Words with Precision
James needs precision. These are his words, and never have they been more accurate than in our ongoing marital “discussions.” Think of car engine performance of BMW or Mercedes – or wheels, guitar strings, music equipment – the value is in reliable, uncompromising response.
Unfortunately, the volatile spoken word is anything but tidy, sequential or flawless in response for one who is spontaneous, circular, a lover of imagery and metaphor. I often jump right into the middle of a story or discussion and commence to mashing about or spiraling out. This works beautifully in drafting a story once we get the hang of it, but not so much in aural tradition, wherein there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Oh dang. My stories never come out that way on the first run!
My husband wants reliability in decision making. Can’t we get rid of the guess work? “Why do you hone words with the precision you do, finding the exact meaning on the page for others—for everyone else and yet with me, you are confusing, and abstract? I can’t pin you down, I don’t know what you want.”
For any man with a logical engineer mind, being married to a disjointed external processor, spiral from the middle, or any damn place, sort of gal is a cross to bear. And mine is a “get it done” guy. How many times have I thought we were still in the idea stage and he thinks we have decided and has already progressed to the action phase. We didn’t decide! And we jockey back and forth. Or, I think we have come to a solid conclusion and he’s still deliberating necessary details… for days. We still don’t have a plan for painting, or travel, or the wedding, or… The final decision just sort of hangs out there and because he is a precision planner, the pointer is aimed squarely at me for the lack of a plan.
“I didn’t say that,” comes his frustrated retort while we’re arguing and I’m trying to carefully repeat back to him what I am hearing, trying to understand. “Why do you change the meanings of what I say?” he asks. Active listening is the fancy term therapists use for this car crash session for concrete thinkers. “What I hear you saying…” I gently say.
“NO.” He repeats his original phrase again verbatim, thinking that with repetition, his meaning will finally become clear.
Hmm. In the journaling of this, I discover James nailed something down in his request for precision… I don’t know exactly what, or if I can deliver, but I’ll sit with this, spin it around, and mull it over. I’ll write to find the words I want. I need the time to process without criticism, a luxury not afforded in real time dialog. I don’t have control over what the other is hearing or thinking or how he will interpret.
Though I am given more time and space on the page than in spoken conversation to choose carefully, edit and revise, I eventually have to relinquish and lose control of what I originally intended. What I release to you in print is no longer mine; it is now yours. Hopefully ours.
My only saving grace is that I can write about it and bring order, test for truth, bring insight or meaning…and maybe bend the outcome just every so slightly in my favor.