Yesterday morning, I was planning to hang out with a friend. I was in San Francisco, close to where she lives, and we were going to grab a cup of tea or light bite together before I began my drive back home to LA.
Our last text exchange had left the details of our get-together up in the air – we would check-in in the morning and decide when and where to meet up.
Around 9 am, I texted her with a “Well, I seem to be up. Good Morning!” and she responded back “Hi!”. So, I called her.
After our good mornings, and a ‘from what I see on FB, it looks like you had a fun night last night’ conversation, she told me that she was going for a trail run. She was taking advantage of the beautiful weather before the rest of her day. She felt scared to tell me, but since we hadn’t confirmed our plans together, she had made other ones.
I squeaked out an “Ok. That’s great. I totally understand. Enjoy your run in the sunshine.”
And then, after we hung-up, I burst into tears.
I scrolled back up our texts and saw that, in fact, her last message had said “…let’s play getting together by ear then…” not what I had understood it to say, which was “We’re getting together but let’s play the details by ear.” A subtle, but big difference.
A flurry of thoughts swirled in my head.
I wasn’t really that sad about not seeing her. I was more sad and angry about about the missed connection, the potential that had been squandered by such a silly little thing as misinterpreting her text. And the fact that I hadn’t followed my repeated impulses to check-in with her the day before.
And, well ok, maybe I really did want to see her.
But, I had the distinct impression that my tears were in response to something deeper than all this – The fact that I had not clearly requested what I wanted.
This relatively inconsequential-in-the-big-scheme-of-things-exchange reminded me of the many other places and times in my life that I am not clear and direct about what I want.
I texted her saying that I had misinterpreted our previous exchange, and that if I had understood correctly, I totally would have been wiling to nail down a time and a place to meet her.
She responded that she appreciated me checking-back in with her and letting her know. And, that part of the reason she made other plans was that I had cancelled on her the last time we were supposed to get together.
I knew exactly which event she was referring to – and my exact thought was “Whaaaaat??!” Because I remember thinking at the time that we weren’t getting together because she didn’t want to! But sure enough, as I re-read that text exchange I saw that while I had not explicitly mis-read her words that time, I had not made a clear request either. And there was definitely room for both our interpretations of the situation.
Now I want to admit that at this point, I was tempted to explain what had really happened, defend my reputation, and point out that I had, in fact, felt slighted way back when. But luckily, I’ve been down that road enough times know to that it doesn’t really go anywhere.
So I took a breath, and chose to return my attention to myself.
First, I decided that this was a friendly reminder that texting is not the optimal form of communication for more than the most simplistic of logistical conversations.
And second, I got that yes, there are things that don’t go my way in life, for who knows what reasons, but when I don’t communicate my requests clearly, I’m seriously hindering my odds (whatever they are) of getting what I actually want.
By the end of our conversation a few minutes later, I was appreciating her and the connection we had created, even though we didn’t end up seeing each other.
On my drive home, other places in my life where I had not been making clear requests came to my attention.
Some were gaping holes, like secret desires that I was hoarding in the recesses of my brain hoping that someday, someone would figure them out.
Others were more fuzzy because I’d started out thinking I knew what I wanted but when I came time to actually making the decision, I didn’t feel so sure. (Like earlier that morning, when Jihad had asked me to confirm if I wanted him to cancel a trip we have scheduled, and when asked why he seemed frustrated – he said that I had talked for 30 minutes straight without actually answering his question.)
And still others, were places where I was clear on what I wanted but just had not been direct in my communication.
Most were easily resolved by a few clarifying phone calls.
All this, and the fact that I made it home in time to meet up with some other dear friends who asked me over to their place just as I was entering LA county, made me decide that all those morning tears had actually been the perfect start to my day.
So my suggestion for you, is the next time you are not getting what you want or things don’t seem to be going quite your way. Take a minute to check-in and ask yourself if there is a clear and direct request (or statement) that you have not made. And, then make it.
And, then wait and see if any others pop up, and make those.
You’ll know you are on the right track if you feel more energized and alive as you go.