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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My 10 Least Popular Posts

hope work SOM

Last week I gave same shine to my 10 more popular post. This week, I wanted to give even more shine to my 10 least popular posts, between 1 to 3 views! Sacre bleu!

Granted, a lot of these posts were from 2016, when I wasn’t blogging as regularly. But there are some good thoughts in here about my life journey that are worth revisiting.

  1. an ode to OK Computer Radiohead’s OK Computer had a 20th anniversary last year, and I wrote about what this album meant to me and the time in my life I was listening to it heavily. I was really proud of this and was shocked that only one person viewed this piece.
  2. The roller coaster mystery – a short post on how I was trying to hang in there with the roller coaster of life.
  3. waiting on something decent and good – this was about a really dark time in Winter 2017.
  4. Mud walk – rough times right after my contract wasn’t renewed and coming back from home after Hurricane Matthew
  5. It’s all in the timing – Yeah, October 2016 sucked.
  6. “I accept that”/the lost tribe – Also March 2017 really sucked.
  7. Calling on the right ones – A lesson about asking the right people for help, which I’m still learning.
  8. When there’s nothing left to say – A post-birthday fuck you to 2016.
  9. a buyer’s market – A missive to my fellow straight women about dating men
  10. woo (hoo) woo The real first post of my blog post, but then my spiritual journey changed drastically as it sat in my drafts.

Postscript

It’s tough to look back on these posts, since a lot of how I feel hasn’t changed because a lot of my circumstances haven’t changed–they’ve even worsened!

It really hurts to feel like at times, I’m still walking in mud, that I’m still waiting on something decent and good, that I’m still holding on for dear life on the roller coaster mystery of life.

Today I pulled the 9 of Pentacles as my tarot card of the day, and I felt disheartened (yesterday’s card was 5 of Cups).

When is this rich, self-sufficient lady going to show up?

It’s sad when one of the card I typically would love to see comes up as encouragement, but right now, it feels like I’m being taunted.

One thing that has changed, though, is who is in my life. And that keeps changing–but it seems to be changing for the better.

I found out this month that two friends, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast, had included me in their rituals for more money. And it’s seemed to have worked!

I’m still so touched know that although it’s still a very lonely existence here in Florida, there were two friends who thought of me and my wellbeing–and did something positive about it.

Even with my visit to the metaphysical store this past Friday, I wanted to see if the energetic shifts that I had made since the total solar eclipse last August and beyond had made any difference.

I had visited back in February and really hated the vibe. As a friend told me, usually people who are in those stores are looking for help, thus low vibes.

This time, I went and it was pleasant.

I had 3 candles fixed (candle fixing means adding herbs, spices and oils to a candle, usually a 7-day candle), and the woman who did it, she really was in tune with what I was thinking and feeling. Just getting the candles fixed was a supportive and healing experience.

And although one of the candles started as an oily, fiery, seething mess, two of them are burning now–one for love and one for money. And I can feel the difference.

But will it be enough? I really don’t know.

I know I want positive change, and that I’ve been working hard on this. My blog reflects on some of those efforts to go past surviving to thriving.

That sustained effort takes a little bit of hope.

And hope takes work. “Hope is a discipline.”

Hope is not like some feathery thing that floats in on the wind. Hope is something that I have to cultivate and grow, every single day.

I’m fed up enough to grow some real hope in my life. And as I burn these candles this week, I’ll think about all the steps I took for me to get here, and how I’m even more ready to write a new story for my life.

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the greatest wound, the greatest healing

site of greatest wound SOM

The above quote is from a book I found yesterday called The Journey from Abandonment to Healing by Susan Anderson, a psychotherapist who specializes in abandonment, grief, loss, and trauma.

I was looking for something about this topic because I had felt stymied yesterday when I was trying to do this marketing homework for my business–writing an email series for potential and current clients to get to know me better. It was writing about my origin story–basically, how did I get in this biz of writing.

This month hasn’t been that fruitful, despite a lot of effort in connecting with prospects. Lots of “sure things” in terms of projects became very unsure. There’s been a steep and expensive learning curve with having my own business–let alone saying and really embracing that I have my own business.

But the issue wasn’t the lull in business, or even getting out of the lull. It was writing about this journey. It’s been hell, albeit a now stabilized version of hell. I hit a wall of deep shame when I tried to think about how I became a writer, let alone a freelance writer. It’s something I’m not really proud of yet.

As I sat in immobilizing emotional pain, I started to look back on just this year. One pattern that really started to emerge was how I had opened up deeply to so many people, but how most had bailed, mainly to tend their own shadow work and growth (and maybe I was a trigger for that impulse, too). But I took it personally–and still kind of do.

I then just started thinking about my whole adult life and looked at all the dropouts from my life. This was indeed a long-term pattern, and I was tired of it. As whiny and pouty as this may sound, I know I have helped a lot of people in the way I wish I could have been helped. But it really hasn’t been fully returned to me in the ways I needed, in the magnitude that I needed.

I felt, and still feel, that I have a blindspot when it comes to my relationships. It could probably be explained astrologically, or even in some Big Picture way about the journey I’m on and what I’m being prepared for in my future. But to make it even more brass tacks, as someone who has studied psychology formally, as well as someone who’s a bit into the “woo”–this seemed like something I was perpetuating, since it was cyclical. To borrow from a Caedmon’s Call’s song, I had a long line of leavers.

I’ve known about my fear of abandonment for some time and some events still stick out in my mind, like when my mom left me at school as a teenager and I sat there waiting for her for over an hour as dusk started to fall, not knowing why she hadn’t picked me up. And this was in the age before cell phones were widely used. The wondering as darkness fell, although my mom was very apologetic about it. It’s still a feeling of abandonment that I will never forget.

