what we’ve got here is failure to communicate

listening SOMThis week, I wanted to share a deep, personal lesson that I’m in the middle of learning. It may be an obvious one to you. It’s even obvious to me, but I’m seeing it from a different angle.

Sometimes people just want to talk and to be heard.

I’m used to understanding this as the person who just wants to be heard, not fixed. Now I’m looking at it as the fixer.

Lately, I’ve had some ongoing instances where my communication style–of being curious, engaging, and seeking the truth–doesn’t really mesh well with others who take it as questioning their authority.

(I believe I’ve spoken about this before, or I may have written about this in a blog post I decided to jettison because it felt too close to home.)

I haven’t gone through this communication jam before in a long time. But at this point, I’ve come to loggerheads with at least a couple of people. And, at the time of this writing, silence seems to be the only way out. I’m not sure what the outcome will be, but the immediate outcome seems to be peace.

The typical conversation where this communication logjam occurs goes something like this:

  1. Someone says something pretty definitive and absolute for them, but I find factually wrong.
  2. I, not really believing in absolutes anymore, counters with some questions or with a statement that actually summarizes what they’re saying, but may have skipped a step or two.
  3. Defensiveness rises on their side, with a reassertion of facts, and I think I’m trying to get to a place of clarity or greater understanding.
  4. A polite, but not very useful, argument ensues. We’re talking past each other and not to each other. Condescension rears its ugly head because now, it’s about defending a position, or trying make a point, or trying to win.
  5. And because I hate arguing when there’s no purpose, I usually call it quits.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 if you’re a masochist.

Many times, my intention is to get people to clarify what they’re saying, to be even more true. It may be an editor’s default position, or just a well-worn character trait.

And I know it’s not easy to have someone challenge parts of who you are, especially as they are forming. It can be kind of obnoxious, I get it. It’s not fun to be interrogated, to be in my hot seat.

Where I End and You Begin

Here’s the real kicker: in my older age, I’m realizing how overly emotionally involved I am in so many things that really shouldn’t personally matter to me. It’s a little alarming as I start retracting and retreating from people’s lives and agendas.

So maybe I should give less of a fuck about what others believe, especially if it’s not harming me. And this has been part of a lifelong lesson for me–maintaining healthy boundaries.

And this lesson definitely gets back to my #CapricornProblems🐐 post. I may be completely right in how I see a certain situation or life event, but we’re all on our own journeys, learning things at our own speeds.

It is not my job to illuminate that path for everyone. And to even think that is beyond arrogant. I could stand to be a little more humble and focus that energy on helping myself!

And this is where my own Capricorn stubbornness can get in the way. It can be a little (OK, VERY) paternalistic. I want this person to see things the right way so that their lives can be better! But then they just sound wrong all the the time! 

It can honestly be deeply infuriating.

Also, it can be quite hurtful, especially if you get in a merry-go-round of arguments, and you never seem to get through to each other.

Maybe sometimes, it’s just best to not only end the argument, but end the relationship–or at least take a long pause.

It could be that this unique interpersonal dynamic has turned terminally toxic.

One reason could be is maybe the other person just doesn’t want to hear from you, and all you’ve done is try to hammer home your points to an uninterested party.

And that’s their choice, one I can honor and respect.

I may have control issues as a Capricorn, but the flipside is that I can’t be utterly detached from people either.

We do speak into each other’s lives. We need to.

There just needs to be some balance about my level of involvement.

Straining to Hear

Even without my being a perpetually strident know-it-all: if someone doesn’t want to hear what I have to say, then I can stop speaking.

I can listen more and get curious in other ways.

What is this person really trying to say? Maybe the execution wasn’t to my liking, but what’s the bottom line here for them? And even if they’re wrong, do I need to correct them?

As I learn and continue to extract myself from being overly concerned about other people’s lives, I know I can still be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

I can give more latitude and breathing room for people to just be–to be “wrong,” to be “right,” to be misguided, to be on the right track.

Bearing witness can be so much more powerful than giving (unsolicited) advice or input.

This lesson has been really acute on social media. I feel like a kid with what I’m about to say, because it seems really obvious, but I am clearly getting a late lesson.

A lot of people don’t actually want to engage. They may not even want to be heard. They just want to speak.

And this is where I’ve started to really disentangle myself. It seems rude, to ignore someone who is talking. But people do this to me all the time–I’m sure on social media and I’m definitely sure offline as well.

And, well–I could just be not someone’s audience, even if I’m viewing or hearing their words, even if we’re friends.

Even more–they may want the audience and advice of someone else. And that’s definitely not worth fighting over.

This has been a really strange and rough journey, to choose different ways to express myself and to show my care for others. And I don’t have this issue with everyone–actually, I have it with very few people.

But again, the lesson is that sometimes, before I get caught up in some neverending conflict, I have to remember that don’t have to give my two cents on everything.

Sometimes, people need to vent. They need to express themselves, to declare things about themselves.

Every word spoken or written doesn’t need my engagement.

Sometimes, people just want to talk and to be heard. 

