A Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Integrity

There’s a lot of times I try and convey a message that changes form 8 times, leading to a 5-page essay that’s easy to get lost in and, ultimately, closing with a neatly wrapped, sometimes unrelated but clever conclusion with a bow on it. The reality is that I not only learned profound life lessons after several smaller ones fit together, making it hard to abridge; but then, that lesson continues to evolve the more I let my awareness flow freely, becoming more mindful. It’s a bunch of puzzle pieces that eventually fit together once I’m able to receive the transmission of them. Honestly, I learn a lot of lessons as I’m typing shit. My mind runs at a speed that is impossible for my brain to decode in any type of effective manner which is also why I meditate. Beyond that, the universe teaches me the rest as I stay present and aware. The problem is that sometimes I don’t until I am reminded, sometimes brutally, that I’m fucking up.

I learned one of these lessons this week; the hard truth about my level of selfishness and how primitive my perception of it was. It’s easy to hide behind a bunch of guys I help, giving my time and whatever service I provide…even my writing could be considered as help. That is, until usefulness morphs into selfishness from the neglect of the commitments I have to others and a moral and emotional obligations I have to fulfill. My perception of usefulness loses its moderation sometimes and transforms from helpful to compulsive selfishness.

For context, allow me to elaborate.

“Initially I didn’t think too much of it and shrugged off any though of you being self-absorbed as excitement over your new project, but then it lasted all week and today sucked too,” she said.

This seemed like a hostile response to a meaningless accident. I misread a text.

I thought “Liz” was going to text me when she was done with her hike and ready to hang out. By 6PM, it seemed like an unreasonably long hike, 12 hours. I began to worry that she had been eaten by a bear or some shit; but was quickly reassured, recalling that her version of hikes consists of slight uphill inclines at a below brisk pace…usually on pavement. Breathing a sigh of relief, I reread the previous night’s text message to discover, to my dismay, that I had initially misread it; requesting that I let her when I was done with my little project. Without delay, I sent her a message apologizing for the mix-up and inserted a little humor, making light of my lapse, to diffuse, what I thought was, a minor communication error.

I was incorrect. It was, apparently, a bigger mistake than I had perceived.

But she was really sweet about it, sending me a reply that resembled, “Go fuck yourself.” Seems excessive, but ok, I deserve it…I guess. Optimistically, I made another attempt at redemption, also ill received. I persistently attempted to make it right a few times, priding myself for the amount of patience I was displaying along with the relentlessness of my efforts. Finally, she suggested we not discuss it over text message and in person; to which I declined, maturely a reply, encouraging resolution…now!

This is how you turn a mistake to colossal fuck up.

In summary, she went on to elaborate that I, basically, hadn’t communicated with her in a week unless she had initiated it; that I blew her off another day earlier in the week and the cherry on top was the misreading of her text message…giving consistency to a pattern of unreliability. I’m sure if you ask her, there’s a laundry list of other shit, probably accurate, that she could add. I assured her it was my fault, again…and then said that I, “wished her communication skills were a little better,” arguing that she was a little harder to read than the average person (truth), and that I’m not a mind reader. Basically saying, “I’m sorry, but…”

This is how you turn colossal fuck up into a thermonuclear meltdown.

I don’t know how to appropriately transcribe the response, but if her initial response was something like, “go fuck yourself,” you can use your imagination to deductively conclude how that went. My buddy, Mike of course, was sitting at dinner with me reading it over my shoulder and offered some words of wisdom, “Don’t do it man…don’t do it!” As if attempting to save my life again. Actually, I mistakenly thought he would co-sign my impulse reaction. He knew that this is the part where my pride was going to get the best of me; where I call in an airstrike and carpet bomb her character without effectively accounting for the potential casualties or consequences, blinded by anger. But, I listened to him, pausing for a few hours prior to responding. It irritated me for a while…the whole time actually. I mean, it really bothered me, especially the “self-absorbed” comment.

The truth is she was right and that’s why it bothered me.

I had been self-absorbed, no question about it. There was evidence to support this, so she had every right to be angry about it. Like, I was so self-absorbed that I couldn’t even recall the other mistakes I had made and been completely unaware of. I was so caught up in what I was doing that I forgot about everything else around me.

