Sometimes I wonder if people can tell that I am not listening to them. This has always been a downfall of mine, but lately, I have noticed that I am not even aware that I am doing it until they’re done speaking. I usually nod in and out of the conversation, fully aware that I am daydreaming about other things, but I found myself zoning out just to think about nothing. The typical setting for a zone out would be a work meeting or a conversation involving multiple people, there is no harm really if I am not listening or participating, because its highly likely that there is someone else paying attention. Last week, I found myself staring blankly at a wall while my friend talked to me about coffee. I knew he was speaking directly to me, we were the only two people there, but all I was concentrating on was an empty spot on the wall behind him hoping he’d stop talking soon. I couldn’t keep my brain focused on what he wanted to say. I do it while people are venting to me, sometimes the things that people let ruin their day are so insignificant to me that I can’t actually hear what they’re saying. They can vent and complain and want me to empathize and I can’t do it, mostly because I don’t always agree, but also because I probably missed a few key points in their rant. My husband often comes home from work and dump a days worth or work complain on me daily, but the problem with this is often he complains about the same thing, there is only so much I can add every night to comfort him so I occasionally just stare at him until his lips stop moving.
I get it, this is fucked up. Everyone read those last few sentences and thought to themselves Wow, what a bitch. For the most part I am comfortable with that, because there will be a handful of people who will read that and understand completely what I am talking about, and those are my people. I would like to clarify that I understand that venting, complaining, decompressing at the end of the night, etc., is not about me. I know that my coworkers, friends and even my husband who are upset are not venting specifically to me because they need my wisdom and knowledge to fix their problems. They are venting, because that is how people cope. They need to let it all out so that they can feel better and move on. I suppose that is what the phrase “taking a load off” refers to. Sometimes all they need is for someone to say, “Yeah, I understand,” back to them, even if maybe they don’t understand. This allows people to build up, let out, move on and be happy/content or whatever. Human connection is crucial, I guess being a good listener or having someone to go to is a part of that. Personally, I don’t think I have ever craved that. There is something off in my wiring.
Despite what I am actually saying, I don’t mind that people see me as someone they can open up to. A majority of the time, I do empathize well and I am good at listening. I struggle when it’s repetitive. I don’t care that you had the same issue performing a task a work, I don’t care that you are having the same fight with one of your friends that I personally feel like you caused, and I don’t care that you are miserable at your second job, nobody has forced you to be there. The problem with listening and empathizing is that you become the person who has a lot of friends that you have to say shit like “I am sorry, I know you are going through a lot right now,” to, and I hate that so much. I feel like my life and the circle of people I’ve surrounded myself with are just a lot of people who have one thing after the other happening to them.
I am being critical, however, very critical. I know that having friends means you have someone there to lean on and confide in and turn to when things are going wrong. But I have never been one to open up like that, my whole life. I am not hard, but I was never a crier growing up, I never needed to lean on my parents for strong emotional support or guidance, I had a few close friends with whom I had a great time with and shared everything with, I never had boyfriends in high school, because what was the point? I didn’t have drama in my life. End of story. My cool girl mind set has left me stubborn and closed off, which is probably why I think everyone’s problems don’t matter. I don’t like to bother people with my problems. If I am struggling I silently suffer for a while until I explode or break down and then I move on. I don’t let people in or let my guard down (perhaps the same thing?), I don’t try to connect with anyone or make plans. I overthink it, what if the plans I make are boring? What if they will think my problems are stupid? What if my ideas get shot down? What if my husband doesn’t want to do the things I find interesting? I just sit around and wait for things to happen for me so I never have to feel embarrassed or shot down, and if they don’t happen, then, whatever.
The hurry up and wait isn’t working anymore. Let’s circle back to tuning the people I care about out. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I don’t want to be stubborn, or cold, or semi-present. I want to be fully present. That being said I would like to learn how to thoughtfully let people know that it is draining for me to listen to their habitual complaints, is that possible? I want to be there, but not all of the time for the same thing, is that a thing? That might sound like I want to filter what my friends talk to me about, but all I mean is that if I am listening to the same thing for a week straight I should learn to let them know that what they’re harping on isn’t healthy. I want to learn how to take my guard down and let other people in and share how I feel. I’d like the learn how to vent and communicate in a healthy way, so that I am not bottled up and closed off. Ultimately, I want to have good intentions with my relationships, I want to be more emotionally open and available and honest with the people I consider my close friends. I am not doing myself any favors by tuning out and not being present.
Where do I even start? How?