Sunday, December 29, 2013

Advice regarding emotions and relationships

Every once in a while it happens- someone asks me for advice about a situation defined by its emotions or about relationships.  Sometimes it happens in more formal ways- like when our married student ward asked my wife and I to teach the marriage and family relationships class.  Sometimes it is more informal like a friend at work asking if I could think of anything better that they might have done in a frustrating situation with their girlfriend.  I appreciate the trust people extend to me when this happens.  But it honestly feels just a little odd.  Because, I honestly struggle with emotions and relationships.  I feel like a blind man being asked how to see.

When Bonnie Jean and I were engaged, I was off trying to sell alarm systems with about as much skill as a plumber that had never owned a wrench.  Life was getting pretty frustrating and I was talking with Bonnie Jean on the phone about how I was feeling.  There were all these components to how I was feeling and I couldn't figure it out why I should be feeling that particular set of emotional and physical sensations or what they meant.  Bonnie Jean finally said "it sounds like your depressed."  Then everything clicked, depression was what I was feeling, how amazingly good it was to finally be able to put a word to how I was feeling.  I had been feeling depressed for several weeks before finally figuring out exactly what was going on.  This is not the only time in my life when there has been a substantial time lag between the onset of depression and realizing that it happened.  Its just the sort of thing that happens to me from time to time.

And as far as relationships go... well, lets just say that I can sit next to someone at work for hours without talking to them or even realizing if they stay put or get up and leave.  There's a strong chance that I won't ever talk to them at all.  Engaging with random strangers in a social manner takes a certain amount of courage, mental effort, and sometimes a measure of desperation.  Basic skills of managing the image I portray of myself to other people are difficult for me to manage, and avoiding giving offense and overcoming hostility that can come from small offenses can be an exhausting effort for me.  Making and keeping friends can be hard.  I still think its a small miracle that Bonnie Jean and I met and got married in the first place.  There are so many things that other people can do by feel that I do by thinking about them.

But maybe that explains a little bit of why people ask for advice sometimes.  Maybe the way I spend time thinking through these things gives me a fresh perspective that is unique to others when they hear it.  So instead of the blind man describing the elephant I'm the blind man with x ray vision trying to describe an elephant.  Or maybe just occasionally I earn up enough good will and trust that people value what I think and feel regardless of whether they think I really have any answers.  I don't know.  I do enjoy feeling trusted though.  It makes it seem as if I've established a real connection with another human being.  And with how isolating the world can be, knowing those connections are there matters a great deal.

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