I had completely lost my awareness and let my self-absorption take over and drive the defect it loves most; compulsivity. This was followed by my second favorite, manipulation, by attempting to divert the attention from my shortcoming to her communication skills because my pride was being hurt.

Intelligently, she didn’t fall for it and I accepted responsibility; but then it got clearer the next couple days as I became more aware of a pattern. She was right and then, righter.

Bam! Puzzle piece number 1. Admission

Fortunately, I can accept responsibility in a, somewhat, open-minded manner, even if it’s not immediate. I’d be so fucked if I couldn’t. That’s like, the bare minimum level of awareness needed to evoke a productive consciousness for me, luckily.

I knew it, she was right. I saw it manifest again the next day when I went to visit my friend of mine who’s in jail. After a “long” walk to Theo Lacey from the parking structure that seemed “forever” away, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to bring my wallet in.

My immediate thought was that this was a fucking joke followed by an impulse to leave that got co-signed and justified with a rationalization in 2 seconds as I returned to my car. I paused, appalled by the level of selfishness I almost displayed…on autopilot.

My friend, who I love very much, is in fucking jail and waits all week just so he can talk to me for 20 minutes to give him some hope to get him through the next week with a purpose, and we get to do it again. Here I am, leaving because I’m inconvenienced walking a block to my car and back? Wow!

Bam! Puzzle piece number 2. Recognition.

Let me assure you, that kind of thinking is abnormal for me and beyond the realm of excusable behavior that I’ll tolerate from myself…if it’s kept in check. As I walked back, although I knew she was right already and internally accepted this, I hadn’t comprehended the severity.

Once I became aware of the shortcoming I was able to receive that transmission from the universe, recognizing it in an alternate situation and measure its severity. I had a choice and chose to counteract it, effectively taking a step to change it by not allowing it to remain in semi-autopilot. If I let it continue, it would get worse.

I really enjoyed explaining this type of “puzzle piece” process.

She had a deeply concerned expression on her face, not unlike the one expressed when I share an unfortunate war story with her. She’s normal and doesn’t really think that shit’s funny…just horrifying.

Every time I have one of these, “epiphanies,” I feel like it’s some basic fucking human instinct that I didn’t get programmed with when I see others’ reactions to it, staring at me like there’s a few screws missing, and they got lost at birth. So, I went back to see my friend the next day too.

I need him more than he needs me. True statement, and he’s in jail.

This time I went back to visit him with my friend, Sean. We talked a little shop on the way up there; reviewing each other’s lives and how good we have it. As we’re chatting back and forth, the story about the “Liz” came up followed by an explanation of my fault, the prompt awareness to recognize it, and it’s magnification the next day.

Sean replied with a statement that had absolutely nothing to do with my story, and everything to do with him. Although off topic, it had the most profound impact on me. “Yeah, selfishness in relationships is a tough one. Being selfish with your feelings is the one thing…”

Bam! Puzzle piece number 3. Enlightenment.

There was a whole side to selfishness I hadn’t comprehended yet. Sure, I had been self-absorbed but that was simply old behavior, fixed when pride didn’t interfere with the recalibration of my awareness. Selfishness with my feelings was a new concept to me. How could you be selfish with your feelings if they’re yours? Well, because they’re intended for someone that deserves them, not for you to selfishly keep for yourself.

Then it hit me: My self-absorption is not what hurt “Liz,” it was the selfishness in the neglect of her feelings and the pride that wouldn’t let me honestly convey mine.

The truth is no one wants to get hurt, so calculating emotional investment based on a measurement of potential risk and pain, instead of from a place of honesty and truth, seems like a safe play. 

The problem was the dishonest way in which I suppressed my feelings towards her out of selfishness. They aren’t meant to be kept to yourself out of fear or pride, they are meant to be given freely to the person they’re intended for. My mistake was an incorrect perception I had of honesty in relationships, being governed differently than anything else that honesty applied to. However, my failure was interpreting the words she verbalized as feelings and therefore misinterpreted her actions towards me as insignificant. Self-absorption was a statement used to describe an action I engaged in that made her mad; selfishness was the unspoken word to describe how it made her feel.

Let’s review what really happened in some kind of logical order that will make sense. Stay with me…this blew my mind. It enlightened me.

