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Engimas & Open Books

February 23, 2008

I’m an open book. I really don’t hide much, and there isn’t TMI when it comes to what I’ll share, and what others can share with me. I balance this with being acutely aware of when people just aren’t interested. If I don’t think the person really wants to know a story, or hear about something in my life, I don’t tell it. My last boss once told me that I was an enigma to her, she declared that she couldn’t figure me out. I was at a loss for an explanation, simply telling her that I’m pretty much an open book and questioning what it was she couldn’t figure out. She of course didn’t have an answer. I suspect it was because I didn’t really think she cared, and maybe a bit of intimidation. I didn’t want to open myself up to her, because I know it was a surface need of hers to have people be completely open, she craved knowing everything and having that control over people. That’s not who I share with.

Sometimes, I think I take for granted my openness and desire to share what I feel and who I am, sometimes I forget that although I work in casual environments, I shouldn’t always say what I feel. But then, as I think about it and wonder if I don’t have a filter, I’ll flash to a picture of myself in social situation where I don’t really talk about myself for hours. Where is the middle ground?

This week at work I complained about something I was asked to do, and wasn’t shy about saying I didn’t want to do it, to my co-workers. When I thought about it that night as I shampooed, I worried, did I just take for granted how open I can be at work as a result of the casual “come as you are and say how you feel” environment? Maybe it is a sense of entitlement I have for being told, and feeling, that I’m a smart and very capable employee and I think the task is something I shouldn’t have to do anymore, instead of considering that part of the reason I’m being asked to do it is to expose me to something new, including new people. I know I can complain to these people about everything, but I do have to draw the line. As I thought about it more, I flashed to sometimes feeling like I haven’t said a word after hours with my friends. What’s the difference? Where’s the middle ground?

Talking to Kate this summer after an emotional breakthrough (in which my Mom told me that she had been trying for months to get me to just talk about myself. She would ask how I was as we began conversations, but it proved fruitless as I’d just shrug it off. She said my pattern would be to let her go first and only after she was done would I open up) she confided that she felt that often too, like she would dominate conversations and worry that I didn’t talk about myself, worry that she wasn’t being a good friend. Why do I do that? And how do I still be an open person while doing that?

I let it out when I need to, I’ve dominated many a conversation. When it feels right, and I’m comfortable and I know the person really wants to hear it, that’s when I open up. With my friends, I want to make sure they are getting everything they need from me before I lay my stuff on them, I want to take care of the people I love. At work, I have a different relationship with close co-workers. We take care of each other, and that means complaining and venting and knowing it’s safe. These people haven’t yet become someone who I let go first.

For me, I’m most open when I’m letting others be truly vulnerable, because they get to see who I really am in those moments, and I know when I need the roles reversed they will be.

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