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astrology & superstition

astrology SOM

As Mercury Retrograde’s shadow period continues to loom long, I have been thinking about the collective pop culture freakout that will happen next weekend when Mercury’s retrograde transit begins in earnest. It’s a little bit annoying since it seems to be the only time that people care about astrology. But my annoyance isn’t because I’m some rabid evangelist for astrology (although my close friends may disagree). Astrology is a paradigm that seems to work for me…for now.

Mercury Retrograde nowadays can feel like a silly superstition, like not walking under a ladder or owning a black cat. Superstitions have a way of becoming the scapegoat for all that goes wrong (or even right) in a person’s life.

I wonder where I start to feel like astrology is merely more information that I can use to lead my life in a better, more informed way instead of just an excuse for why things don’t go the way I want (or vice versa).

Currently, I’m having some problems in my bathroom. The toilet isn’t filling its tank very well. Usually, a toilet’s tank takes about a minute or less to fill. It’s taking 15 minutes now. And recently, there are some pipes screeching and banging behind my toilet when no one is using it.

My computer has given me a blue screen of death twice. It’s not old.

So what’s going on? It seems like things are just falling apart all at once.

With the toilet, this house is old. I have Uranus in my 4th house, which has to do with home life. Uranus is a bit of a wild card. It’s hard to know what will happen. It’s like a scary jack-in-the-box. I’m not a fan. I had my room flood during this Uranus transit, so the pipes are brand new.

But, again: this house is old. I’m also getting a new toilet seat because I bet that toilet seat has never been replaced. It’s wooden and painted. The paint is chipped and stained. The seat itself is broken underneath. The seat will be replaced and the hissing fill will get fixed soon.

As for the computer, although it’s pretty speedy, it needs more RAM mainly because Google Chrome is a greedy little application. But, I’m not purchasing any new RAM until Mercury Retrograde is really over, meaning we’ve cleared the shadow period where Mercury makes it way back to the degree where it started its seemingly wayward course.

That’s the conventional wisdom of dealing with the trickster planet’s moonwalk in the stars: don’t buy any new technology. The reasoning is that if I buy something now, it may not work correctly and I will have to return it later, wasting both my time and my money.

Is that wisdom or superstition? Are these planetary and lunar transits more like weather reports? For example, it would be foolish to go out without an umbrella in Florida, especially in rainy. I’ve done it and it’s horrible–soaked to the bone, in denim.

There are other do’s and don’ts which all have to do with travel, communication, and technology:

  • If you have to travel, prepare for delays.
  • Back up your documents (to the cloud!).
  • Re-read your emails before your send them.
  • Make sure your car is running well.
  • Think twice if an old friend or ex re-enters your life.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to buttress all this advice. It’s good advice no matter the transit or season. It just takes extra time. But then I also think about confirmation bias and the power of suggestion. Am I just more sensitive to these transits because I know about them, or do they explain phenomena that otherwise would have made no sense otherwise?

The way I see Mercury Retrograde, as well as all retrograde transits, is that they are times for review. We are eternal beings that live in a temporal world. Things break, fail, or become ruined. There’s not much in the world that will last–even relationships; even our bodies. We need to have time to repair and to release.

Mercury Retrograde can also be an invitation to rest, to slow down. Maybe in our fast-paced modern world, that invitation is more salient now that even 100 years ago. But in our speeding around to get things done, things get overlooked.

Mercury Retrograde can be a time of review. Are we being good stewards of the things we own? Are these things owning us? Maybe these exes or former friends that come out of the woodwork are a test to see if these relationships have really ended. Have we really moved on?

Sidenote: It seems a little unfair that Mercury Retrograde happens at key times during the academic year. Right now, many families are preparing for their children to return back to school and to college. Today is the last day of a tax-free weekend in Florida, so the stores may be crammed with people buying computers and other technological gadgets (as well as clothing and shoes). Other school preparations involve just getting there (with all the things that have been bought): traveling across the state or the country. The shadow period for Mercury Retrograde won’t end until most people are back in school, around mid-September.

The next Mercury Retrograde this year will happen in early December, with the shadow period beginning in mid-November and ending in mid-January 2018. What a crummy time to travel. That’s during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. It’s also a crummy time to study and possibly have your computer’s hard drive fail as you are writing a final paper. That happened to me five years ago, during the final retrograde shadow period. I had an extended warranty and was able to get it replaced for free, but it was scary and inconvenient when it happened.

So what are you to do? You can’t just sit at home and avoid everything. That’s what I believe superstition does–imprisons and limits people. I believe astrology really tries not to do that, even if it there is discussion about seemingly limiting transits, like a Mercury Retrograde. It seems like astrology tries to empower and illuminate.

I’ve come to some rueful acceptance that I can’t catch all the “good” transits in the way that I want, especially the Venusian ones. But then again, all the “bad” ones don’t catch me, either. And that’s part of the mystery, of life. There’s so much interplay between the potential of the stars, my own free will, the Universe itself, and what others’ free wills…and maybe Fate with a capital F.

So with this Mercury Retrograde coming up, and with life–do the best you can in light of that old adage: “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” This transit isn’t a black cat crossing your path. It’s just a season of a different kind of awareness. There are plenty of astrologers who can help you out, too.

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