alarm bells

I have a neighbour. A very annoying neighbour. I don’t know this person, but my impression is of someone who is arrogant, selfish and is hiding something. That’s all because of the intrusive, annoying and highly unsociable alarm installed on top of his roof. Whenever he goes away, this alarm gets triggered by who knows what. Certainly not burglars, as we haven’t had any kind of crime in our little suburb for years. It’s one of those heightened kids toy-type alarms with three different sirens, all at ear-splitting volume. It’s a whoop whoop whoop, ti da ti da ti da; da da da da da loop that goes off in two minute bursts. As soon as the first whoop begins, my whole body stiffens with annoyance and actual physical pain. I immediately turn to murderous thoughts and all concentration is lost.

One particularly long weekend, I plotted a covert mission to break in to his ‘compound’ and disable the alarm. This plan was thwarted by the fact that somebody had borrowed my ladder and I’d run out of shoe polish.

What’s interesting, though, is that despite the clamouring interruption, almost as soon as the last blip of cacophony ends, its forgotten. Annoyance dissipates quickly and concentration on whatever task was interrupted is resumed.

Relationships can be much the same, especially ones that have a few years on the clock. We tend to assume that after knowing and loving someone for a long time, we know them. We make suppositions about them based on our assumed knowledge. So, when alarm bells ring loudly and clearly telling us something is not right, we tense up, make all sorts of plans to ‘fix the thing’, make promises to ourselves and our partners and generally become intensely interested in sorting the problem out.

But, in the quiet after the alarm, subsequent frantic planning, even a few actions taken, we forget. Whatever we were doing before the alarm bell rang continues. We may vaguely remember there was a problem, but it’s no longer up front and centre and so we go back to assuming knowledge of the person. We carry on as before and naively believe the issue has dissolved.

Until it rings again. Much like the irritating neighbour’s alarm, the third or fourth hint that something’s not right climbs deeper inside, triggering a niggle of doubt regarding your assumed knowledge.

The thing is, no matter how many plans you make, no matter how many promises you intend to keep, the alarm bells ring trouble. Maybe not huge trouble. Maybe just a small breaking of someone’s heart that won’t necessarily maim or kill, but may temporarily wound.

So, take some time to consider warning sounds in your life and relationships. You see, when a house alarm goes off, a couple of scenarios could be the reason: the owner switched the alarm off; the burglars disabled the alarm; or the battery ran out of steam. If your lover’s alarm bells have stopped ringing, how can you tell what the reason is, based on your assumed intimate knowledge of that person?


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