Imaginary Conversations

I found myself having quite a few imaginary conversations this past week. The kind of imaginary conversations that keep you up at night, lying in bed planning exactly what you’re going to say word-for-perfect-word, and when the other person replies with something you’ve somehow already managed to predict then you throw out your show stopping rebuttal leaving the other person not only apologetic but also in awe of how articulately you helped them see the error of their ways. Of course, none of these conversations ever really happen, at least not how I plan them.  
 
When I’m paying attention, I can see red flags in my own life pretty quickly. I don’t always know what to do with them, but I can at least recognize them. One red flag for me is when I start having these intricately scripted conversations in my head. That usually means I feel like I’m not being heard which is just another way of saying I feel like my boundaries aren’t being respected. I don’t like not being heard. I don’t like when my boundaries aren’t respected. This doesn't happen often, but when it happens several times in one week I have to ask, who is the common denominator? And when the answer is me, I don’t like that much either.
 
In an effort to find some relief from all the internal chatter, I met up with a close friend and mentor. I needed outside aid. The scripts were getting longer and longer, more and more elaborate. I was beginning to plan out costumes, a soundtrack, set designs. Peace of mind (and reality) was a distant planet far, far away. Together, we looked at each situation in which I felt like I’d been pushed beyond my limit and examined how I handled it. Where could I have been more direct? Where was I dishonest? Where was I using twenty words when I could have used one? Where had I failed to honor my own feelings, time, and energy (and thus, my boundaries) in order to protect someone else’s? It was a painful exercise and one I’m certain I could not have executed on my own. I needed an objective third party to sit there with me and say, “Yeah, I don’t like the way that person handled things either but let’s talk about the part we can actually change.” That part is me.
 
I’m clumsy. I know what I want (or don’t want) but don’t always know how to say it. I fumble over my words at times. I make mistakes. I waste time worrying about whether people like me or if they think I’m nice or polite even when I’m not being heard or my boundaries are being crossed. I can do the wrong thing with the right intention. I can create awkward situations by trying to avoid awkward situations. But when I feel discounted or pushed too far, I am responsible for raising a hand and saying no, that won’t work. I am responsible for being clear, direct, and honest, even if it isn’t graceful or articulate like in my imaginary conversations.