The Less-Than-Great Communicator

Even at the best of times, my thinking can be a little muddled. I’ve got a nasty cold, making the little grey cells even muddier, so I apologize ahead of time if this post rambles more than usual.

Once I started talking, I never stopped. My mom stayed home with me, and we tended to live in neighborhoods without lots of kids my own age so I got used to carrying on conversations with adults. Yes, I was one of those precocious kids entertaining the adults in a group with my thoughts on the events of the day. I was cute so I got away with it, and I was always a social child, not the type to hide behind my mom’s skirts. We moved from outside London to Rio when I was 2 1/2 and my parents enrolled me in a local preschool so I could learn Portuguese. I have no memory of that, but I can only imagine the terror of being thrown into an environment where I couldn’t understand anyone and no one understood me. I picked up the language fast, you do at that age, and soon outpaced my parents. Reportedly I had quite the repertoire of cuss words in Portuguese, much to the entertainment of our maid, who was the only one who knew what I was saying. As my parents had no idea what I was saying, I got no reaction, and kept my language unusually pure until my late teens, when it all went to hell. We moved to the states when I was four, and no one spoke Portuguese, so I refused to speak it with my mom and soon forgot it. It’s somewhere deep in my brain, down there with calculus and much more useful.

I don’t talk just to hear the sound of my own voice, but sometimes I do think out loud. Often I talk to myself, though I try not to in public as that makes one look more crazy than eccentric. Eccentric is classy, crazy is not. I can have a tendency to talk too much in a conversation when I’m nervous, trying to be even more witty and charming to cover how scared I am. Plus I love the feeling of making people laugh. It’s the best high. I did some acting in college, and I remember one performance where I could just feel the audience was with me. It was like a drug, I wanted more and more. Unfortunately, while I have a voice that can carry to the back of a theater with little effort, I’m only a competent actress, so I’ve settled for entertaining smaller audiences.

So with all this propensity for conversation, you would think I would be good at communicating. Oh, would you be wrong. I must have had someone take a serious lack of interest in my emotions or problems at an early age, because I do not want to talk about it. Ever. Three years with the crap therapist and there was so much I never even brought up. Because I Do. Not. Want. To. Talk. About. It. I would rather push it down and ignore it and hope it goes away on its own. I think my breakdown was in part because I had pushed down so much for so long that it all exploded out in an embarrassing mess of emotions, insisting on being dealt with properly. I don’t tell people when I’m upset or hurt, and while I think my emotions are writ large on my face, most people miss the signs. Oh, how consoling it is when someone gets them. It’s like being seen after being invisible. But usually I put on a mask of being Just Fine, Thanks, and everyone believes it. Meanwhile I’m crying in the bathroom.

Confrontation is just near impossible for me. I couldn’t even tell my old roommate that she needed to help clean around the apartment occasionally. Hell, even once would have been good. I just tried to set a good example and hope she’d get the idea. That didn’t work at all, though it did get me in the habit of finally doing my dishes daily. So some good came of it. I always assume the other person is going to get angry, and I don’t deal with anger well. I don’t like being angry, I can say hurtful, cutting things when angry, and I know you can never really take them back. The only person I’ve felt alright getting downright angry with is my narcissistic neighbor, whom you just cannot discuss things with calmly. I ended up in a screaming match with him over my turning on the sprinkler for my plants when he wanted to open his window right then. I just gave in, figuring that if he was going to treat me like a crazy bitch, I might as well be one. Wow, was it freeing. I was upset afterwards, because I still didn’t like being angry and I worried about consequences from the fight, but it did feel good to just not care what someone thought of me.

I think I’ve had enough confrontations go badly that I’m just gun shy. I’ve had more than one boss call me into the office for a talk, and then tear into me and not stop until I cried. My stomach will always fall when I hear the words, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” from a boss or supervisor. When confronted with anger, my fight or flight response goes right to flight. I want to run, or do whatever it takes to make the anger stop. I had a horrible verbally and emotionally abusive boyfriend in college, and when he got angry he would throw things, lash out at me verbally and sometimes physically. I just wanted it to stop, to calm him down, to talk things over like adults. But that could never happen. I did finally cut him out of my life completely, losing a number of mutual friends in the process of just staying the hell away from him. I still get nightmares that he’s back in my life, and the thought of running into him terrifies me. Luckily he lives in another city, so it likely won’t happen.

I’ve been trying lately to be more of a grown up in my communication, to be honest and forthright about what I want or need. It’s much harder than hiding under the duvet and hoping things will just get better or go away, but it’s worked out well so far. Better than I’d hoped, actually. It’s been nice to know that I don’t have to be a manipulative bitch like The Puppy to get somewhere in life. It may be harder to be honest than underhanded, but it feels much better at 3 AM when you’re lying awake, unable to sleep.

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February 12, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot.

One Comment

  1. Stafford replied:

    Communicating like a grown up is over-rated ;x

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