Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The gap between "could do" and "do"

For a while, now, I've been thinking about what I should write in this blog.  I have a new blog at adropofcrystalwater.blogspot.com, where I record the little things I do while learning to take care of myself, mainly so that I can keep a count of how much I get to donate to charity:water.  It's not very much of a motivation, but it's something, and having it public keeps me accountable.  But as reading material, it's rather dull.

In this blog, though, I'm used to writing random musings, mainly for the purposes of putting my personality out there, I guess.  I've actually been preparing a series on "what I believe" for this blog, but at the same time wondering if it was worth writing on that subject at all.  Sure, I have interesting beliefs, some of them worthy, some of them silly, and some of them downright painful, and I'm good at explaining things ... But I don't want to be that person who tries to convert people to her belief system, just for the sake of having people agree with her.  I'm no evangelist, and so the idea of writing down what I believe doesn't seem like something that would be entertaining to others.  All it would do is let me clarify my thoughts.

So, if I'm not only going to write about what I believe, what can I write about?  Well, one of my strengths is brainstorming for exhaustive lists, so here goes:

All about me:
- what I believe
- what I want
- what I like
- what I hate
- what I love
- what I've seen
- what I've heard
- what I've noticed
- what I've thought about
- how I feel
- what I've been told
- what I've done
- what I wish for
- what I avoid
- what I'm afraid of
- what I know
- what I've learned
- what I've read/been shown
- what I remember

The world around us:
- what other people do
- what other people say
- how things work
- what things mean
- what other people might think
- what might help other people
- how people interact with each other
- what consequences actions might have
- about places
- about people I know
- about people I've met or noticed
- about imaginary places
- about imaginary people
- about situations and emotions
- about objects, aesthetics and functions
- about concepts and relations
- about things to do

Of course, many of these things link together.  So, for example, a discussion of something I've seen might link in with what I've thought about it, what kind of beliefs I have and why, and what I know about how things work.  It's more than likely that in attempting to write on one topic, I would branch off into tangents that range through each of the others and expand n them.  The problem is that I can't write down everything I'd like to, because there simply isn't enough time to collect all my thoughts and put them into words; and I'd like some universal theme.  And there, I have to make a choice.

Looking at the two lists above, a couple of things stick out at me.  Firstly, I'm most comfortable writing about things that relate to myself.  There are a few reasons for this, but mainly it's because I've recently gone through a period of spending a lot of time alone, trying to learn about myself, and also because I've always had an inclination towards analysis and reflection.  Also, there's a sense of uniqueness to it, as though I'm something of an expert: hardly anybody else is going to write from my point of view.

The second thing I noticed is related: In order to write about anything other than myself, I feel that I would have to go out and experience things more than I currently am doing.  I tend to involve myself in what other people think and feel, rather than taking detailed observations of other aspects such as the words they say, the way things look or where things are.  On the other hand, I also have an interest in technology and science, which makes me interested in how things work, and how to explain them to other people so they'll understand.  But actually going out and observing these things, finding people and concepts and situations, seems to be work that would take more time than I have. 

The irony of this is that to look at my life at the moment, I would seem to have nothing but time.  I'm currently unemployed, but in a relatively comfortable situation supported by my husband, in a middle-class society, so in theory I'm free as a bird.  I have very few actual obligations, and mostly my time is my own.  I have reasonable physical health, and an active mind that feels relatively flexible, so in theory I could be doing ... anything I wanted.  But what I'm actually doing is ... not very much at all.

It's the diversity of choice that is becoming a problem for me at the moment.  The list of things I could write about is a pale reflection of the seemingly-infinite list of things I could be doing.  But I cannot do everything I could do; I cannot even do everything I want to do; there isn't enough time in a lifetime, let alone enough time to fit it all in now.  As always ... I have to choose.

I hate choices.

So, for once in my life, it's time to focus my thinking - and my writing - on the choices I make.  And because I tend towards reflection and thought rather than action, to the point that I end up doing very little ... I need to turn around and focus on what I want to do.  Because all this thinking and analysis can come to nothing, if I don't actually do anything as a result. 

I will, of course, be bringing all my thoughts and reflections to the table in making these decisions about what I want to do, and when.  And when I've done something, and have something to show for it - only then will I be able to tell you about whether my beliefs and opinions are worthwhile.  But until then, I'll concentrate on writing the story of how I decide what to do, and how well I can carry it out.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


There's a woman I know ... and we just can't seem to get along with each other.

Don't laugh.  This is something that hardly ever happens to me.  In fact, it's a point of pride with me, that I try to get along with everyone, and that I try hard to listen to everyone's point of view.  And nearly all the time, it works.

It took me years and a lot of hindsight to work out why she and I can never get along.  And since then, I haven't got around to writing it down ... But now, I'm starting to talk with a mutual friend of ours on Facebook, and every time I post something public on her page, my comment is invisible to this person (and a couple others I have blocked).  I'm starting to wonder if she's noticing our friend replying to nobody.  So I figured it was time to explain why she and I never understand each other, and why I've decided it's not worth communicating with her. 

