nosswhispers had told me at Solstice that as our romantic relationship ended the first time in 2009, ze was feeling that ze was giving tons to me in openness and I wasn't giving anything back. I had felt that I was giving tons in listening and not getting any questions back. In looking at that I realized that I hadn't been initiating much sharing, and while I still want questions, I also want to be better at sharing without getting confirmation of interest first. Then Ashe and justben both emailed me to work out the endings of those relationships in 2010, and working through those things made me realize more about how unskilled I was at in-person openness.
From a letter to Ashe: "in writing I was good at [openness]! I not only didn't know HOW to be open in-person without prompting, I didn't know I wasn't already doing it. No one had ever told me, no one had ever requested more openness from me. I'd never been in-person friends with someone who didn't 1) share very reluctantly or 2) just want to be heard. I just didn't have the skills, the extra energy to experiment, or even the knowledge that it would be better if I tried to share unprompted. In all of my life up to that point, no one I saw on a daily or weekly basis had EVER said, "I want you to share all the things inside you." Instead people had tuned out or had no response or a really shallow one that showed they weren't really listening, or had wanted me to share more but had not expressed that. I had no way of knowing that you wanted me to share with you. I know it probably seems like I should have. Part of it is that when I share in person, there are lots of pauses and stares into middle distance and wait-back-ups and I feel frustrated with it so I imagine that the other person will too (due to the previous seeming lack of interest). In writing nobody has to deal with that and something about the act of typing helps me to focus so that I don't get stuck on words as much. I feel the quality and accuracy of my sharing is a lot better in words I have typed, which is why I feel that people don't really know me if they don't read my journal... I didn't realize how important it was to me to 1) write and 2) have people share with me through writing. It's a kind of intimacy I need because it's the only kind of sharing that doesn't get trapped in my ADD and end up draining as much as it nourishes."
So I've been realizing that while I might be skilled at openness through writing, I am not skilled at it in person (I'm great at listening and encouraging others to express but poor at sharing unprompted). I can tell that this is still true because it feels naked when I do it, even with Topaz. But a key difference is now I have people who I know without any doubt that they are interested in what I have to share, because they have told me so. That is what intimacy practice has given me: confidence that my openness is valued. It's only a matter of learning the practice of actually volunteering the information.
I also realized that I used to have a very bad response to passive-aggressive behavior OR what I perceived as passive-aggressive behavior. If someone acted that way towards me once, I got defensive and started looking for more manipulative tactics in their behavior, put up walls and made assumptions. After being with Kylei and Topaz and having a habit of asking questions about everything, I no longer do that, but I'm pretty disturbed/grossed out/repulsed that it used to be normal for me. Nowadays I can just be like "hey, did you mean this thing when you said that thing?" and the answer is almost always no, I was misreading it.
It's very strange to me to be looking back four or five years and see that I wasn't very good at communication. It's been described as my super-power by more than one person in the past 3 years. I think it's due in equal parts to Kylei and Topaz. Kylei and I had conflicts (both calm and wild) so much we practiced communication for upwards of 1300 hours while we were together, no idea what the actual number was but it was a fuckton, so I got SKILLZ, especially at stripping things to their core issue. Topaz and I don't have many conflicts but I feel safe to share with zir because ze makes me feel heard and because I can talk to zir about stuff that's bugging me without it needing to be a painful discussion; I'm learning openness in person. I'm super grateful for these people helping me learn, and determined to get better at easy in-person/real-time openness. I've made it a goal to share at least one unprompted thing with a person other than Topaz (in addition to Topaz) every day.