I remember watching Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad as a kid. And by kid, I mean teenager. (I sure loved those Lawrence brothers.) Or maybe it was another one of those Power Ranger-type shows. Anyway, there was one episode that has stayed with me all these years after having watched it. In the episode, one of the villains had planted a virus in the main characters’ (the heroes and heroines) phone lines. Whatever messages were spoken aloud were then changed by the virus. So whenever the heroes and heroines called and talked to each other on the phone, they weren’t hearing what was actually said. The manipulated messages were meant to cause discord within the group. And it worked. The characters felt so misunderstood. You could see their frustrations and feelings of helplessness when the other character was not hearing what they were actually saying. If I’m being honest, I have wondered if I have this virus in me.
Communication is not my strong suit. I try to listen to others and I try to be listened to. Active listening is a skill I’m working on. I try to “read the room” and be aware. Even with effort to understand others, I may still jump to conclusions and misunderstand their words, meanings or motives.
I often feel misunderstood. When I feel misunderstood, and I try to explain myself further, sometimes it only makes things worse. And then I feel trapped. A damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. I feel like that virus from the tv show is actually in my body, and it rears its nasty head and distorts my words and meanings and intentions. (I wrote a blog post about intentions HERE.)
Sometimes when I’m misunderstood, I feel so trapped, and no matter what I do or say, I can’t change what people think, but I can change what and how I think. And what I feel. If I’m questioning things in a healthy way and find my answers, then that’s what I need to focus on. Obviously way easier said than done.
I have some stories to share about feeling misunderstood. I know, I know. When do I not have stories to share?
Costco is usually busy no matter when you go, but dinner time is usually quite busy. So there I was recently, with three hungry and irritable kids, making a return, wondering why in the world we were at Costco at that time of day. I saw a restaurant business owner that I know. When he asked how I was doing, I responded with, “Good! But what the heck am I doing here at dinner time?” Meaning, it’s too busy and we are hungry. He seemed a bit taken aback and quickly responded that he was at Costco because he was waiting for his son to finish an extracurricular activity. He misunderstood me. He thought I was asking him why the heck he’s at Costco at dinner time (and not at his restaurant). I tried to explain what I actually said. I don’t know if he heard, or if he just thought I was an entitled jerk questioning his dedication to the restaurant. For the record, I would never question that. Business owners are unsung heroes.
We all have our own past and present experiences that shape us. Those experiences affect what information we process.That restaurant owner may have had some ignorant comments made to him before. Or maybe he felt guilty for leaving the restaurant. Or maybe it’s for some other reason. Our own past experiences and tendencies influence what we see and hear.
The F word has plagued me for decades. Flirty. Being labelled as flirtatious has always made me feel misunderstood. In high school, our graduating class took a survey and voted on different categories. I was voted by our student body as Biggest Flirt. It was kind of funny, but kind of not. Okay, yes, I have flirted. Haven’t we all? I’d like to trade the one F word for another. I have always been friendly. Let’s say fearlessly friendly. I love people and love to hear their stories. I’m typically unafraid to initiate conversations or give people compliments. I do this with males and females, young and old. My friendly tendencies do not discriminate.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, flirtatious is defined as, “behaving as if you are sexually attracted to someone, especially not in a serious way.” Okay, 75 year old lady that I told smelled good at Costco, I am not sexually attracted to you. I just really enjoyed your fragrance of choice. As for you, 17 year old young man at church? I gave you a compliment on your singing voice and told you that you sounded like Roger Whittaker. Also not sexually attracted to you. And to all my first cousins at a family reunion? Sure, I sang a karaoke duet with one of you to the Phantom of the Opera’s song Music of the Night. Did we sing with commitment and intensity? Yes. Totally nailed it! But, it does not mean I want to be kissing cousins. Friendly and outgoing. Yes. Raging flirt who is sexually attracted to everyone I speak with? No. I have felt misunderstood by this all. Or M!Ssundaztood, as my friend P!NK would say. (Don’t get the reference? Give it a Google.)
With all that being said, I can see how sometimes I’m seen as flirty. I often say too much. I struggle with awkward silences and feel this compulsion to fill the dead space. I can get awkward and wordy and maybe say some odd things. I can see how I’m deemed as flirty. I get it. I also can see that if my husband was as chatty as me, I’d probably have some concerns. (It would be truly out of character for him to be like this, though. For me? I think I came out of the womb like this.) It is not my intention to flirt. Keegan has teased me about flirting with different trades workers who come to the house to do work. My daughter Evelyn has overheard these conversations. More like overheard and mimicked.I have two stories about her calling me out.
