Guest post: Green Blackwell is a student and mother living in Cedar Park, Texas. She considers both personal communication and public speaking to be life-long pursuits, predisposing her to a keen interest in the work of Pace and Kyeli. The following is reposted from her original private blog with permission and enthusiasm.
I met Pace and Kyeli over a year ago, at a mutual friend’s birthday party. I spent a good portion of the evening chatting with them, and friended them on LiveJournal the very next day. I had heard about them through friends’ blogs so much that they were nearly home-town famous. I began reading their LiveJournals and realized that they were pretty awesome.
Six months later I ended up interviewing Pace for a school project. She had led a very different life than I had, and was unbelievably generous with her time and history. She communicated to me a great and precious understanding of herself, and allowed me to, through her, open the minds of several of my classmates to the humanity behind people who are ridiculed and feared in our culture. Pace and Kyeli not only taught me, but gave me the tools with which to teach.
Six months later (about two weeks ago…) they allowed me to be one of the editors of their book. The book is the result of a workshop they give that they are turning into their full-time career, the Usual Error Project, which helps to guide people to better communication styles. That night, I began reading immediately, with the intention of reading through once and marking only things that confused me (I never got to attend the workshops, so I don’t come to it with any previous knowledge, and thought that might be a valuable perspective, with the intention of a second reading devoted to the more editor-y job). I liked what I was reading and babbled on to my husband Joshua as we were falling asleep that night.
The next morning Joshua woke up before I did, and I vaguely remember (though at the time I was sure I was dreaming) Joshua sitting on the bed beside me reading the book as I had the night before. I worried in my half-awake state that he might not be on the “approved” list of editors, but SleepyGreen is incapable of speaking, so I fell back asleep and he continued reading. When I really woke up, he was downstairs and the book was back where I had left it. I must have been dreaming.
One week later (and two days ago) Joshua and I were having a fight. I had asked him how he felt about something, and he shrugged and stared at me. This is his way of saying “I have no strong feelings, do what you want” which is usually convenient, but leaves me in horrible doubt that I am not doing what he wants, or that I’m controlling or manipulative.. Because his lack of firm opinions or even desire to discuss his vague opinions leaves me in a place of doubt and anger, we have had many fights over the course of our relationship about this. They generally go like this:
“What do you think?”
“…No, really.. What do you think?”
“Damnit, Joshua! Will you give me something to go on?”
“Do whatever you want.”
“That’s not how we’re supposed to do things! I can’t make every damn decision! At least give me some ideas so I don’t feel like I’m doing everything alone!”
At which point I generally storm off and don’t talk to him until he comes to me, half an hour later, with an idea. In our communications this is the most hurtful cycle we get into. He doesn’t care, and I refuse to do things without his input. And by input, I generally need more than one sentence.
So we’re having this fight (again) and in one of the periods where I usually wait for him to say something and he stares at me like I’m crazy, he instead pulls the box that has The Usual Error book in it off the shelf and hands it to me. He puts his hand on the box, looks me in the soul and tells me that I’ve had dinner with his family, and I know that they communicate very differently than my family does.
By this point, I was crying. It was more than Joshua has ever said during a fight, and it’s what I’ve wanted all along. Him to talk to me in complete sentences. I explained how talking goes in my family: with my dad we never talked about serious things. We talked about television, movies, and politics. We had a bad relationship. These two facts are not necessarily connected, but the coincidence means I associate non-talking with having a bad relationship. I have a good relationship with my mom, and we have a tendency to talk at great length – for hours back and forth, almost giving speeches. For me talking is a comfort. For me, talking is a release.
So for two and a half years I have been trying to force Joshua to talk to me, and he’s been just as frustrated not understanding why it bothered me that he listened and didn’t talk. In his mind, he was listening, and wasn’t that what I wanted? In my mind, I was doing all the talking, and it meant I was selfish, even if he didn’t want to talk – it was my fault for not letting him.
I haven’t finished reading the book. The book is not yet published, not yet in its complete edited version, and already it has put us on the path to addressing and fixing our largest roadblock to communication.
And that’s why I want to tell you about these people. They aren’t just my friends. They are the uber-cool awesome people I’d totally want to be friends with after reading their book. I have been so blessed to get to know them. You should get to know them, too.