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Thursday, May 11, 2000


Recent email snippets:

To: Michelle
From: Simon

(Michelle wrote) What I'm criticizing is a lot more than your response, and yes, I think that if you told me what was bothering you instead of being snappy that we would solve the problems much faster. I know I've asked you what's wrong on more than one occasion (as you've been snappy a lot lately).

It is not always immediately evident to me what I am finding annoying. In this case, it wasn't until I hung up and replayed the conversation in my head that I saw in concrete terms the implications which were subconsciously evident during.

You keep saying "I do express interest" but that's not true in the way I mean. Yes, you do make some decisions about your life based on what you know I want, but that's a very pragmatic and superficial interest.

And in a way that's one of the reasons I don't want to talk to you about things like this topic, because in the process I have to lay out what I would _like_ you to do or be, and this gives you a script which you then have to decide to follow or not, and if you do, then you've just added more things to the script you already follow for me, and it doesn't really change anything (except to ultimately make you bitter) because even if you did everything I ever could explicitly ask of you, the basic conflict would still present itself daily at every novel corner.

I.e., the trouble is not that you don't compensate for whatever desires I may have expressed already, the trouble is you are not naturally compelled to see and listen to my desires, my world, my challenges, or even my triumphs. And don't say "I do, I do", because whenever we converse you talk constantly and rarely listen; you express no interest in listening. Yes, you ask the occasional question, and by now I am loath to try to answer, because when I do you generally respond immediately (before you've had time to even begin to hear or think about what I'm saying) and mostly from your own vantage point (you never seem to be anywhere near where I am), and more often than not only give the topic one or two seconds consideration or verbiage anyway, and then go on talking about something unrelated that concerns your life. I.e., when you do express interest it seems more a token than genuine. (The exception is when I'm talking to you about your life, of course.) Listening is not just about letting the sound in, but about thinking and caring, and more it is about actually exerting effort, real effort, before, during, and after any actual conversing, to understand and work with the other person's perspective. And I don't think you do that with me, except in as much as you wonder about how I see you. (As another example of your lack of concern for the world from my perspective, you don't walk in and see me working and think "gee, he's been working hard all day, I bet he would like a backrub", you think "gee, he's been working hard all day, I wish he would pay more attention to me." Similar analyses apply to many of our interactions.)

Why haven't I lodged these complaints before? Because in doing so I am just providing a script, and I don't want to do that. I don't want you to listen more and take longer to respond because I've requested it -- I want you to listen more and take longer to respond because you actually care about the bigger picture that includes me (and the rest of the world for that matter), because in your mind you are desperately curious to understand, to model it all in your head, to be there, in my shoes, in other people's shoes, to vicariously live not just your own life but everyone's so that you can truly make your decisions wisely, so that you can protect and nurture all those things that might effect you in the future (like me).

When the thing was going on with your parents, I spent a lot of time thinking about _your_ life and _your_ relationship with your parents, completely independently of myself or my life. I asked you a lot of questions about what they were like, how they treated you, what you wanted, what you felt, and I thought about it as if it were my life, thought of all the options, and how they all felt, and how they would all work out in the long run, and I offered my advice from that perspective, for what I believed would work out best for you in the big picture. And in all of this, I thought little about how any of it would effect me, except in the most remote sense that I know I am better off if the people around me who I care about and interact with are better off.

In short, I gave you all of that, all of that mental effort, in my quest to protect and nurture you; and I continue to do that, in little ways all the time; it is my nature, and probably one of the reasons you value me; and at the same time, I think you take it for granted.

Conversely, when you interact with me, it is mostly to put more weight on my shoulders, rarely to share in carrying the load, and when I am feeling burdened to capacity already it is exasperating to interact with someone demanding in this way. (Doing the mail with me is not remotely on the order of magnitude of what I am talking about, incidentally.)

So, I'm just tired. I am trying to make something big work here, that being the next eighty years, and for various reasons (primarily economic, relating to the rising costs of housing etc..) I can't just wait a year or two to make these decisions. Where you could be adding your visions and dreams and insights and ideas, instead you are telling me that I should be setting my dreams, many years in the making, aside so that you can pursue an interest that you only took up a couple of months ago and which may fade just as fast. (And if you are not telling me I should, then you are at least trying to burden me with guilt that I am not.)

If your dreams are truly incompatible with mine, then we should go our separate ways. I do NOT want you moving to Hawaii and resenting me for it. Conversely, I am not going to make a life-long decision based on your goals du jour -- particularly when you're so fickle about both your goals and about our relationship. Yes -- my dreams are about me and "possibly a girlfriend, not necessarily you" because I want to be with someone who shares, and enhances, these dreams, and I don't know if that's you or not.


To: Simon
From: Michelle

(Simon wrote) What is your take on my observations? Do you see where I am coming from, or do you think I'm out in left field?

I agree with your observations... just don't know what to do about it.


Michelle asks me occasionally why I like her. She's rarely happy with my answer, which is always the same: I like her because she is honest with herself. Consider how most people would have responded to my rant -- they would have been defensive, insulted, and would have gone to great lengths, subconsciously, to rationalize rejections to all of my claims, and would have hated me for making them in the first place. I don't know what she will ultimately conclude -- it's possible after more consideration that she will eventually decide I am wrong, perhaps even show me how and why, but at least she stops to consider. And if she decides I am right, then at least she is in the position to decide for herself if that is who she wants to be, which is far better, whether yes or no, than living by default as most people do.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com