The Ping of Your Relational Sonar

I liked this photo so much that I decided to use it and give a free ad shout-out. While I'm not in the mood to pay $60.00 for the rights to use it (we do our own photography, although I do purchase iStock photos occasionally), I am willing to reference back to them and their very cool work. The photo shows the same sky type of sky mentioned in this essay.

It’s about 9:00 p.m. Labor Day night and I’m putting the last check into the last envelope as I finish paying my monthly bills.  The day has been a long one with the majority of my time spent in my office reading and working on my statistics homework.  I get up from my chair, stretch, grab the stamped envelopes on my desk and head to the mailbox.

I head down the long slope of the paved driveway.  It’s getting dark and my mind switches from wondering if my bare feet are going to find a wayward stone (protective-mode thoughts) to the overwhelmingly beautiful twilight sky (refreshing, happy thoughts).  My pace slows and I remember that my hair is pulled up into a ponytail, bound with a brown velvet scrunchie; perfect for a little pillow to rest my head on the concrete.  I drop to the warm pavement, lay down, breathe in the cooling air and take a few moments to study the sky more closely.

It’s beautiful out tonight.  The sun has dropped below the horizon so far that only the slightest hint of light shows along the western line.  From there sweeping upward is light blue, medium blue, dark blue and the deepest midnight blue right over my head.  The stars are beginning to show and as I lay still and focus, more and more tiny lights begin to peek out of the deep blue.  I can now see about 30-40 stars, but one in particular catches my eye.  It’s brighter than the rest and seems to be moving.  I assume at this point that it’s a satellite and I watch it travel ever-so-slowly across my view.

My body begins to relax as I start realizing how many layers of sound are filling up my ears.  I can hear the distant click of a katydid, intermittent bursts of cicadas, a constant tree frog sound, and another rhythmic frog sound over that.  There is a dog somewhere in the distance that barks occasionally and every three or four minutes a car passes down the street, headed toward their homes for the evening.  I look around for the satellite and find it again.  I started thinking about my husband.

On the way down to the mailbox, I had hugged him goodnight because he was heading to bed.  He gets up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to go to work.  I had said, “I missed you today.”  He said, “I missed you too.”  We talked a bit about the homework I was doing and said goodnight.

I watch the satellite another minute more and my mind drifts back to a conversation I had last week with a colleague.  He had written a blog entry for contract work we do over the topic of “checking in” with your spouse during the day.  I’m watching the satellite and thinking about that topic when I link a thought about the sonar pings made by satellites, submarines or other devices that also “check in” with those monitoring their progress.  I begin to play that sound in my head and think about parents monitoring their children as they grow and develop, spouses checking-in with each other to make sure all is good between them, leaders checking in with their team members in places of employment.  Ping, ping, ping.  The satellite has now passed two stars as I watch it continue to creep across the sky.

I start thinking about satellite orbits and how they decay over time.  Without the sonar or other monitoring devices, there could be no awareness of how that orbit had decayed or whether it was stable and in good working order.  Mother mammals of tiny babies constantly check to see if all their offspring are accounted for, birds guard their nests, alpha males of various species watch over their herds in case they are threatened.

I want to think about this balance or out-of-balance checking in between couples just a bit more so I reluctantly get up, walk the rest of the way to the mailbox (I only step on one small pebble), and head back to my office.  On my way back up the driveway I hear a car leave our neighbor’s driveway, muffled rap music coming from the interior.  I wonder what type of sonar is going on between he and his parents as he drives down the road.  I get to my office and begin searching for sound files of sonar pings.  I find some cool files of a WW II submarine sonar.  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SOUND.

While I’m playing with these sonar sound files I begin thinking, “They sound a little bit like a heartbeat.”  My mind drifts back to all my relatives who have been in the hospital with heart monitoring devices…ping,  ping,  beat…beat.  I think about the inordinate amount of journal articles I’ve been reading the past six months over a person’s physical well being and how it relates to their relational well being.  People who are stressed because of unhealthy relationships actually have different vagal tones when on a heart monitor than when their relationships are better, or when they feel closer to their partners.

I make a mental note of this thought process and head back into the bedroom to tell Mick goodnight a second time.  I need to check in with him and make sure our orbit is not in decay.  He’s fine.  We’re fine.   I’m glad I check, however.  He tells me goodnight a second time and that “All systems are go.”

How about yours?