The Openness Scale

My husband says I have trouble communicating. For the life of me, I cannot understand why he feels compelled to constantly tell me this. I suppose, in his defense, that it stems from years ago when I used to bottle everything up and explode in a slew of screaming swears and wild and violent hand gestures. I imagine he just says this in case I am withholding some pertinent information that he will only hear about during my next angry outburst.

I should add that my outbursts, now, are less angry and more of a highly emotional variety. I am pretty sure it’s a woman thing. And I am pretty sure my hubby can’t tell the difference between the two.

I am hoping that, by the end of this article, I will have some solid answers for him but I all ready have my doubts. Please bear with me while I work through this.

My husband works away from home and phones me every morning. A typical conversation goes like this:
Him: ”How are you?”
Me: ”Good. How about you?”
Him: ”Alllllriiight. What do ya got going on today?”
Twenty ideas flash through my mind. My reply? ”I dunno…”

That’s communicating… right?

He asked me the other day “On a scale of one to ten, how open are you? I am about a nine.” I agree with his number – there is some crazy shit that comes out of his mouth.
”Six.” I say. My stomach clenches and curls inward – I know I am lying.
”Really?” His tone is disbelieving.
I concede.”Okay it’s more like three or four. Six on a good day.”

Why is the real question. I love him and trust him and do not fear his judgement. While there is a certain amount of tongue biting and holding back in every relationship, I do not feel like I do this (often). Granted, it is not my first response to phone him as soon as something funny or tragic happens but I do intend to tell him during our next conversation. If I am honest, sometimes I just forget. So, why then, would I only give myself a score of four?

The more I searched for an answer, the more I began to realize a few things.

1. My to do lists are consuming my brain. Initially I created them as a way to focus my time and energy. I could be proud of my accomplishments – look at what I got done! Now they are a source of frustration and guilt. A large portion of my day is spent glancing at the list I made three weeks ago and wondering which one of those things I could conquer and scratch off. The other portion of the day is spent grumbling because I don’t want to do any of them.

2. I am not one to reiterate every small thing that transpires in a day. It doesn’t appeal to me . My sister can do it. Just yesterday she told me about her trip to Wal-Mart, the new sale items she picked up and how, at the end, she debated about stealing cherries because the guy never looked in her bag as she was leaving. The conversation lasted 120 minutes and I was thoroughly entertained through them all. I do not have this talent.

3. My husband isn’t a part of the day-to-day things that occur here. I know he wants to be that is why he asks me all the time. It is his way of being supportive even though he is miles away.

4. We are what we know. My parents were not very open. Sure, we had the normal conversations at the supper table – my dad would ask what we learned in school and we would give the common reply of ”nothing”. Their sentences never started with “When I was your age..”  When we weren’t getting along my mother would say something threatening like “Should I get the spoon?” And dad would shake his big, thick index finger and offer us “tsks” of disapproval. They didn’t tell us how they solved disputes when they were younger. They never entertained us with stories of their past.

The meager amount I know of my mother’s childhood, I learned on her deathbed. And my father? There were some amazing, eye-opening facts that I learned from his sister as she read his eulogy.

I am crying now. I cannot help it. It is not necessarily because I miss them – because there will never be a part of me that doesn’t wish they were here. I am sobbing over the missed the opportunity to learn about the things that shaped their lives. The small insights that I do have only make me realize how similar I am to them. How, a generation later, I can see both of my father and my mother in me.

I refuse to lament and say ”if only we had more time.” Because the time and the opportunity  were there – they just didn’t take it. And I was too young to ask. It saddens me to admit that there is more to parenting than teaching your child what is right and wrong. It is about you, who you are, and how you came to be. Your life experiences will reflect on your child’s.

So I implore you to tell them. Tell them how when you were little you used to skip out on chores and run to the creek to pick flowers. Tell them that you dropped out of school at the age of fourteen to hunt and trap fur-bearing animals to help support your eight younger siblings. Tell them that everything you learned in your life was self-taught, through a lot of experiments and errors. Tell them about your trials and tribulations and the dreams you surrendered in lieu of being the provider that your family needed you to be.

Because years later, as they grapple with grasping aspects of their own personality, they will remember your tales. And it is only then that they will truly have a better understanding of themselves.

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