Real conversations

SONY DSCHave you ever had a break-up conversation? Most of us have at one time or another.

They can come at different times. Sometimes it’s the announcement that this new relationship is not going to fly. One of you wants it but one of you doesn’t.

Sometimes it’s after a substantial trial period. Again, one of you wants to keep on trucking but one of you is ready to take the next off-ramp.

It could come years later after a relationship or a marriage has been pursued. It runs out of gas or one of you loses control and drives off the road.

So you have the break-up conversation. Sometimes it comes as a relief that a decision is being made to cut the losses and change course. Sometimes it is the talk from hell where accusations and torrents of anger fly like stinging yellow jackets.

And yet I am curious: how true and intimate are those conversations? How much inner truth do we offer at the end, and is it better or worse than what we offered at the beginning? Or do we instead work on damage control and political expediency and say something phony? Or do we retreat and plot revenge and punishment?


Another conversational abyss for many people is the topic of death and dying.

I have been around so many people, including my parents, who did not want to share their views about the end of life. They did not openly philosophize about what happens after they flatline. Is there still juice at the end or are we completely dried out and crumbly?

When people keep their feelings and opinions locked up tight inside themselves, it creates some real issues during the end-game. For one thing, it makes it hard for the caregivers and survivors to know exactly how to please those who are dying. If you gave no special requests, you get what you ask for.

For the people dying it means that they suddenly have to confront their fears or beliefs unassisted. Maybe they can no longer communicate. If it was too scary to discuss during the healthy days, when things were normal and death was not imminent, imagine it now.

People are afraid to talk about death, as if openly discussing it might bring it on faster or freak the dying person out.

When there are conversations with a dying person, how truthful are they? Is there any reality to it or is it fluff and show? I know that if I was on my deathbed, I would want to discuss my future and not pretend that I was going to get well soon. I’d like to talk about the death that will happen when my ride from heaven comes.

Death is a taboo topic. Hospice chaplain and author Terri Daniel called it the new sex. “Launching a public dialog about death in today’s world is similar to how my generation — the Baby Boomers — broke through the taboo about discussing sex prior to the sexual revolution in the 1960s.”


And so yeah, then there is sex.

A lot of people are under the illusion that we’ve outgrown our culture of secrets, shame, and lies about sex. I don’t think so. I think a lot of conversations that could be intimate aren’t because they never occur.

Sex has often become things we do to each other, not so much things we feel. We often make love to people’s bodies, overlooking making love to their minds. We jump into erotic habits and rituals because we have been conditioned to do it that way, but it’s often taken for granted or conducted on auto-pilot.

Often people do not share their feelings about what they like and don’t like sexually, much less converse about their deepest feelings of what this dance means to them. Yet as someone who has written about sexual relationships, both in fiction and nonfiction, I am frequently aware of hidden motives, conflicts, and passions that are not communicated to partners for a variety of reasons.

Can you communicate that you feel alone during a sexual experience? Do you share with your spouse or primary partner the fantasies, hopes, or desires that are most meaningful or exciting to you? Can you share your erotic personality without censoring or playing it safe?


As a creative writer, I have often written scenes about how relationships form and sometimes how they end. I’ve written about death (and afterlife) and I have written about sex.

Fiction may be pretend, but fiction also allows authors to explore deep insights. You don’t have to worry about libel or slander or credibility of your sources. So as I mastermind scenes in creative writing, I bear witness to each character, their motivations, their aspirations, their fears. I sometimes know them better than they know themselves.

I watch characters lie. I watch them dodge from expressing their true selves. I watch them invent cover stories to hide and protect their most vulnerable parts. I watch them injure people and in turn I watch them get injured.

In the meantime, I have my own well of experience to draw from. I have real-life exit scenes, some horrible, some amicable. I have my own relationship with death and dying and sex, which are frequently not held as sacred by the mainstream.

Through it all what fascinates me the most is all the stuff that people do not communicate. It’s what we don’t say. And, yes, I am guilty of it, too.


We learn from so many of our government and social institutions that people inform us of decisions, developments, and policies without telling us the real truth. They focus instead on their politically correct, organization-sanctioned stories.

When government or corporations announce anything, they have been overwritten by PR professionals and often lawyer-vetted.

The logic often gets all convoluted. They announce a price increase and claim it is a benefit for us “so we may serve you better.” They don’t say, “We’re just greedy bastards.”

And just think of how various companies handle disasters like plane and train crashes and industrial explosions and recalls and financial collapses.

And we learn through countless repetitions of this process that fudging is how the game is played. We learn to lie. We also learn that being secretive is somehow better for us than frolicking in an orgy of truth-telling.

Government often explains and excuses manipulation of data and the truth as being in the public interest. They are protecting us, they say. Aren’t they great?


