My concerns each week, my considerations and interests, change. The one thing that remains constant – although it too evolves – is my desire to write these concerns and considerations. Perhaps there are times when I would prefer to write for meaning and have the structure of the writing overlooked, but for the most part, the way in which I use my words and the inflection a certain order of paragraphs provides is as important as the meaning conveyed by the words themselves. With this in mind, it sometimes seems appropriate to step back and look at the process through which these words came to be strung together in any particular order.
Sometimes writing a post for Life on the Swingset – or “this week’s column”, as I have almost sub-consciously begun to consider it – is like pulling teeth. I always have thoughts and ideas and experiences, but oftentimes they are too fresh and I lack the perspective to properly describe them, or they are too fragmented, making up no more than a paragraph each with little to pull them together.
This week, ironically – and I will come onto the irony of it – I have not had this problem. This week I have been hit over the head with a topic, the problems of which are so clear and nuanced that it has taken me two hundred and thirty two words to name it: communication. It is almost satirical in nature that I made mistakes in communication with a partner the weekend before I began a job in which communicating between departments and doing outreach is so key to my position. On the other hand, this may be a necessary kind of black comedy, because the events of this week, rough though it has been, have presented me with the inescapable reality of something I desperately need to work on.
As for that irony: it’s ironic that this topic has come with such startling clarity because the reason it is a topic at all is down to the lack of clarity I employ when I communicate; and this article is even more ironic because I am doing here exactly what I do when I communicate badly: leading in with a lot of near-irrelavent meta-analysis, and carefully muddying waters that need to be clear for effective communication.
Initially I wanted to begin this article with a tabloid-style headline; something punchy and attention grabbing, and – yes – clear. Something along the lines of “As it turns out, tweeting photographs of your bruised breasts whilst doing the walk of shame is NOT the best way to tell your core partner you had a fun Saturday-night date.” But of course, I lacked the courage to communicate even to you, near-stranger-like readers, with that much clarity. And in any case, I already knew that method of communication was cowardly and unacceptable. I was just testing the waters; and here, again, I will stop myself and say that I am also well aware that my partners are not here to act as my test subjects.
(In fact I will interject all together and say that I am fortunate to have a forgiving and loving core partner who was honest with me, but also accepted my apologies; this particular error is not my point of discussion because he and I have dealt with it ourselves and we – I particularly – have learnt from it.)
The thing that is most disappointing about this topic is that I have always considered myself to be pretty good at communicating. But it would seem that I am only good in very particular areas. I can end a relationship and cut ties cleanly; and I can communicate my sexual desires; and I can tell you exactly where I will be at what time (although that may have more to do with organisation); but I am still learning how to navigate the mid-relationships difficulties. As we perhaps all are.
There is a good argument to be made for the fact that my shortcomings in communication are also influenced by my partners’ inability to communicate. I often feel that I have to push and cajole people into communicating with me, and as a result I feel somewhat reluctant to be upfront and clear. There is a good chance that my partners do need to work on communication, however! regardless of whether they need it, I definitely do. If my partners were the best communicators in the world it might be easier for me to achieve that, but I’d still have some work to do. I can encourage my partners to grow with me, but at the end of the day I can only be responsible for my own growth.
So, more courage; less cowardice. And if you have made it this far, waded through my analysis and self-guessing and have just now found yourself utterly at sea, may I refer you back to the seventh and the penultimate paragraphs, in which I have attempted to maintain clarity and simplicity, and which in all their brevity, actually sum up the root of this week’s issue?
The title comes from an XKCD strip on Hoffstadter.