While I saw it as casual and her overreaction to a misread text, she felt a lack of appreciation for her time, and disrespected. While I saw her, albeit valid, identification of my self-absorption by not communicating with her, she felt the sting of my selfishness in her perceived insignificance to me and how I prioritized our “time” together as familiar to past experiences being treated inferiorly.

While I saw her battering my character in an excessive manner, she had felt stupid for making decisions from the heart when it had worked out poorly in the past, leaving her insecure and wanting reassurance. While I saw her as being irrational to require that I read her mind because of her inability to communicate her feelings or be invulnerable, she felt the sting of my disregard for the hints I had failed to attach significance to and the pain of no reciprocation.

If I had felt a way about her, I wouldn’t show it because she expressed that she wouldn’t show me.

Every action she took to show me her feelings appeared insignificant to me because I misperceived her feelings as being identical to her statements.

All driven by a dishonesty with my feelings toward her, justified by her statement of feeling toward me, and propelled by my selfishness due to a flaw in perception relating to the mechanics of a relationship. I was measuring my level of willingness to be vulnerable with my perception of hers.

So, stating she was unwilling to be vulnerable I categorized it as “casual” and neglected to acknowledge her actions showing otherwise, therefore, perceiving her verbal statements as factual emotions, and therefore her true feelings. I listened to what she said and didn’t see how she felt. Stay with me.

I wasn’t mindful of it, so I missed the “puzzle pieces” in plain sight.

“Liz” had told me that she was guarded, invulnerable, slow-moving, not affectionate, and at times had a horrible temper that sucked for anyone within ear shot. I listened to her tell me that she was an unbreakable iceberg that would bite me if I tried to get close. She liked safe bets and was tired of taking risks.

She was loud and clear with what she said and I was deaf to it. She said, “I’m never going to TELL you how I feel.” That was, basically, all said our first-time meeting… 3 or 4 months ago that she said that. Which is crazier, the declaration she made the first time we met or that I believed nothing had changed 3-4 months later?

When the text war ensued the other day, I told her she, “needed to communicate better to tell me how she felt because I couldn’t read her mind,” like I referenced above. This is what infuriated her the most. What she had stated the first time we met was not matching up with how invulnerable people act and, therefore, I should have been able recognize how she felt.

Then, I was enlightened and saw the “puzzle pieces” fit together.

I never gave any thought that a vomit emoji response to a heart emoji sent was her way of acknowledging agreement through humor of her invulnerability…being vulnerable. I would have never assumed that a disgusted and awkward look she gave me when

I’m overly affectionate is her way of holding back a goofy smile and an emotion she can’t verbally reciprocate. I didn’t think inviting me to Mexico and sitting in 4 hours of traffic on her birthday to pick me up at the border was because she wanted to be with me, I thought it was because, as she stated, she “didn’t want be bored and alone on her last day.”

I believed her confidence when she assured me with confidence that she was completely made of stone, but I couldn’t see how her “confidence” was a balloon filled with uncertainty and a fear of wanting to be vulnerable without getting her heart smashed, again.

She just wanted to make sure that a drug addict with a checkered past and spotty dating record was going to be a safe bet…seems reasonable right?

Most of all, she just wants to be with someone that has enough confidence in their feelings to be honest about them selflessly and know they’re true; so she created opportunities disguised as obstacles to allow me chances to prove I was willing to overcome them.

Let’s close this bitch out.

No “relationship” goes anywhere until someone gets vulnerable enough to open themselves up to pain in order to honestly demonstrate how they feel.

When the fear of the potential pain associated with vulnerability seems far less harmful than the definitive pain of continuing on with the dishonest nature of hiding your true feelings, you know you’re in the right spot. Vulnerability is honesty, and everyone deserves the truth, especially with feelings of affection and love. They’re not for keeping selfishly, they’re for giving freely.

So, if you’re not going to be the one that gets vulnerable and expresses the honesty of your feelings despite your fear of being hurt or because they don’t exist, then stop being selfish and let them find someone who will give them what they deserve.

Yes, the picture has nothing to do with the post, it’s just designed to, simply, create a diversion in your attention, while scrolling through so much information so you stop and read this and we can swap perspectives. So, I hope you enjoyed reading my mind on paper.


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