I guess I'll start by saying what isn't the problem.  She's not a nasty person - or at least, not these days.  She tries reasonably hard to be friendly, and she can be charming.  It's not like she's downright unlikeable.

And when I say we don't understand each other, it's not a problem with her - it's both of us.  She's not ignorant, or stupid.  In fact, I'd count her as rather intelligent.

And it's not like she's deliberately set out to hurt me - well, not to start with, at least.  She's said and written some things when she was angry and upset, but that was when she thought I'd done something to her.  The problem is, I never set out to hurt her, either.  And I don't know if she'd believe that.  I just did what I felt was right, after making sure other people agreed with me.  And those other people didn't include her.

Well, down to the problem itself.  Every time I say something, she thinks I mean something else.  And vice versa, I'm betting.  And I can't even qualify what I'm saying, I can't reassure her by adding "And I don't mean X" because her understanding of things is just so different to mine, that I wouldn't even think of seeing it her way at first, without being told.  We have totally different world views.

The problem is in the subtext, the things that you assume are implied without being said.  When I speak to people who know me, there are certain things that I think go without saying.  I don't feel the need to say "I don't want to hurt you" with every sentence.  I think it's a truism that "I'm listening."  I don't think everyone needs to be told that "I'm trying to understand your point of view," because that's why I'm listening to them in the first place.  I assume that people will start with the premise that I mean them no ill, because I do wish them well.  I may not want everything that they want, but I hope to make them happy.  That's always been my mission in life. 

So in the early days, when we were still trying to work things out, when she had the courage to tell me what she thought of me, many things about what her view of my attitude came as a shock to me.  My thought was always "Why on earth would she think I meant that?"  Why would she think I was taking someone else's side?  Why would she think I was trying to tell her she was doing something wrong?  I wasn't!  Why would she think I would punish her in some way?  For what?  The worst I had ever done was explain what I thought could be done differently, a couple of words here, a joke there, a question about what she thought ... and here she was talking about the most severe penalties she could think of, options that weren't even available to me.  It just seemed incomprehensible to me, that she (and her friends) could be afraid of what I would do, when I felt I had never done anything to earn that kind of mistrust.  And it hurt.

Not only did it hurt, but it was impossible to second-guess.  I don't know what kind of a life she's had, maybe she's used to people backstabbing her and treating her badly.  When I think of it now, maybe she thought she could hear me saying "I'm angry with you/I'm disappointed/You're a bad person/You deserve to be punished". But I didn't know how to make it clear to her that "That's not what I meant - I would never say that - I would never do that! - that's not who I am" because I had no idea what she was thinking.  And despite the fact that every other person I speak to eventually understands that I see them in a friendly way - and the fact that she and I were once friends - she seemed to think I was actively working against her.

She once told me she felt I spoke to her as if I was "walking on eggshells"; as if I were very careful only to say only certain things, and to leave out other things, as if I was afraid for her to hear them.  So it was left for her to imagine what those things were.  And one thing she does have is a vivid imagination.

What could I possibly have to say, that I would be afraid to tell her?  The answer is, nothing.  I say what I mean, and if I don't say something, that's because the thought didn't even cross my mind.  I do try to be precise with my words, to say exactly what I mean in the hope that most people will understand it ... So I don't mince words.  As a result, in a conversation I will usually say very little, and listen as much as possible. 

So when I spoke to her, I assumed she would understand my subtext of meaning her well, of actively trying to help her.  And instead she heard something completely different, so different I couldn't understand it.  Every time we tried to clarify things, it was painful ... because it struck at the heart of the way I saw myself.  And I can't help wondering if the same process was happening in reverse.

I do know that I pored over her words, again and again ... I looked at the things she was saying about me, and I wondered what else she meant.  What was she telling her friends about me?  Did they agree with her?  It's possible I was also reading things into what she said, that were never there.  Who knows ... Well, I certainly didn't. 

In the end, though, I decided it was enough.  It would take too much effort, too much time spent painfully clarifying everything, too much worry and personal distress, to make things right.  I didn't understand at the time why it wasn't working - I just knew that I couldn't keep working at it, or I'd end up jumping from something tall.  So I left.

And in the end ... it's not her fault.  It's not entirely my fault, either, although I guess there are things I could have done differently.  It's just that the way I see things - including myself - and the way she sees things are so different, that we go through misunderstanding with every single word.  And that makes any kind of communication ... pretty much impossible.

Earlier this year I had a message relayed by another mutual friend, that "I know you probably hate me".  It brought up all the old pain, but by then I knew what was happening between us, because I was seeing it happeng between two of my other friends.  Constant misunderstanding.  I can't hate her, I can't even blame her - but I can't blame myself either.  It just is the way it is.