If we all believed we were in Earth School — that there was a purpose to life on Earth and that it was to continually learn lessons about love — we might realize that speaking our unvarnished, unapologetic truth leads to personal growth and social improvements. I wonder what people would say to each other under those circumstances.

How could we make breaking up, dying, and sharing sexually more intimate and meaningful? How could we make them more profound learning experiences through open and honest communication? How could we heal each other even when facing difficult challenges and decisions?

Maybe, someday, we can figure this out. I am working on my own solution for me.

8 thoughts on “Real conversations

  1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    Insightful post, Josh.

    “People are afraid to talk about death, as if openly discussing it might bring it on faster or freak the dying person out.”

    This is so true, which is why I believe organized religion is filthy rich. People don’t have to ‘really’ face their own mortality. Prophets make profit from death anxiety. When my time comes to die, I will make sure to communicate with my family how I feel about it. Well, they already know how I feel. I am not afraid of death. I’m not afraid that there is an equal possibility that there is no life after death. I certainly don’t want to suffer, and see my family suffer because of my suffering. Dying is what sucks, but people live like their dying when they think they’ve got another shot of it somewhere in the sky.

    I do have a different take regarding Earth school. Personally, I think if people realized that this was the one and only life we got, they’d make every second, every minute count. They’d say “I love you”, more often and have more awareness and kindness. Earth school gives us the illusion that there are second and third chances to “get it right.” I’m not taking that chance. My purpose in life is very meaningful — it’s to live life fully, now, even if it’s just in my head. 🙂

    Hope you’re doing well, Josh. Been thinking about you, and your father.


    • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

      I wrote:

      “Dying is what sucks, but people live like they’re dying when they think they’ve got another shot of it somewhere in the sky.”

      For clarification — when I said that people live like they’re dying, I wasn’t meaning that they are making every second count. I meant that they are not fully alive when they take this (possibly) one and only life for granted.

      “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Sorry for my delayed response. Things have been pretty busy around here. To your point about Earth School, my feeling since the 70s has been that the idea of reincarnation (especially if ever proven) would have the effect of inspiring people to make more of their lives, not less. They would realize that life has a purpose and is not just this random event. A lot of people I know who believe in afterlife and reincarnation think, “It’s pretty treacherous down here. I’m going to do what I can to either improve my lot while I am in the here and now and for future lives … or hope I am living my last life here.”

      This is not to be confused with people who think that all they have to do is say a few prayers and wait for an eternity in heaven as their reward. (“O, Brother Where Art Thou?” comes to mind.)

      I appreciate your focus on making the most out of the life that you have because it may be the only one you get. And even in my more woo-wooey vision of the universe, I don’t think that the “I” in any past of future lives will be the same “me” as I am now. That involves other brains and upbringings and environments.

      But I also think that “you just get one life” helps people who have not mastered life to go the route of Elliot Rodgers and murder people for retribution’s sake because he was unhappy with his life. If life is very painful, I think that people who feel like failures and have given up are more apt to act out in ways that harm others.

      These are just my thoughts and are not intended to be convincing.

      • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Josh. I’m assuming, based on your response about Elliot Rodgers, that you did not read his 140 manifesto. I did. So the assumptions going around the Internet are way off base.

        Btw, if one leaves their body, is hanging out in a spirit body, then jumps back into a body to come back to earth to make things better, are they enlightened before they dumb themselves down to become human again?

  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

    Sometimes we fall down, can’t get back up
    We’re hiding behind skin that’s too tough
    How come we don’t say I love you enough?
    ‘Til it’s to late, it’s not too late

    Our hearts are hungry for a food that won’t come
    And we could make a feast from these crumbs
    And we’re all staring down the barrel of a gun
    So if your life flashed before you, what would you wish you would’ve done?

    Yeah, we gotta start lookin’ at the hands of the time we’ve been given
    If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin’
    If every second counts on a clock that’s tickin’
    Gotta live like we’re dying

    We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to
    Turn it all around or to throw it all away
    We gotta tell ’em that we love ’em while we got the chance to say
    Gotta live like we’re dying

    And if your plane fell out of the skies
    Who would you call with your last goodbye?
    Should be so careful who we left out of our lives
    And when we long for absolution, there will be no one on the line

    You never know a good thing ’til it’s gone
    You never see a crash ’til it’s head on
    Why do we think we’re right when we’re dead wrong?
    You never know a good thing ’til it’s gone

    Kris Allen from the song “Live Like We’re Dying”

      • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ says:

        Agreed. If someone thought they would get a second chance with their partner if they were unfaithful, hurt their other partner by breaking their commitment/covenant and committed adultery, would they be inclined or tempted to do it, knowing they’d get a second chance?

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