For a person who can’t see well and has challenged dexterity, I spend a lot of time communicating via small electronic devices and rapid-fire electrical messages.  I appreciate the irony.

My friend Pat Reynolds sent a long series of encouraging Facebook messages to me today.  Back in KC, the incomparable J. D. White posted time and time again with his insistence that I ignore fair-weather friends and focus on those who appreciate my virtues.   Good advice, bro.

My son prefers to text-message, though he calls me from the train station to check on me nearly every day.  My sister Joyce uses her ancient flip-phone (with her left hand) to tell me “Way to Go!” on a daily basis.  Like many in this modernized world, I look at my phone on waking to see who has communicated in the night.  I take no small measure of comfort from that contact.

I number among those who edit their virtual messages.  I correct grammar.  I rephrase for clarity.  I agonize over the emotional response that anything which I send might trigger.  My own emotions flare when someone sends a criticism by e-mail or text; much worse, I think, even than the shouts of condemnation which I’ve suffered in person.  At least when someone hurls a verbal assault in one’s direction, you can see their face and step forward, choosing to placate or not as suits the occasion.

I think about someone who stood in my drive way not too long ago, telling me that I had not been nice to her.  I replied, with deliberate force, that “nice” was not in my job description as between us.  She didn’t care; she turned on  her heel and stomped away.  If I had been writing to her, I would have deleted that response and rephrased in nonviolent communication.  I appreciate your rejection of my behavior and recognize that you prefer that I behave differently.  However, I behave in a manner consistent with my assessment of the circumstances which present themselves to me.  Marshall Rosenberg would approve.  

In reality, “Nice is not in my job description!” fit the situation much more aptly.  I had hired the person to do a job.  She did not do an adequate job.  I protested her shoddy performance.  That protest fell within her assessment of “not nice”.  I didn’t edit my verbal reply to her insult.  I said what I meant, and I meant what I said.  If I’d been sending the message in electronic form, I would have buffered my anger and expressed myself with much more discretion.  I am not sure which is better or whether it even matters.  If the woman cared about how I assessed her performance, she would have done a better job of serving my needs.  So perhaps, my uncensored response fit the bill.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the messages which I send and receive.  People like me, overthinkers, obsess about the impact we have on others.  (You know who you are, in both directions.)  In the end, I must honor my values in every message that I send.  I intend to do that, from this day forward.  You can hit the delete key on your end if you think I’m not being nice.  I value kindness; I will always strive to be kind. The concept of “nice” rings false, like the accusation of delusion with which gaslighters quell your protest of their abuse.

But I won’t complain if you disagree.  Just say so.  Give me a sign.  Send up smoke-signals.  Your silence communicates nothing. Or. . . maybe not.  Maybe it tells me all that I need to know.

It’s the first day of the fiftieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.





One thought on “Smoke-Signals

  1. Linda Overton

    I like that ” nice is not in my job description” it covers the situation nicely. I have come across many people to whom I wish I had been quick enough minded to say. Wouldn’t that have set them on edge. I’m on your side in this if there are sides to be on.


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