Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

I just finished reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time. I love Jane Austen, but for some reason never got around to reading everyone's favorite. Mr. Darcy was not as perfect or dreamy as I expected, but I wouldn't kick him out of the bed for eating crackers either. Elizabeth is, I think, the perfect woman. Sassy, independent, strong - and she keeps that fella on his toes and jumping through hoops. Good for you, sista. But she was prejudiced against him based upon her own wrong impressions.

The novel is really about misunderstanding people. Elizabeth misinterprets Darcy, who misinterprets her and her sister Jane. Bingley misinterprets Jane too. All the conflicts originate with someone making false assumptions. Misunderstanding is the most frustrating thing in the universe - yes, even more frustrating than Comcast. It's so ridiculous and stupid because misunderstandings are easily avoidable and easily fixed. Yet they last for-fucking-ever and can cause irreparable damage.

About a year and a half ago, a good friend and I had a series of fights. We always hit walls in our conversations because he gets ideas in his head that can't be altered, and I always think anything can be solved if you talk through it so both of us were being stubborn. He's always so convinced that he knows what you're thinking and why you're feeling whatever it is you're feeling, but when you say, "No. Actually, I think this and feel that and here's why..." he doesn't believe you. So the conversation is perpetually in a circle with you saying, "I think this and feel that," and him saying, "No, you think that and feel this."

Seriously - how can someone be so headstrong to believe they know me more than I know me? Or maybe he doubted my ability to express my thoughts and feelings accurately? I believe I'm a very self-aware individual, and as communication is my career, I also believe I am effective at communicating myself.

A year ago, I went on a few dates with a guy who had a similar complex. He always thought he knew me better than I knew myself and was a master at reading me, despite the fact we hardly knew each other. He prided himself on it, though I rarely corrected him. One night we were out, and he told me that he knew I was closed off a few days before because I thought he wasn't being affectionate enough with me.

He was spot on about me being closed off - I was, and I concede that my emotions are often easy to read, though the underlying reasons for them are often not. I had actually been thinking that I didn't like him all that much and was wondering if I should call it off or give him a couple more dates. And I had been talking a lot to someone I used to date and wanted to get back together with. He and I did get serious, and Captain Confident was blown out of the water.

It may be naive, but I truly believe open and honest communication is the ultimate peacemaker that could solve every conflict in the world. The problem, of course, is that not everyone is as open and honest about their ideas as Captain Confident was. And that a lot of people are like me - when confronted with his interpretation, I decided against being open and honest because I didn't want to be impolite or make him feel bad. And I think the issue with my friend was that he didn't believe I was being open and honest, even though I was.

It's a real miracle when two people do connect and understand one another and should be treasured. A series of events over the course of a year led me to realize that open and honest communication is essential to me. Friendships and relationships won't work for me with someone who is incapable at open communication or who can't handle mine.

I've been struggling with communication lately. When bad things happen in my life, it is easier to keep them to myself and work it out on my own. I've only talked to a few friends since my grandfather passed. I don't know if talking about it could even help this time. I think it's something I have to deal with alone. So there are seasons for sharing and seasons for not, I suppose.

In my family, we're all talkers. I'm a bit of a loudmouth, but around my family, I'm the quiet one. (Those of you who know me well can only imagine how loud this bunch must be!) We're all open, honest communicators, which is good I think. If there's a problem, we talk about it and nip it in the bud. But also, when things are not going well, we talk then too. And we bluntly talk about how much we mean to each other - no one has any trouble expressing love or affection.

This is, perhaps, why I am the way I am. And this is what feels like home to me. I don't know what to do with people like my friend who doubt open communication or with people like the guy I dated who are so sure of their ability to read other people's thoughts. It's confusing to me. Say what you think, say what you feel, and expect the same in return - that's the way I operate.

It is hard to navigate ourselves through the world, always guessing, but never really getting the right answer. I always give people the benefit of the because my ideas of people are flexible. And I always believe what people say to me. That is who I am, who my family is and what my grandfather instilled in us all. The world would be a much simpler, happier place if everyone lived by my grandfather's example.

But it's messy, complicated, dishonest and disappointing. It's hard to know who to trust and hard to figure out anyone's meanings and intentions. It's easy to be led astray. It's easy to get lost. In the end, the only person I can ever truly know is myself. I know I am honest, and if that's the only good thing someone can say about me, I've lived my life right.


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