My fingers do the talkingPosted: September 7, 2011
I don’t know what I think or feel until I write it down. I hate awkward conversations and confrontation – avoid them like the plague, in fact – and instead write things down, sending (really long, incredibly over-thought and emotionally dense) emails or letters.
I write for a living and I don’t know what came first – has my career choice rendered me incapable of any other means of communication, or am I writer because I am so very rubbish at talking?
There are good and bad things about being a writer rather than a talker. On the plus side, you can make sure the point you want to make is clear and unambiguous, and expressed in a non-confrontational, rational way. You can take your time over what you want to say, think about what you really mean.
The downside is that your words are there in black and white forever. Discussions are nebulous. There’s room for shades of grey. If it seems like it’s about to crash perilously into a ditch, you can gently steer a conversation back on to safer ground. Not so an email. If it starts as a car crash, it will end as a car crash.
And during a conversation, you can take cues from the other person. See how they’re responding, get as many non-verbal cues about their feelings as verbal ones. You send an email, it disappears and the recipient could be boilingly angry or pissing themselves laughing and you just don’t know. Their measured, controlled response gives no clues.
I have only had one significant conversation with The Pirate. Over the telephone. It followed a couple of incredibly, tediously, painfully long and angsty emails from me that only needed to contain 4 words, really: What are we doing? He managed to avoid answering the question for some time. Impressively evasive, my Pirate.
But late one night, I asked him over the telephone. Told him he couldn’t avoid it forever. What ARE we doing?
His reply was refreshingly honest. He didn’t know. He didn’t expect ‘us’ – whatever we are – to get as far as we have. Didn’t expect to feel the way he does. (How? How? HOW DO YOU FEEL???!!!) And he doesn’t know whether he wants a relationship with me. I have responsibilities (read: a son) and he wants to sail the world’s oceans with the love of his life, while he’s still young enough to. That’s his dream, his life’s ambition. And while The Boy is so young, I can’t do that. (I didn’t dare tell him I wouldn’t want to even if I was without child. I am petrified of deep water…). And if he sacrifices that dream to settle down with me, he doesn’t know that he won’t regret it one day, and resent me.
So he was avoiding answering my question. Thought a bit more time might help him sort out how he feels about me and what he really wants from life.
That was about 2 months ago. Do you think that’s enough time? Anyone?! Anyone think that 8 weeks is long enough to know whether you’re into someone enough to think about building new dreams, together?
Sigh. It’s not that long really, is it? And I am not covering myself in longterm-girlfriend-dream-sacrificing glory. All I am demonstrating is that relationships are hard work and I am perfectly mad.
I did point out that he could have both. A long-term relationship and a trip around the world – solo. But he doesn’t want a solo trip while in a relationship. He wants to fuck his way around the world – ideally fucking one girl in different ports, but different girls in different ports would also do. He doesn’t want to feel tied down when the point is the freedom of it all. And I really do get that.
But it leaves us in a somewhat tricky place. And there are questions that I daren’t ask. Like: what if you can’t ever afford to sail around the world? What if you never get into that financial position again? And: your knees and back and hip are totally fucked. Sailing around the world would actually kill you. And: you’re 38 and you’ve not done it yet. Do you really, honestly think you ever will? And: is one year of freedom really worth a lifetime of loneliness? (OK, the last one is spurious. But he freely admits he is lonely…)
We’ve not had an emotionally honest conversation since. We’ve exchanged some pretty raw emails, but so, so much goes unspoken. And I really wish I could say it. I really wish my mouth could make the right shapes, that I could say difficult things without crying or getting angry, that I could be as eloquent in person as I can be on paper.
Writing this blog is helping me sort out how I feel in so many ways. But that’s as far as it can go. I need to talk to him. I know we CAN talk. I know that, when we get started, it’s not too bad. But my mouth just won’t say the words. I practice them in my head, but they sound whiney or aggressive or confrontational or needy.