Usually the calendar has barely turned to the new month before I am bugging my editors to read my stuff because I can’t wait to share. This month has been different because I have been turning an expression over and over in my mind and can’t seem to get clarity. I read it soon after entering a struggle in communicating with some important people in my life. I read it on Twitter and do not know the author but her name is Lalah Delia. “The right people hear you differently.” It’s just a little quip and could probably mean many things. I have been incessantly parsing it out in my mind, What does she mean by “right?” What does she mean by “differently?” Being clear in communication is a huge priority for me. My personality type also has a deep desire to be understood. But I’m also an HSP (highly sensitive person) and we take longer to communicate with than others. If we can’t hear what we meant echoed back to us over the course of a conversation we will want to lock you in the room until we do. The HSP literature calls it “heightened emotional reactivity.” Whatever, we get pissed off if we feel misunderstood or, worse yet, misrepresented. I know I am not the only one who gets huffed up with righteous indignation when negative assumptions are made about me, HSP or not. It is completely normal to want to be seen clearly when we are innocent; meaning, I did not do what you think I did, and I did not mean what you think I meant. I do know that there is no way to always be understood in the larger world and it’s not even necessary. People make wrong assumptions about others on the regular and I’m no exception.
Yet… I realize that if you accidentally think I’m nicer or smarter than I really am, I don’t generally mind that misunderstanding. All of a sudden clarity seems over-rated. And being a writer? Craving connection through communication, and realizing that I’m the one that is hard to understand at times? That bites. It’s a quandary I’m still stuck in. Communication is obviously a two-way street. I want to be given the benefit of the doubt that when I’m wrong, or ugly or irritating, my people will hang with me anyway. That they won’t use one situation to pigeon-hole me universally. I’ve been reminded throughout the whole thing that I could work on any tendencies I have to pigeon-hole others.
Marcus Aurelius, one of the least terrible Roman Emperors, said that, “Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” My perspective has changed dramatically as I’ve aged. There have been times in my life where I have needed the right people. Times when my spirit couldn’t take the challenge of feeling like I had to defend myself over and over again. A safe place to be seen in the best lighting. But my perspective has changed and I want to be a right person. Someone who can stay quiet when negative assumptions come my way. Someone who can give the benefit of the doubt in the face of difficult conversations. Someone who doesn’t try to change another’s opinion even if I think it’s based on faulty information.
My son told me that I needed to be more complaisant, when I was neckdeep. He may have meant that I needed to chill because I can be dead serious in a way that sometimes frightens people. But I like it, whatever he meant. It’s a new goal. To be willing to be misunderstood, while trying to be understanding. I think Lalah was encouraging us to find our interior places where we don’t question ourselves every time we are judged or criticized. Not trying to demonize the average person into “right” and “wrong” categories, most importantly not doing it to ourselves.
by Wislawa Szymborska
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.
I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it’s mine. I can’t exchange it.
I have to guess on the spot
just what this play’s all about.
Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can’t conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.
Words and impulses you can’t take back,
stars you’ll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run –
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.
If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.
Is it fair, I ask
You’d be wrong to think that it’s just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I’m standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there’s no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I’ve done.