One of my dearest friends and I would often take my kids to our favourite family restaurant. And we’d often end up having our favourite server wait on us. Let’s refer to him as Josh. (He happens to be in a relationship with a man. This matters, just you wait.) He is hilarious, sassy and quick witted. We laugh a lot when he comes to our table. Seriously, I have a hoot with him! Josh and I were laughing about something, and Evelyn said, “Mom, are you and dad breaking up so you can marry Josh?” As quick witted as he is, Josh said, “Yep, I’m your stepdad now! And you’re grounded.” More laughter! Anyone who knows Evelyn knows she has a great sense of humour. She was just teasing, the clever girl, but I still felt a tad triggered by it.
Just as a reminder, I’m not that comfortable with silence. I’m trying to be, but I’m a work in progress. We had a particular FedEx delivery worker who consistently delivered to our house. He was on the quiet side and it always made me a titch uncomfortable. So what did I do? Yack away. The song with lyrics Yakety yak (Don’t talk back) is beyond true. I wouldn’t give him a moment to comment on anything. I filled in all the silence. Just call me Yacky Fleming.
One day, when our FedEx guy rang the doorbell, Evelyn opened the door and left it wide open. She proceeded to yell very loudly, “Mom, the guy you always FLIRT with is here!” I almost died! Awko Taco! Needless to say, I didn’t go to the door! I was mortified! And it totally made me think of Billy Madison when his kindergarten teacher embarrassed him. “Thank you very much Miss Lippy!” Reminder to everyone: friendly should not be synonymous with flirty!!! Also, oddly enough, FedEx no longer delivers to us. The new company doesn’t knock and wait for us to answer the door. The drivers ring the doorbell, leave the package and promptly leave. Do I have a reputation in the delivery world? Hmmm.
Growing up, we weren’t allowed to say fart. We had to say toot or fluff. So you can surmise that swearing was a big no-no. My brother, who was 5 years older than me, was bugging me relentlessly. I was so frustrated and felt cornered so I yelled, “YOU’RE SUCH A BUGGER!” Bugger, as in, a person in the act of bugging me. I didn’t mean it as a swear. I got in so much trouble. We weren’t a spanking family, but I’m pretty sure I got spanked. I was probably 10 or 11, so it was extra traumatic. I tried to explain what my intentions were, but they fell on deaf ears. I felt SO misunderstood. It was a very helpless feeling.
I have countless more examples involving varying degrees of misunderstandings. I try to be reflective and have a healthy balance to make changes where needed. At the end of the day, I tend to be pretty hard on myself and I’m trying to overcome it, but it’s a challenge for me. I have high expectations of myself and I think that naturally transfers into having high expectations of others too. That can be a good thing, but there needs to be a balance. It is easy to get frustrated or put out with others. I wrote about expectations HERE.
I remember being given a really neat challenge. It was one where I was encouraged to pray to Heavenly Father so I could see other people through His eyes. I was also encouraged to pray to see myself through His eyes. I accepted the challenge then and have continued this practice when I remember to. Anyway, I have prayed many times for this to happen. Guess what? It works! Heavenly Father’s love is unconditional, real and right. Praying for this has helped me see myself and others through His eyes, and I was indeed filled with love, understanding, and grace. I have a testimony of it, but I still often forget to pray for that Divine Sight. (Hi, my name is Jacquie and I’m a sloooooow learner.)
Feeling misunderstood can be uncomfortable or hurtful, but there’s good news! We can combat it with being slower to jump to conclusions. We can try to really hear what people are saying and ask them to clarify if we are missing something. We can try and work on our communication skills. And we can definitely pray. Pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to understand and hearts to feel. That we can have the Divine Sight to see truly see ourselves and others the way God sees us. Wouldn’t that solve so many problems?
I’ll end with this. Writing these blog posts has been therapeutic for me. Writing helps me organize my thoughts and helps me come full circle. It helps me make connections and encourages me to use my personal experiences as a tool to see patterns in myself. (Why don’t I write more consistently? It makes me come alive!) I truly hope you can gain something from my musings, too. I feel honoured that you’ve read any of my writing. Thank you, my friends, near and far. Friends that I’ve met or just haven’t met…yet! God bless you.