One of the most interesting books I have read this summer has been The Rainbow Comes and Goes, by Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. This conversation between a son and his 92-year-old mother is a dialogue between two people who have known each other many years but have not gotten around to a deeper sharing of their life stories. Anderson Cooper writes, “ When we’re young we all waste so much time being reserved or embarrassed with our parents, resenting them or wishing they and we were entirely different people. This changes when we become adults, but we don’t often explore new ways of talking and conversing, and we put off discussing complex issues or raising difficult questions. We think we’ll do it one day, in the future, but life gets in the way, and then it’s too late.”
Starting a deeper conversation in any relationship may seem a little awkward at first. Most of us are somewhat hesitant about coming out of our shells or seeming too nosey if we ask questions that may be considered too personal. The process best begins by asking questions that are easy and keeping things light. As a therapist, I have noticed that a session may stay at this level for a while. And then, when almost going out the door, a client will say what they really want to talk about. The conversation is then ready to begin.
Establishing trust is a good beginning. Believing that the other person is really interested in what you have to say takes time. Starting an important conversation is not about prying information out of someone or telling one’s whole life story. We have all experienced the letdown of thinking our sharing with another is a close encounter and then having them disappear from our lives, or worse yet, share with others what we had thought was a confidence. A significant conversation is more like sharing a meal with many courses.
An impromptu conversation with a daughter-in-law over this past weekend reminded me once again how precious it is to find these times to talk about our lives with one another in a way not happening on the bleachers at a ballgame or in a text. These occasions, if we are wise enough and brave enough to embrace them, may be aptly described as the book title suggests, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes.”