Sifting sharp pieces

Something I have realised I need to do some serious work on right now is owning my mistakes, missteps and failures more authentically.

I instinctively absorb blame whenever a situation doesn’t go as I’d like. Because of this, and because of the story that blame creates in me, I will ruminate over how to make it better, and how to be better, endlessly, if the wiser part of myself doesn’t intervene. But I am also so cripplingly ashamed of being at fault that I dare not speak it. I want to fix the problem, fix myself, and never make the same mistake again, so I can move on and never have to look at how wrong, and thus unloveable, I was in that moment.

This creates a strange dichotomy whereby my inner world is swirling with blame and shame and deep remorse, usually far outweighing the requirements for the situation, while my outer facade dances around the admission of guilt, and clings to all the reasons why it both wasn’t so bad and wasn’t all my fault. I’m suffering enough, I don’t need you to add to it.

And that’s entirely right; I don’t. But what I’m learning that I do need is a space to openly admit the exact boundaries of my failings; to examine them with considerate and compassionate eyes, and to find validation that they don’t in fact make me the terrible monster my shame would gleefully tarnish me as.

There aren’t many people in the world, I don’t believe, who can hold space for that kind of deconstruction of events, particularly in the throes of conflict, so it’s not that I should try to do this the in the raw, unfolding moment. But I’d probably be better served removing myself before I start to hear the defensive claims of victimhood or rationalisation gush from my lips. Take a breath, take a step back, save it for later. Save it for a space where I can tip all the failings onto the floor, and sift through for the pieces that are mine.

And then fucking loudly announce to the world which pieces are mine, and revel in the freedom of the proclamation.

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.