Disclaimer: This post is not about anyone in my life in particular. I’ve been working on this draft for months, a little here and there, so I seriously promise. It’s not my passive-aggressive way of telling someone I’m angry by posting something about how you should communicate when you’re angry. LOL.
I hate small talk. I don’t mean, like, pleasantries as you pass by someone. Those are fine (although I could live without the “how are you?” part because no one has time to answer that as you pass someone by so you’re just basically required to say you’re fine.)
I like to talk about the important stuff. I LOVE to know what you’re afraid of. What keeps you up at night. What are the parts of you that you wish you could change? What are your ultimate dreams and goals?
Chances are if you’re a close friend of mine, you know this already. Chances are that I’ve made you sit down and answer one question after another after another. And pretty much close to nothing that you say would change my mind about you, unless it’s hatred toward someone else.
Knowing all this background information about someone matters so much to me. Our past contains so many clues to our actions and intentions now. Have you ever had a moment when you find out a key detail about someone and suddenly everything clicks and makes sense? This happens to me a lot, especially with my students. One piece that I didn’t know about puts everything into place for me.
Relationships are like a dance, right? Except it’s like the “Jerk” dance that Eileen on Seinfeld does or Napoleon Dynamite’s butterfly moves. You just have no idea what’s coming next, yet you work to keep up. I am convinced that the ONLY way you can keep up is to COMMUNICATE. And I don’t mean talk. I mean to ask and share and seek information.
This year, for whatever reason, I’ve had some relationship issues at work. Maybe it’s because I’m doing too much outside of school and I’m tired, or because I have a class that needs a lot of me, or maybe because it’s now my 8th year here and it’s the witching hour or maybe it’s that I’m ready to be done teaching. Maybe it’s because I’m just a jerk?
I’ve had family relationship issues this year, more than ever. Probably because of grief and death and break-ups and me over-sharing in the name of vulnerability, which makes me look more like I’m playing victim than anything else.
What do I actually think is causing these issues, though? The fact that I have stopped settling. The fact that I have said, “This is what I need.” And I’m certainly not saying that I’m giving everyone else what they need, but I’ll tell you what- nobody has asked me.
Nobody has said, “Christy. Please stop doing this. Or, I need more of this from you. Or, this hurts me greatly when you do this.” And so, instead, I sense the tension because that is how I’m built. I can sense it amongst people I’ve never met before and it makes me emotionally AND physically uncomfortable. When the tension involves me it’s even worse, especially if I don’t know why.
I am so physically worn down from wondering about who is mad at me for what reason, or if someone letting the door slam in my face is someone in a hurry or because I’ve ticked them off. I’m tired of advocating for kids and being made to feel like I’m some kind of selfish, horrible person.
And I’m tired of being the ONLY one who wants to do anything about it. Difficult conversations are just that: difficult. It’s not fun to tell someone that they hurt you. Sometimes, it backfires. This year, for example, I gathered the courage to confront a situation and was basically so condescended to that I felt just about an inch tall. It bombed. Oh, well, right? I tried.
There are so many times, though, where if I hadn’t said, “Are we ok? What’s going on here?” it would stay horrible and tense and when you’re made like me, when you carry feelings as I do, it is a physical and emotional hardship.
I often ask myself:
Am I imagining the tension? Leave it to me to be so egocentric that I think whenever anyone is upset it’s about me when it could very well be a million different things.
Is it worth it? Is it worth putting myself in this vulnerable position? What will I gain or not lose? And how do I know?
Why is it so easy to be upset about something, but so hard to tell someone about it?
I know I sometimes create “issues” that aren’t really there. But I also know that my expectations are high. And I’m not willing to bend on that! I want positive, healthy relationships where people value me and they value my loyalty and my willingness to learn and change. We live in this culture where it’s like, oh, you pissed me off, so bye! How in the world do we expect people to NEVER mess up?
When I say good-bye, it’s because I don’t see a willingness at all to communicate. To see another side of the story. I’m so often floored when someone shares something with me because I had NO idea. Throughout our relationship struggles with my mother-in-law, there was so much sulking on both sides, when we both really wanted the same thing: to be together! I wish I could’ve done something about that sooner, but, you know what? I was still a kid. I was only 25 when my father-in-law died from cancer and I didn’t know SHIT about what was happening. Those years for me–23-um, well, probably 28, were tough. I was trying to figure so much out at once.
So, I failed. And failed again. But all this loss in my life has taught me so much about both what I want and what I need to be.
I think it’s time that we start really communicating. You’ve got two jobs to play in this thought-first, you have to be willing to have a difficult conversation. And next, you have to be willing to listen and not immediately jump to the defense, which is our knee-jerk instinct.
So much of the time, it wasn’t our intent AT ALL to hurt someone. Sometimes they are just plain imagining it. Sometimes it was an equally shared kind of thing. But, if you can’t let them get through the “This made me feel like this…” then it’s not going to work.
I hear often that communication comes naturally to me. That I must have had good role models growing up. Here’s the deal: I’m self-taught. My parents communicated by, literally, screaming and swearing and throwing things. My siblings and I never actually shared anything except a bathroom. And that’s, I think, sometimes pretty typical. So I had to teach myself. And then get my husband to learn along with me. And now my kids. And it’s HARD, yo.
But it’s so, so, so worth it.
Keep on keepin’ on, yo!