Sometimes communication completely confuses me.

It was 1997, and I was home from college for the summer. I had started seeing someone and, in the context of relationships, I think I was still inexperienced and immature enough to where I didn’t second-guess everything I said or that he would say to me. I miss those days.

He lived in LA, I lived in Orange County. When we met up, we’d generally find someplace in between the two of us.

“Hey, want to meet up tonight around 7 at that bookstore in Torrance?” I asked him when we were on the phone one afteroon.

“That could work,” he said.

Our conversation wrapped up and, long story short, I showed up to the bookstore that evening and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Then, worried that something had happened, I called his cell. He answered.

“I’m here at the bookstore. Is everything OK?” I asked.

“Yeah, why?” he said.

“Well, weren’t we going to meet up?” I said.

He got mad and said that just because he’d indicated meeting up at 7 “could work,” it didn’t mean he actually committed to it.

Hm. Alright then. Noted.

These days, it’s a different kind of communication that has me baffled: people opening up to me.

It catches me off-guard, since I don’t do it often or easily to others.

I wonder why they’re telling me something and what they expect me to say. I wonder if they expect the same from me because, frankly, they probably won’t get it; the most they may get is a funny, colorful one-liner drenched in deflection — lest I be roped into equal amounts of sharing. I consider myself a good listener, but when it comes to reciprocating and opening up in return, it’s usually not going to happen. As I like to tell people, it’s just not the way I’m wired. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is. The few times that I’ve tried, it’s come back to bite me in the butt. Things that I shared were then shared with others. And if I wanted them to know, I would’ve told them myself.

The other day, I found myself listening, listening, listening. Someone was opening up to me, and I was wondering why. Why me? Why now? Why this? I didn’t even really know this person, but there was something that made them feel OK about opening up to me.

They didn’t ask anything in return, and I didn’t need to do anything more than listen. So I did.

I stopped wondering, stopped questioning, and I started being present. In a strange way, it was a gift to myself — because after years of wondering why meaningful communication is so difficult to achieve, someone wanted to have it with me. It was a one-way street, more or less, but they wanted to drive down it. And I wanted to give them the courtesy of listening instead of wondering why — which, in a way, is a form of opening up in itself.

For realizing the joy in being present, I am thankful.

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