway 1. We delighted in coastal towns with wonderful galleries that fed our need for Art as well. We were sad to leave the ocean but we’re now visiting friends in woodsy Vermont and this too has it’s own pleasures.