So, Dave picked me up last night after a nonviolent communication (nvc) workshop and I was very excited about all that I had experienced. I bubbled away about it while groping in my backpack for my new phone. Ah – someone’s tried to call me, not sure about the number; I’ll call back just in case it’s one of my sisters.
The phone rang and a familiar voice answered… Well hello, finally. Do you know how many times I’ve rung you over the past three weeks! I’ve left five messages! And I ring all your mobiles and just get that bloody ding-dong.
R: Ah, hello Jane.
J: What about that nephew of mine, where is he? I ring and ring him and just get that noise and he doesn’t ring back. I get worried, you know. What if something happens to me? Would you even know if I got sick?
R: Ah… (I’m panicking and scrabbling for nvc ways to deal with this, but I want to escape, not connect.) That sounds… painful.
J: Yes. How do you think I feel?
An awkward silence. I’m trying to think of her needs and desperately avoiding apologising or making futile promises.
J: Yes. Well. So how are you?
We chat for a bit, she thaws out, it’s pleasant. Through the conversation, I weave a reminder that we have long commutes and are working long hours, hoping she will please get the hint that we just don’t have the time or the inclination for weekly four phone conversations. After 25 minutes she asked to speak to Dave, but he was still driving. The conversation ended and I assured her that I would remind Dave to give her a call, thus voiding a promise I made to Dave a few months ago to please stop reminding him to bloody call his bloody aunt. I pushed the little red button and said I can’t figure out how to turn this phone off! I’m worried that I’ll bump it and text my boss or set an alarm for 2am or something! Then, So that was your aunty (stating the obvious, he would have heard every work she said). She said she worried when we don’t call her back – I was about to say don’t worry about us, and she said she was worried about herself! Oh well I can’t blame her she’s probably feeling lonely and vulnerable and is needing some connection. (Lame attempt at nvc, I am just feeling relieved that the call is over).
D: I wouldn’t mind ringing her if every time I pick up the phone I didn’t hear (voice change to the wicked witch from Oz with a broad Australian accent) ‘Well hello! Again. I’ve rung five times and left five messages. I haven’t heard from you in months!’
I laughed and he continued mimicking her for a bit and then we heard her voice: I can hear every word you’re saying and it’s not very nice!
D: Shit – hang up!
R: Sorry Jane! (embarrassed laughter) and turns off phone.
To be honest, I’m at least a little glad that she heard what no one is ever game to say directly to her. But I’m mainly ashamed that I didn’t say it to her face and embarrassed because I don’t like to think of myself as someone who talks behind others’ backs — but there it is — I am that person. Clearly! And I’m thinking of the ‘top ten things I’d love to say to her face,’ but that’s just me trying to justify what happened to myself. And making a bigger enemy of her in my mind. Augh – she’s not even MY aunt!
I think this is one of those situations where I need to attend to my own needs before I can consider hers… I am needing… choice, freedom, spontaneity. I would love to be able to call Jane when I have something to share with her, or when I just feel the need to connect. That sounds so delicious! I’m feeling more relaxed now, just imagining that possibility.
And Jane’s needs… mmm, I’m guessing care, connection, closeness. All beautiful needs that I share with Jane.
I’m feeling better, not relating to either Jane or I as being a ‘monster.’ But I’m still not willing to participate in those l-o-n-g phone conversations. Nor am I willing to persuade, manipulate or otherwise force Dave or our daughters to do so. I can’t yet see any solution for this problem. I think I may have to put on my ‘big girl undies’ and talk to Jane and just try to connect and open up a space where we can work it out together.
Wish me courage and luck!