Years ago, I visited now former friends and going out to see the husband play with his band at a show. The wife was standing with me–and then she just wasn’t. I was an out-of-towner. I didn’t really know anyone except some members of the band and my friends, this couple.

After the show, my friend just disappeared and I was just standing there, in this sort of warehouse space, surrounded by people. I was in a panic, trying to look for her. I’m an introvert and I’m not one to just start chatting up random people.

It felt like an inhospitable act, ditching a friend who had come to visit you, not even telling her what she was doing or introducing her to people you knew. She had wanted to talk to other people but decided she didn’t want to bring me along.

I don’t remember what I did, but I did bring it up to my friend. She kind of blew it off–I don’t even remember her giving me an apology. But it was a bit traumatic for me. It was probably also a good sign that our friendship wasn’t as great as I thought. These same friends came to a theme park near me and never even mentioned being in town. Although that’s a pet peeve for me, this friendship was years long.

We had gone to church together, done Bible studies together, worshipped and sang together, had ridden out emotional upheaval (read: panic attacks), had long talks. These were not just friends but companions. Somehow, though, I had missed the signs of unraveling and just kept pushing forward, trying to be the friend I wanted (which apparently meant ignoring the actions of others).

This isn’t the first time I’ve had that happen, where I’ve been blown off and I’ve ignored the signs leading up to it. Another long-time friend, a woman I grew up with in church, blew me off when I decided to visit her for Thanksgiving almost two years ago. I had bought an expensive plane ticket to fly out to where she lived, which I had to cancel, and not in enough time to get a full refund. We had made plans in August and then she said almost near when I was going to fly out–oops, we’re visiting in-laws out of state, sorry. Also, no offer to cover the cancellation fee.

We had a long Facebook conversation about it which ended with her taking a rather hard line: my relationship and my job come first. And that was that. I told her that she knew what she had to do to restore the relationship, and that she’s chosen her path. We haven’t spoken since. Over 20 years of friendships came to an unexpected, but totally predictable, hard pause.

That event didn’t just come up out of the blue. I had been the one initiating a lot of our conversations and visits (she had never visited me). I said as much, that I had been holding a lot of the space for our friendship–and I owned it. That was on me and I should not have been doing that. I deserved reciprocity.

My tenacity and drive may work really well for overcoming obstacles, but it seems to overlook since of wear and tear in a relationship. It makes me wonder how I came to where I am this year, what I was ignoring and avoiding.

With the friends who have taken leave and have somewhat come back in my life, it’s been strange and strained. It’s not the same and it never will be. Something (beautiful and real) got lost in the interim and it’s most likely irretrievable. And I want to know what part I played in the demise of all these friendships.

My transparency, along with my almost chosen ignorance of how the other person really feels about me and the relationship through their actions, have become huge liabilities in terms of how I relate to myself and to others.

So how do I stop this cycle of prematurely undressing emotionally as well as holding onto dead things for too long?

I have to go back to the beginning.

When I think about my mother, I don’t feel anything. That’s another good sign of trauma. And trauma here isn’t about abuse, but about neglect. I may feel more of a motherly bond towards her, as if I’m her mother and I’m looking out for her, than the other way around.

This fear of abandonment goes back to my birth. My entry into the world was a rough one. My mom thinks we both nearly died thanks to a jonesing-for-a-malpractice-suit anesthesiologist. I just don’t think she and I really bonded.

I know when I was four years old, I got lost in a mall or shopping center. That may have been another traumatic incident, but I don’t remember it.

And not to get too psychological, but when a person doesn’t have a bond to their mother, that’s a big ole hill to climb in terms of developing one’s own sense of self. I don’t know if I have anyone to individuate from, or to mourn that they weren’t there. It’s eerie and unsettling, but that’s been my life.

So I am pretty darn sure I have repeated this dynamic by choosing people as friends and lovers who aren’t that interested in intimacy or I push them away somehow if they are. Yesterday, I hit what I hope is that final wall with that Sisyphean journey.

It is so exhausting to chase, to spurn and be spurned, to yearn and wonder, to leave and to be left.

Desperation is never an attractant.

I got all this from some homework that I didn’t feel ready to do (and still haven’t done– yet).

This is also to say: a trigger can be an invitation to healing, not something to avoid. I RSVPed yes yesterday and googled about abandonment and found Susan Anderson. And now I’m reading her book.

Today, I woke up to overcast skies, but later on in the morning, the skies became brilliantly clear. That transformation is how I feel about dealing with this core wound and my hope that it can be healed. There’s an alarming and amusing alacrity I have about it–like this time, I really am gonna get this right.

I’m sure it’s been hijacking my happiness, causing my business to be a bit halted, and has prevented me from being truly successful. It’s like being stuck in survival mode, no matter what the circumstances are. That is truly exhausting and not really living.

So as I heal, I will focus on the friends who aren’t leaving, and really work on my emotional self-reliance–and I won’t resent having to re-create it.

As Susan Anderson says in her book, a lot of our lives are lived alone. I don’t mean that in some dystopian, post-modern way. Even in community, we still have our own individual lives and journeys.

Through all of my harrowing circumstances, I’ve become a highly resilient person, but yesterday reminded me that I have to learn new, healthier ways of being, and loving, myself.

Coping mechanisms are just that–for coping. For thriving, we have to learn how to find our inner grit, to loosen the grip of codependence, and be fully ourselves as whole and healthy, interdependent people.

I don’t have to feel doomed with existential loneliness. I can now choose to learn differently so I can be a better friend to myself and others.

It’s time for this long line of leavers to end. It’s time for me, and for others, to stick around.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