Crazy: What one little thing drove you crazy this year? Was it unique to this past year or has it been buggin’ you for a while? How do you intend to get rid of it or resolve it in 2014?
Growing up in a family of storytellers, you might think we were also a group of people who communicated well with one another. That would be inaccurate. I don't know if it is because we are Southern and learned there are things you don't talk about, even among yourselves, or because we held onto a belief that drawing problems to the surface was not only impolite but also impractical (then you have to do something about them). I learned quickly about whispers, secrets shared in kitchens, driveways, and on porches. "Hush" was not about being lowering your voice, but about layers of things going unsaid. As much as we talked in my family, as loud as we were, we covered pain, longing, anger and difficult times with volume, laughter, sports, and food. I think one of the reasons I gravitated toward writing and performing poetry was the platform to say whatever I wanted.
I used to joke that my Grandmother would have been a good spy. She never let on that she overheard conversations with my friends after we thought she'd gone to bed, an entire house between my secrets and hers. The carport at my grandmother's was a confessional and a soapbox, unwieldy vines covering the brick like my own cloying need to be heard.
I spent my life and my first serious and significant relationships reading between the lines, never believing that a person could say what they mean and mean what they say. I suspected something beneath their words, an agenda, a purpose, a hidden puzzle I needed to decipher. It was at the core of most arguments I had with significant others and friends, my refusal to take anyone at their word, and believing that everything meant something else, something at all. Making dinner plans with me was impossible; it took conversation upon conversation to decide anything. (And sometimes still does).
It's hard to communicate with many members of my family. I consider some to have black belts in passive aggression. You have to interview them to get at what it is you want, which is exhausting and annoying, and even then you are never sure you've really arrived at any sort of resolution. Someone once told me I could say everything and nothing at all, which was perhaps the truest thing anyone had said to me at the time. While I still have a tendency to lose myself in story, I also make an effort to bring myself out of it, reveal myself in some way, to be honest and vulnerable and true.
I feel like the more direct I am about my own needs, the more others follow my example. So when I say, "I'd be okay with Mexican or pizza, but I don't really feel like eating Chinese," then others may feel inclined to be more specific about their own food desires. (I'm clearly obsessed with food and hungry, since my examples seem to revolve around food choices). But this can apply to any other area of life. I'm not suggesting we all be selfish and state only what we are interested in, but I do think it's important to acknowledge for yourself what it is you want and not expect others to guess at it. But you shouldn't guess at what others are thinking, either. Communication requires conversation.
It makes me crazy when people hide what they want, especially if they then get annoyed when I don't figure it out. Don't be coy or passive aggressive. If you don't like a restaurant, and I say I want to go there, don't hide your opinion and then say, "I knew it was crappy. The last time I was here, I had the worst service." Tell me that before I make my decision. Don't put up barriers to communication because you're trying to make everyone happy or don't feel it's appropriate to say what you think. Nothing infuriates me more than someone trying to make me responsible for their lack of assertiveness or worse, they make assumptions about how I feel or think or what I mean without asking me. It's one of those things that drives me particularly bonkers. If you want to know something, ask me. I just might surprise you.