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Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities that he does not possess..." ~Samuel Johnson

About a month ago I received an email from an old friend. This particular person has not spoken to me for a couple of years. He requested that silence and I believe in honoring such requests, so the email came as a surprise. I believe his purpose in writing was to offer an explanation concerning the silence, divulge his negative feelings about our friendship, and let me know he has moved beyond it. Naturally, there was nothing complimentary nor kind in his words, nor were they, in my estimation, entirely accurate. But I also believe in allowing people to draw their own conclusions and explore their own feelings regardless of how those might reflect on me.

I've read his email a couple of times. Tolkien Boy, a bit impatiently, said: "I don't know why you're torturing yourself with this." At the time the statement was made, I was not in an emotional condition to explain, so I said nothing more than, "I'm not."

And I wasn't. I just wanted to make sure...

You see, I'm aware that I have an unfortunate habit of stating my mind. I do it often when with a person with whom I feel comfortable. More than one friend has borne the brunt of my bluntness. Sometimes I try to backpedal, soften the blow, but it's difficult because if I said it, I probably meant it. The only way to excuse oneself when that happens is to admit to idiocy and tactlessness, which is what I usually have to do.

In the past, I've spent a lot of time with the email friend. I've said lots of things. I suppose I wanted to read and reread his evaluation of my interaction with him because I don't want to have another friend leave for similar reasons. Honestly, I don't really care about the opinion of the person who emailed because he's made it abundantly clear that I am not someone with whom he wishes to spend time, and as my time is a premium, I'll simply move to someone who cares about me. But...

Unless I know you well, I don't talk a lot. I listen. People like to talk. I like to hear what they have to say. One of my physical therapists said, "I don't know what it is about you, but I always end up telling you my life history. You probably know more about me than my husband." That's a huge exaggeration, but she did tell me a great deal about herself--details spanning her teen life to her sex life. I'm a safe person to tell. I have no one to whom I would repeat the stories.

However, once I get to know you a little better, especially if you've been in my life at least a couple of years, I talk a lot. I talk about many things (from my teen life to my sex life--well, maybe not quite that much--I don't really talk about my teen life) and I rarely filter what I say. I offer opinions, I expose my judgmental side, I interrupt, I'm sometimes crass, and I say potentially hurtful or offensive things without even noticing that I'm being unforgivably rude.

This is why, I suppose, I don't often get to know people well. I'm aware that I'm not always the nicest person up close.

So when I receive an email detailing all my faults and shortcomings, while I might not agree with the author, I take his words very seriously. I read them, evaluate current relationships, and try to decide if my behavior needs realignment. Most often it does; and so I go through a process where I think of things I've said to my loved ones, wish I could rescind most statements, and make a promise to myself that I'll think before I speak in the future.

It never works.

I suppose the only bright side to all this is:
1. You never have to wonder how I feel about something--ask me, I'll tell you.
2. You don't have to worry that I'm talking about you behind your back if I'm saying it to your face.

Maybe that's not a bright side.

The thing is, most of the time I'm not saying nasty, mean things, I'm just talking. I spew information about myself, dish out unsolicited advice, and verbalize deep feelings. It's uncomfortable, no doubt. I know this because my listener doesn't balance my personal information with his own, people rarely offer advice to me, and my feelings are obviously not reciprocated. Therefore, even if the person wishes to share with me, or feels similarly, it's certain they feel uncomfortable divulging such feelings and/or information. Clearly they have an appropriateness filter.

I need to get one of those.

Tomorrow, when I get to work, I will respond to my month-old email. I actually have not put it off because I didn't wish to respond, but because my life has been extremely busy and it was not on my priority list. However, I'll take care of that tomorrow. My response will, no doubt, be clear and forthright because that's how I speak. It will probably incite more aggravation in the recipient, but that can't be helped--or if it can, I choose not to take the time or make the effort to do so.

Therapist once told me that I was very aware of things people believe are my shortcomings, but I do not see them as such. He said I view them as distinct personality traits that make me Samantha. He could be right. I don't believe he is, but I'm willing to entertain the possibility.

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