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.

Every wand’ring bark

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to make a decision and not waver.

There is part of me that knows how to be unshakeable. At my core I am fixed in love, and if I drop down into that, I am certain.

It’s my mind that wanders – looking for a new approach, exploring different avenues, finding all the angles. Everchanging curiosity and insatiable questing prevent me from keeping my feet in one place for very long at all. The only way for me to stick to a path is for me to dance all over it. And then, if a fork comes up, all bets are off.

I scare people when I’m fixed on something. Maybe that’s why I often lean so heavily on my tendency to flitter. I am intense. Not many can withstand my gaze for more than a few seconds. I burn through things. I’ve never really learned to own that.

It’s easy to imagine that life would be simpler if I could just pick a reality and stick to it. But, ultimately, I think I still believe that I’d be losing something if I did that.

I also think there’s a way to acknowledge the multifacted nature of truth while still mapping out a defined path for yourself. But I’ve been failing at that for the past few weeks. I’ve been feeling directionless, and lamenting all the decisions I haven’t made.

Life can be a lot sometimes. It’s okay to get blown off course when you’re trying to do difficult things. Just gotta keep The Star in sight.

The mess

Life is messy.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before. I wholeheartedly support life being a mess. I believe it is really the only way for it to ever be beautiful.

And so, many times, I have made it a point to embrace the mess…until the overwhelming compulsion to clean up the whole debacle has overtaken me.

I’ve been working to soothe my flash-sterilising tendencies over this past year. And I haven’t had any uncontrollable urges to paint the whole thing white and start over in a good long while.

But there is a certain mess right now that I may or may not be trying to prematurely organise. Morality and self-worth are tied up in it, and so I am needing to examine whether my inclination to keep things straight and tidy is, on the one hand, a wholesome desire to uphold my integrity or, on the other hand, a simple discomfort with letting it hang where it is until it’s dry.

Sometimes things are what they seem. Sometimes they are not.

The extended debrief

I’ve been involved in some verbal conflicts over the past few days. It’s quite unusual for me, but I have been realising lately it’s something I need to get more accustomed to. The online space is one thing, but face to face, in real time, conflict has a greater effect on my heart rate than I would like.

I spent quite a lot of time and energy deconstructing each conflict; trying to take all of their lessons with me. In the past, I have considered this habit to be harmful or weak. The fact I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But I’ve come to realise that if I allow my thoughts to naturally progress, being careful to keep them in balance, they lead me, in due course, to a natural conclusion. And if I commit to being present for that journey, there is a lot to be gained from it. And then next time it takes far less effort to regroup and recover and regain a steady beat.

Sometimes I think we forget that discomfort and even mental anguish can serve a purpose. They aren’t to be avoided any more than they are to be dwelled in; they are to be understood.