One of the things I've been working on in the last couple years is, "What do I want?" What do *I* want? What do I *want*?
I realized early on that I compromised in relationships so easily that it was often perceived that I wasn't compromising at all, and then it just became my role to be the one who does all of the compromising. But even after I realized that, swung the pendulum the other way and back, it took me years to realize that I was *still* sometimes easily compromising against my own desires. When I didn't need to or simply shouldn't.
So I've been working on really thinking about myself and what I want in any given situation. I've been looking for a partner in a more equitable relationship. Where we both compromise sometimes.
You know, it's a gift to your partner to honestly express what you want, because everyone should be able to take what someone says as their truth. And it's respectful to do that.
I learned early on to guess someone's desires so I could increase their happiness. Call it "perfect hostess syndrome." Great when you're hosting a dinner, not really a way to live your life.
So I've consciously moved on to taking people at their word and trusting that if they want something different or they have a problem that concerns me, they will say. It's a much better way to live and allows your personal energy to be spent more constructively.
But here's the thing I'm struggling with lately. Someone says to me, "Maybe you should do this." Or, "You should do this."
And I say, "Yes, I've thought about that option, but I've decided that that's not what I want to do."
Now, sometimes I say, "Yes, I'm considering that, and I haven't decided how I feel about it." Obviously then, I'm still thinking about it and open to discussion.
But in the first example, what I'm saying is, I've thought about this option, and I have decided against it.
It's not that I'm completely against discussion at this point, but I don't understand why the discussions that sometime ensue with friends, lovers, or family don't come from the perspective that I've clearly given the matter thought and made a decision. Even if they don't understand it.
It reminds me slightly of when I realized that sometimes when I make super quick decisions on suggestions on set it's perceived that I'm just doing what someone tells me, rather than actually making a decision. For a beat, I tried taking a moment to "think" even when I'd already made a decision, but eventually, I gave that up and just let the "silent schmucks" (h/t Rob Reiner) have at it while I do my job as director to the best of my (quick-thinking) ability. (Of course, sometimes you do need to explain decisions on set to producers and other members of the team, and that's part of the job.)
The struggle in personal discussions is that I find myself in these back and forths where someone keeps giving me their reasoning and I find myself trying to answer questions and explain, all while talking about something that I didn't bring up and already made a decision on. I didn't pick the time, place or topic. I'm trying to answer their questions, and it feels like nothing I'm saying is hitting the mark.
Largely because I don't feel like I should have to be justifying myself and my decision, and that makes me give half-ass answers, I think. Also, that these discussions always seem to happen when I'm not ready or expecting them. Like, let me just answer this quickly so we can move on from this topic because it's a waste of time. And then down the rabbit hole we go. And I honestly feel like the other person is having a battle of wits with an unarmed man. Me, being the witless one. This paragraph is me trying to articulate how I've felt during these conversations and why I clearly suck at them.
Even writing this, I'm guessing that the problem sometimes is that I should nip the conversation in the bud and clearly state that the topic isn't open for discussion - sometimes easier said than done even when I clearly don't owe the other person an explanation.
More difficult is when it is someone who gets a say, like a close friend or partner. This is difficult for the solitary and most self-sufficient of us, but I'm gathering that it's part of my journey to let other people in in this way. It's particularly difficult because when you make decisions in your head, with yourself, you don't have to articulate them verbally. Sometimes, I like to write about decisions on my blog, but I am much better at written communication that occurs when I am ready for it. I will think for days, weeks, sometimes months or years, about the phrasing of a blog post before I ever sit down to write it.
It's also particularly difficult when the person you're talking to doesn't first come from a place of respect. Or comes from a very different mind set about life, so then where do even you start?
You know, when I ask my friends about things, I usually take what they say they've decided at face value. I assume they've made considered decisions and know what's best for them even if it's very different than my personal opinion. I might have a few more questions, but I *think* that's how I come across. To me, this is a matter of respect for the people in my life.
It's been suggested to me that my way is bad, because if I cared, I would push my opinion. I think sometimes that might even be true, but I suspect it's the rarer situation. Personally, I withhold that way of being for only things I feel incrediblity strong about that are basically life or death. And I certainly try to come with respect and carefully placed suggestions that I put out there, but then don't push about.
On something more day-to-day, I might do that. Throw out a thought or suggestion or book recommendation, and then move on.
And if someone doesn't take my advice, I tend to think it's because it wasn't right for them. Ever or maybe just not at any given moment. Whether I understand their decisions or way of living generally doesn't effect my respect for them.
So, I don't know. I need to stop being pulled into these conversations in the same way. Or get out of them gracefully when we're three questions in.
Maybe in situations where it's not the person's business or the case is really fully closed, "Hey, I've actually already given this a lot of thought and made my decision." Or, "Please try to accept that I'm not interested in discussing this further."
And with people I do want to let in and am actually thankful for their caring and concern (and in the case of a partner, my decisions actually effect another person which always takes a beat to get used to), "Hey, this isn't a good time for me, can we discuss this later?" If they respect me, that should be an option, since little in life is super time-sensitive and/or an emergency. Also, waiting until both parties are open and available for a conversation means that neither party is trying to push their position just to get their way.
Personally, I've found that I'm most receptive to discussion while sitting at a table in an intimate setting, perhaps sharing food or drink or coffee. You can see that this is usually a situation that's been scheduled, as well.
Most important, it is my responsibility to clearly communicate in this way. So, I'm working on it.
There's no doubt I'll find myself three questions down the rabbit hole yet again.
Blog posts, btw, are open for discussion. ;)
I want to close this post by recommending two books. A somewhat odd combination on the surface, but highly useful to me in tandem.
The first is an amazing book with a horrid title, "If Love Is a Game, These Are the Rules: 10 Rules for Finding Love and Creating Long-Lasting, Authentic Relationships" by Cherie Carter-Scott. And the second is "The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence" by Gavin de Becker. Together, they're kinda two sides of a coin. Positive feelings on one, and negative on the other, and both about communication and instincts and navigating relationships. I highly recommend them both.