The other night, after a visit to Dallas for my mom’s birthday, Pace and I got into an intense conversation.
I was driving. I was exhausted. I was emotionally drained. I was tired. I was sad. Not a great place for an emotional conversation. But we’d been talking and started tripping all over each other’s triggers and landmines, so we needed to at least resolve the hurt feelings we both had.
At one point, Pace was talking about her feelings and a trigger I’d tripped. I got so angry and upset that I wanted to forgo all the good communication and listening skills I’ve learned and just scream at her. She’d stepped on one of my landmines, I was full of emotion (and all the other things I mentioned above), and I nearly lost it. She’d been talking from her Island Mode about her feelings, completely running all over my feelings in boots with spikes on the bottoms, and I was really hurt and really upset and feeling like the things she was saying meant she thinks I suck.
Freaking out and letting loose with a wild rampage of screaming at her isn’t likely to achieve what I wanted to achieve, which was understanding – but it sure was what I wanted to do.
We talk about talking all the time. We teach ways of dealing with conflict to bring about clear communication. We tell stories from our lives to illustrate our points because we want people to know that not only are the things we’re teaching from our lives, but we are real people, with faults and hangups, issues and triggers. When I was sitting there, full of raw emotion and wanting to scream, I wasn’t Kyeli the Communicator, I was Kyeli the wife, the hurt and scared little girl.
I was sitting there in the driver’s seat, focusing on the road. My shoulders were so tense they ached. My hands were gripping the wheel so tightly, I’m surprised there aren’t grooves. My eyes welled up with tears. I quit hearing her, quit being able to listen. I clenched my teeth to avoid erupting like the volcano I was rapidly becoming. My breathing quickened and I had to fight to keep from freaking out. My old, unhelpful patterns of communication started welling up – those patterns that involve screaming and crying instead of calmly working things out.
After a while, Pace noticed my silence. Then she noticed my anger; she could see in my body language how upset I’d gotten. She asked how I was doing, and I was able to breathe deeply several times before answering. When I told her how upset I was she said we must be miscommunicating, and we slowly started chipping away at my hard angerball exterior until we figured out where things had gone wrong. At that point, I started crying and the anger melted into fear. Eventually, we were able to communicate and get back on the same team.
But that moment of raw anger, when I wanted to let her have it? Yeah. I get those. We all do from time to time, I think, and it’s okay. Normal, even.