Tough love

I think I’m sliding into a new awareness of myself in relation to others. It’s too subtle to call a levelling up, but I’m hoping I’ve at least passed a checkpoint, because I don’t want to have to do these past few weeks over.

I’m in an awkward phase right now where I’m feeling the need to chase down the disharmony in my life. I’ve spent the last year or so cultivating peace, so this new strategy doesn’t appeal, but it’s either that or let myself stagnate. The growth is where the challenge is. And for me, right now, that is in my most difficult personal relationships. Personal relationships that I may prefer the luxury of writing off. Personal relationships it would be perfectly reasonable to encourage writing off.

It’s important to detach the idea of having them go the way I want them to, and having them teach me what I need them to. I regularly get stuck in the former because I resist the latter, which causes pain and makes me want to reconsider. But the only way out is through, and they are teaching me. And I’m starting to feel the effects.

Maybe I’m learning the hard way, but then that wouldn’t be anything new.

The Twins

I’m a Gemini. To use astrology in its most reductive form.

I don’t know how much weight I put in that, but obviously I put some.

All mutable signs have a reputation for being indecisive, but Gemini is The Twins – and right now I feel like I have two opposing advocates living in my head, so, I don’t know, that feels highly relatable.

Often I notice parallels between what plays out in people’s personal lives, and what plays out in society.

I’ve spent some time lately thinking about how the effects of various systemic problems in our world can be understood quite well in terms of certain categories of human mental illness. And how, perhaps, by thinking about them in such terms we may be better able to deal with them appropriately. You don’t treat a person with PTSD the same as a healthy person and expect the same results, for instance.

Some people seem to have noticed a similar thing to me, although I’m sure they understand it in countless different ways. But they are responding to the situation with these ‘illnesses’ in mind, however they conceptualise them. Many people have not. They have probably noticed other things instead, that I don’t see.

But, much like the devils on my shoulder, by and large we don’t disagree on what the problems are – where we’re going round in circles is the implementation of a solution.

Me and my dichotomous twins are pretty clear on what we want, but they have very different arguments about how we should get there, and I can’t find a way to reconcile them. So we’re going backwards and forwards and, I fear, all the while just getting degraded. Is this the folly of a two-party system? Do I need a new starsign?

Get off my lawn

I have a bad habit of seeking validation for my point of view.

I used to be offputtingly defensive, which I have come to understand was a necessary way of protecting myself from harmful and erosive influences. It allowed me to uphold boundaries, albeit it in an overly rigid, dysfunctional way. I used to keep a clear space around me at all times and if someone intruded on the lawn I’d shoot them down without thinking twice. Stay. The fuck. Away.

One day, I guess out of exhaustion or loneliness, I decided to lock up the weapons. When people turned up on the lawn, I just let them stay there. If they asked to come in, I’d reply “if you want”. And so people started indiscriminately trampling all over my space, according to their own desires rather than mine. They stole stuff, they flytipped, they made a fucking terrible mess in the bathroom. And the whole time I was thinking just don’t shoot them, just don’t shoot them, at least I haven’t shot them. Although I’ll admit I pulled out the sawed-off shotgun on a few occasions.

Eventually, when it seemed I had nothing left to lose, I shooed everyone out and started the clean-up. And then I went through the whole cycle a few more times because I still hadn’t learned what boundaries are meant to be.

I have built a lot of skills, and fences, and gates, over the past decade. But I still have much more to do.

Right now, I am noticing a problem when people come onto my lawn, or even just within earshot, and start shouting that I’m wrong, or that something similar to something I have said is wrong. My initial response, without any further qualification, is “oh shit, am I? “and I worry about it until I have the time to go away and reearch the same things that I already researched to come up with my original opinion. Because, yes, I did research it already.

The process of recovery has begun, with a few good stern talkings to when I’ve caught myself doing this inappropriately over the past few weeks, but, damn, do I look forward to a day when living isn’t quite such unnecessary emotional labour for me.

A shared language

Something I have been thinking about quite a lot lately is how we can tell someone something with complete openness and honesty, and they can still receive something totally misleading.

Effective communication is about so much more than telling the truth. We need to be able to anticipate how the other person will hear our words based upon where they’re operating from, and alter our message accordingly. Which sounds dangerously close to lying. But if we don’t do anything to manage how our message will be received, we can easily have the effect of lying unless that person is already of a similar mind to us.

So often, we have conversation after conversation with people, and never reach a mutual understanding. What’s worse, we’ll often feel like we have understood, because we’re satisfied with how we’ve expressed ourselves and we’re satisfied with what we’ve heard in response. But our individual narratives can still be miles apart.

This is how pain happens, even when we try our hardest: The limited ability of words to express truths.

When we hit this pain, we have a choice. We can continue down our separate rails, refusing to see the root of the disconnect. Or we can attempt, through trial and error, toil and ardour, to find truly common ground. We can choose to create, from scratch, a shared language, by first accepting that it doesn’t yet exist.

Straight lines

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

I’m bad at boundaries.

Most people I know are bad at boundaries.

Is that because most people are bad at boundaries? Or because only people who are bad at boundaries can tolerate people who are bad at boundaries?

I notice, when I try to instate or uphold healthy boundaries, that a lot of people don’t like it. My first thought, of course, is that I’m doing it wrong. Which may be true. But I suspect it’s probably more to do with violated expectations.

I also notice, when I try to instate or uphold healthy boundaries, that I often don’t really like it either. It’s hard work. It’s effort to maintain the balance of empathy and kindness with drawing lines. I fuck it up a lot.

I also notice, though, that when other people set clear boundaries, I love it. It doesn’t happen that often, but I feel so free when it does.

So I know what I am chasing: People to draw adjoining shapes with.