This six-year-old ‘darkly cute’ instrumental piece on glock, heavily edited tuba and bowed violin, and drum and steam samples accurately represents how I feel this morning (and I composed, arranged, and produced it).
Almost two months ago, after three and a half months of applications and interviews, I finally secured a sustaining job near my new home in Denver, Colorado. At first I had a ‘take what I can get’ mentality about it, as the pay wasn’t quite enough to pay all of my bills, but it turned out to supply me with extremely cheap (and supportive) health insurance, which doesn’t mean that I save loads of money, but that I can pay all of my bills and have a little bit left over at the end of the month. Plus, they almost always have free food there, so I am finding my self spending less money on food. It’s not an ideal situation, and I still have to be frugal, but it is the best paying job with regular hours that I’ve had, with the kindest coworkers that I’ve experienced.
Getting accustomed to a new work environment takes quite a bit of time for me, and brings out the introvert in me like none other. Because of this, though I’ve been assembling my thoughts on a few philosophical and psychological issues and taking notes on them, I’ve barely touched my story writing, haven’t been working on music, and have neglected this blog. In stead I’ve been using my free time to relax and make new friends; with a couple extra days off due to the holiday, I figured I’d try getting back in to one or two of those things this week end.
I talk about communication a lot, but it’s usually concerning conflict prevention and resolution. This week, I’ve had two experiences that have prompted me to write about communication that is satisfying in its own right. The two exchanges that I had involved two different types of explanation for what is usually only expressed through gestures, and so their meaning is typically only implied, and as such is often misunderstood.
In the one case, it was a telling of a desire for sharing affection. We all have these desires, and they are typically pointed toward specific individuals, but it is much more rare that we express them in words, especially to new friends. In some ways, hearing that the other person has a conscious, understood desire to share comforts is even more satisfying than experiencing said desire in action. For some reason, speaking it out loud makes it official, more real. It shows that the desire exists when we are not around, that the affectionate feelings don’t vanish when we are separated from the other person. It is also an expression of a different level of comfort: being able and willing to talk about feelings and desires, some very personal things that can still be hidden even in the embrace of the object of said feelings and desires. It combines a pinch of intellectual intimacy with emotional and/or physical intimacy. It’s a particularly vulnerable position to be in, to be telling a person what you want from/with them. When we just try to let affection quietly flow, we can act as though we don’t want what we don’t get, and save face in the face of disappointment. We might feel vulnerable when our desires are rejected, but it is far more likely to be painful, if the other party knows that they are rejecting our desires- so yes, I understand why people have trouble speaking up about what they want, but I am here to say that it is worth it, that the vulnerability is valuable, and that it is still worth it to continue after the fear is gone.
In the two case, it was a detailed explanation of gratitude for my friendship over the course of years. It is usually pretty clear when a person enjoys our company, but no amount of gestures can really tell us why that person enjoys us and finds us valuable. We can get by on a general sense of validation, but it is much more potent when our individual traits and/or actions are commended. It shows not only interest and care but understanding, understanding of who we are and what we provide. Aside from what is valued, speaking of it can show how much we are valued. In the adult world we can’t measure how important we are to an other person simply by how much time they make for us, because we all can get pretty busy and have conflicting schedules. Casual friendships are typical, regardless of how much time is spent together. The relationships that we experience the most often are the most convenient, not necessarily the strongest. To be able to differentiate, our best bet is to talk about it. Beyond what I’ve covered, it is particularly satisfying to be told how we have inspired others, and it is particularly difficult to know this without being told. A person’s internal growth is a pretty hidden thing, so we typically can have no idea of our influence on the growth of others without them first realizing it and then explaining it to us.
Some people subscribe to the loose philosophy that different people bond and understand interest best in different ways. Whether they are conditioned to respond more strongly to touch or simply have expectations of a greater meaning behind material gifts, I find that being told how one feels in detail is still extremely important. A simple ‘I love you’ routine isn’t what I am talking about here, nor are simple vocalized expressions of commiseration. When a person shows me that they have thought about their relationship to me, that they care enough about it to analyze it and determine consciously that it has value, I feel the fullest security concerning the bond. Additionally, this also shows how the other person thinks about relationships in general, what they value in them, and this helps me understand what there is in that person that I can value.
Now, some people make the argument that gift-giving is a worthy substitute for shared analysis. The idea is that a gift is purchased during a person’s alone time, which shows that the person thinks about the receiver when the receiver is not around. The idea is that gifts have a concrete value, and that the amount of money spent can be used to gauge the level of investment in the relationship. The idea is that we can tell how much a person understands us with a gift, because we have to know a person well in order to choose a fitting gift. It is an interesting concept, but I find it problematic for these reasons: every one has a different level of income; every one requires a different percentage of their income for necessities and life style support; every one values material possessions differently; gift giving as proof of interest is too closely tied to sexist age-old traditions; gift giving is forced to be regulated by (likely fluctuating) financial state before emotional state; the measurement of gift-giving is, in a way, too precise, to the point where it strongly encourages the rise of exchange relationships, which are essentially vehicles for the monetization of care, intimacy, and love (this obviously isn’t a complete argument against prioritizing gift-giving, but the presentation of such would likely warrant its own post).
I would not be surprised, if the reason for the popular (mis)understanding of love being so tied to monogamy is because most people are so poorly equipped to talk about their feelings. Can’t talk about how much you value a person? That’s fine! You can express it with a huge gesture of exclusivity! This might not make the extent to which you value the other person clear, but it surely will make it clear that you value them more than all of the other potential mates! Life is all relative any way. Right?
In sum: tell people that you care, but don’t just tell them that you care; tell them why you care, tell them what you want to share, find ways to describe why you want to share those things. Create a dialogue of intimacy, to build comfort, to build security, to understand your wants and needs, and to bring delight to those that you care about.