Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fault Lines

On Saturday morning, at exactly 11:03, I was sitting on the couch with my daughter when I realized that the upstairs was shaking. The glass rattled in the windowpanes. I stared up at the ceiling, half-expecting it to crack into fault lines and dry-wall pieces to hail down.

The earthquake only lasted long enough for me to identify the magnitude of its force and to question if I should grab my daughter and run outside, but then it stopped just as abruptly as it had started.

The upstairs grew still. The glass no longer rattled in the panes. I rose from the couch with my daughter on my hip and texted my husband to see if he – on his drive home from his parents’ – had felt the same seismic movement that I had.

He hadn’t. I almost thought that I had imagined it until my father told me that Kentucky had suffered from an earthquake, and what I'd felt was simply the pulsing after-effects from the epicenter.
Oftentimes, we do not see the importance of communication until it is too late. We suppress our misunderstandings and the misunderstandings proceeding those, and the energy builds and builds—we collide and chip against each other—until one final misunderstanding claps our edges and huge amounts of pent-up energy are released, splintering us into fault lines.

If we release that pressure timely enough, without allowing that sediment of years to harden our empathy, the shifting of these plates might not be detrimental and a stronger foundation might actually come out of the exchange.
But if we don’t release that pressure, our life foundation is shaken. Fault lines splinter up through our walls and roof until we are left with nothing but glass shards and dry-wall pieces hailing down.

So, I implore you—as I have just learned of another irreparable marriage after twenty-some years spent withstanding seismic waves—if you are suppressing frustrations toward a family member, a spouse, or a friend, be sure to unveil these emotions before time magnifies their complexity and makes your closest relationships harder to rebuild.
It is easier to strengthen teetering walls than it is to start from a brand new foundation.
What is the best setting in which to communicate?
Did your parents set a good example of communication, or are you trying to learn how to communicate with your own family?

Do you fear communication or seek it out?


  1. What a powerful metaphor, Jolina. I'm so sorry to learn of your loved ones' marriage situation. My family = poorest communicators EVER. Trying to figure that out all on my own. Have to wonder if a lot of it is generational?

    Glad you're OK after the earthquake. That must have been terrifying!

    1. It all happened so quickly, I didn't have much time to panic. But it did make me realize how much we take for granted that the ground beneath our feet isn't going to give way!

  2. This is a great topic.

    My parents have taught me a lot when it comes to communication. In December, they will celebrate 38 years of marriage. I've witnessed how effective communication can make any situation better. Though I'm not married (or dating at the moment), their lessons have taught me how to communicate with others. Hopefully, I'll be able to take those lessons into my marriage one day.

    (The book I'm working on now deals with two marriages on the verge of disaster due to ineffective communication...or let's just say not communicating at all.) Perfect timing. =)

  3. Your parents sound wonderful, Julia, as does your novel! Can't wait to dive into Parallel Pasts! June 2013 or bust!! :)

  4. Growing up in California like I did I can imagine the feeling when those tremors hit, Jolina.

    My parents were not good communicators. It was considered bad manners to talk about ‘certain things’ too deeply. I have tried to counter that and break the chain of silence with my own husband and children: both my kids know they can tell me anything; ask me anything. I do think it’s important to think before speaking, though. Once words are out, there’s no taking them back. So I practice giving any angry thoughts a cooling off period before I decide to air them. This helps me determine if I’m just feeling pissy, or if it’s something really important.

    1. I think you've found the perfect balance, Cynthia. I am a great "communicator" but the content is not always positive. I tend to spout off without thinking, and then have to apologize, when it would be easier just to think before I speak. Thankfully, my husband is the exact opposite, and we have learned to balance each other in these past four years.

  5. I was just in an earthquake with my daughter, too! And I agree with Melissa, this was a powerful metaphor. I have known many marriages that have fallen by the wayside for just this reason... lack of communication about problems (or anything). I didn't have great role models (nor did my husband) so we've really made communication a top priority -- not only do we talk about everything but we also have encouraged our kids to do so, too. I hope we've broken the cycle...

    1. I believe you've broken the cycle, Julia. I think it's so wonderful to at least be aware of the cycle's presence. There are so many I don't want to pass on to my daughter, too. And there are so many positive cycles I know I will wish I had.

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