Sunday, April 27, 2008

Airy Nothing.

And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
-Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

I've been trying to find the right words to explain the differences between the way my husband uses language and the way that I use language. I've Googled it, and done my nerdy research thing that I do when something is confusing and fascinating at the same time, but I can't quite put my finger on the right words to explain the differences in how we use our words.

Which, in some ways, is an excellent example of how I use words. I seek them out. I look for just the right words to explain something that I believe to be true. I've observed something again and again in my husband's use of words, and I want to find just the right way to say it, to write it down here, to explain it to myself and to the people I'm explaining to and to him. There is a thing that I believe, and I want to find the right words to represent the thing that I believe. Words are representational in my mind...and it's my job as a writer, or as a communicator in general, to make the words that I write or say match as closely as possible the image, idea, or event that exists in my mind.

Something else happens when my husband uses words, especially when he's in active addiction. Almost every time he opens his mouth to speak, there is an outcome that he is trying to achieve. There is a goal (obtaining money, sympathy, drugs, space and time to use drugs, etc.), and he sets about matching words to the scenarios he believes will make that goal happen. His language is rarely representational in the most basic sense...he is seldom trying to express a copy of an image, idea, or even what already exists in the present moment. He is creating future moments with his words, plotting schemes and manipulating emotions by tossing words around that have no referents.

Does that make sense? (I find myself asking that question all the time. My first therapist ever asked me again and again, "Does that make sense? Do you understand what I'm saying?" Something about the phrase has stuck with me. Probably, it stuck because it's important to me that my words really are representational, that you read and understand something very close to what I'm understanding when I write. I want to know if I've written something plainly, clearly, and in a manner that is interpretable by the person on the other end of the writing. Does that make sense?)

That said, being someone who loves words, who values their power in bridging the gaps between people, who works hard to make sure that what I write or say matches up as closely as possible with what I understand or husband's strange use of words drives me mad. I often find myself digging into his words, tossing them over, trying to predict what it is he is attempting to root out of me, what response he's beckoning. It's a habit I've formed through the years of being manipulated. It's a useless habit, really. I know the things he's trying to get from me when he's weaving a word web...he wants to use. I waste my time in trying to predict, to decode, to understand or interpret or figure out the hidden truth.

I have more to say about addict language, but I'm not sure what else there is I mean...I'm opening comments so you can tell me what it is I'm talking about.


paisley said...

first off i am a recovered addict,, 15 years clean, no program no rehab... just balls...second of all i lost the love of my life to the needle. heroin.. so i am not talking out my ass... i just have to say,, you are one hell of a buzz kill girl...

i know you love him,, and i know you are trying really hard to love you,, but you are cycling so fast,, and the tunnel vision is so intense...

i don't know.. it creeps me out...

paisley said...

"i continued to look at life thru eyes that looked first at what you had that i wanted.. i processed information in a brain wrapped solely around how i was going to get whatever it was you had that i wanted,, and loved with a purely selfish heart,, that thought you were expendable,, a trick,, a useless piece if shit that you were only here to provide for me in some form or another....."

this is an excerpt from a post i id a while back... called recovery in response to something i read here.. all of it is not applicable to you and your man... but that particular paragraph may give you an idea if what "junkie speak" is all about....

Jade said...

I too love words, I am also a writer (of sorts) and use words exactly the way (I understood) you describe the way you use words ... what you say makes sense, makes perfect sense. For different reasons, my husband uses words in a way that drives me mad as well. In his case, he opens his mouth and vomits out what he means to say without examining whether or not the words actually mean what he wants them to mean. It is maddening, and it does force one to be constantly parsing what the other is really trying to say. I think you use your words well, and beautifully, in any case.

The Last Super String said...

I call that the junkie shuffle, thankfully I don't have to deal with it anymore... for now. All the junkies in my life have departed, my father and my ex. But really, you explained it as well as can be explained.

davka said...

I think it would be very helpful if you gave some examples of verbatim dialogue when you feel this is happening.

Is it just a general feeling of being hustled?

msb said...

There used to be a joke that made the rounds in NA. I always thought it was so funny cause it described me, back in the day, to a tee. How do you know when an addict is telling a lie? Their lips are moving. I spent years working on that behavior. So cliche but so true.

TraceyBaby said...

I have experienced this with both of my sons. One has bipolar disorder but is dual diagnosed due to regular pot use. He has now quit that but bipolar's are master manipulators! My other son became quite the addict and is now in recovery. I also am always looking behind the hidden meaning in what they say. Part of this is trying to see behind a lie. Is what they are saying true or some bull$@#% story or excuse to get money for drugs or alcohol? Do you have to lock up your money like I did? And your medications?

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Opening comments? What are you thinking?

When someone else and I are talking past each other I now frame it as an "inside the Matrix" vs. "outside the Matrix" thing. I too work hard to make my words match my meaning -- but sometimes the other person is in such a different place that we can't understand each other because we're talking about two completely different things, even when we think it's the same.

Jay said...

Yes, it makes sense.

I think MPJ is right about different assumptions. Sometimes it's an assumption about what the words mean; sometimes it's an assumption about the goal of the conversation. I have conversations with my mother that are surreal because she isn't responding to what I say, but to what she assumes I'm going to say - she's so convinced she knows what I think that she's ignoring what I actually *say*.

And I get physically uncomfortable during conversations when I think someone is trying to get something from me, or treat me as an object or an obstacle. My heart speeds up, I feel short of breath, I become overwhelmingly angry. It's so unsafe.

BrokenHeartedMom said...

I live with an addict, and you have expressed it so well. I know my son's junkyshuffle,his cadence,
the words he says when he is high. It catches me sometimes when I think all is OK, and he says one thing and I know he has relapsed.
I'm sure you know that feeling junkywife-like someone kicked you in the stomach. said...

Hey girl... :) Three things I learned related to communication:

A) When giving feedback, you are supposed to be precise. Not say "you always do this", but "yesterday you did this, and you made me feel that".

I think this is awfully hard to do in the middle of an argument, btw. But I guess G is generally having a hard time of being precise - maybe because that would mean that he had to think logically and in steps? Or because general ammunition is bound to hit something? Hm.

You on the other hand are used to looking inside, analyzing, dissecting - so concise words are what comes naturally.

B) In seminars about achieving life goals, you are taught to clearly formulate a goal, then define what small steps need to be done to get there. Again, it's about being precise - no general wishes, one-days, sometimes, etc. Those never pan out.

C) Communication can be a bitch. I know after my father's psychosis, we had many times when a simple misunderstanding, him not hearing our words, him giving an answer that missed the point, made us immediately sure that he was having another break-down.

I guess talking to an addict is the same, when the small daily misunderstandings set off alarm bells immediately.

And D) - big hugs from rainy Hamburg. xxx

davka said...

yeah i read the other post and i totally know what you mean now. wow. that would frustrate me because it's like he isn't at all helping you plan and/or achieve these goals- it's daydreaming. the daydreaming is also frustrating because it shows a real lack of presence, a refusal to be satisfied with, in, and working witht he present. my addicted boyfriend would make a bunch of grandiose plans with people at parties when he was drunk and/or high and it would embarass me so bad because everyone knew it was bullshit.

damn, loving is so hard sometimes.