I was having another fight with my boyfriend – only now I was in a hotel room in Finland. The locations changed, but the subject always remained the same.
I was here to do press for the TV launch of FLYING on Finnish television, YLE, beginning Thursday, November 1, and Swedish Television, SVT, beginning Sunday, October 28. Both countries were going to air the film in a weekly one hour evening slot, like a real series. I was thrilled. They had asked me to come to help with the press and also to do master classes in both countries about the film. In Finland I would do a seminar for the DOCPOINT with my editor Niels Pagh Anderson who was in Finland to edit a new film by John Walker (and also because his girlfriend is Finnish), and in Sweden I would screen the film at a festival called MDOX and run a master class there.
The film was having a fantastic reception. It seemed like there was a kind of love fest with the journalist here. I have never seen reporters ‘get’ FLYING like those in Scandinavia. I had already been to Denmark to launch the film on DR-2 there, and the reception and ratings had also been phenomenal. Somehow this film was just made for the region. But now, underlying all the excitement was the conflict with my boyfriend.
I was fine till I got back to my hotel room at night and then found myself unable to sleep – with the excuse of jet lag – except I had never seen jet lag like this before! I was averaging two hours a night and going down hill quickly. We had both reached a breaking point. We were having the same fight we had since early in our relationship – and I think we were reaching that point where — we just couldn’t do it anymore.
Our fight was about a seemingly simple topic: talking. I wanted to talk more; he wanted to talk less. I needed to talk about feelings, worries, and dramas in my family life or with friends. He found these things uncomfortable or even tiresome, tried to solve them quickly, and move on. I never wanted things solved; I wanted them explored; and if left to my own devises, I could explore them for hours. He felt I never got to “the point” and was impatient for me to hurry up in my story-telling; I wanted to tell him all the odd details that occurred so he would be able to get a true picture. Synopsizing was against my religion.
I have tried to adapt over the years: I have learned to sensor most of my inner life from my partner. I have stopped sharing many of my thoughts, feelings, and even creative ideas with him. I have learned to talk about the weather, what I did that day, what I ate, and what is in the newspaper. We call each other up each day and ‘report’. I have learned to avoid the frustration of asking him for some deeper conversation – and getting the response that he doesn’t have anything deep to share and – why am I always criticizing him. I feel I have changed and to be fair, he feels he has changed too. But since this is my rant, I get to tell my side of the story.
You see, no matter how hard he thinks he is trying, I end up feeling like I am living in silence. So once in a while I try to share something that is bugging me — because I have to let it out. I am a bit like a pressure cooker with feelings – eventually I’ve got to blow.
For example, I’d just had a big revelation that day when talking to one of my girlfriends, Paula, about my fears about having children that stretches back to when I was a child. As we chatted, I had suddenly realized that I was afraid to be happy. To me having children looked like the most hopeful thing in the world. What if you loved them and something bad happened? What if they got hurt or died? And then it hit me: I had been shocked when my middle brother, who I adored, was hospitalized twice before he was a year and a half old. I remember my mother rushing out of the house with him naked in her arms, screaming in fear. The second time, they threw him in the bath to bring his temperature down and then the police came to whisk her and him away. I stood at the window as the police car pulled away with its siren blaring, thinking I might never see him again. And indeed he had to have a huge operation and almost died.
Now as strange as this might sound, it suddenly came to me that I probably was traumatized by this event and my own fear and the fear of my mother. So honestly when I look at families today – I think, wow you guys are really courageous to take those risks. People think I am courageous to make films, but that is nothing compared with having children!
I was all excited to tell my boyfriend all this; it seemed like a big revelation that if I could get my head around, might actually help me to move forward with the adoption we’d been thinking about for so long. So I ran to the phone to call him, believing also that it would help him understand me better, which would lead to a better relationship. He answered the phone and I laid out my brilliant insight and traced the whole problem back to my childhood. I cried on the phone and felt really exposed. This was what relationship was about, I thought exultantly.
But on the line, his voice was irritated with that tone – oh no, here we go again with the deep stuff. He asked many tense questions and then changed the subject. “Well,” he said, “I don’t think you are willing to change your life enough to have children anyway.” And inside of me, I sunk. I was not talking about the practical side of child rearing but the inner ghosts preventing me from even beginning the process. I began to think maybe I hadn’t explained it right? Maybe he didn’t understand what I had told him? But he claimed he did. I tried to stay calm and not jump on him, tried to understand where he was coming from, tried to get a reaction to the story I had told him – you know connection, commiseration, compassion — but he didn’t have anything to say. Nothing.
I got off the phone feeling lost. It took me till the next day to react – after a long flight to Finland – I realized I was really angry. So once I arrived in the hotel and did my first two interviews, I called him on the phone and told him I was really upset. Of course, we got into the same spiral. He cannot talk more; I don’t accept him the way he is, I am always criticizing him. To me, asking to have a conversation about feelings isn’t criticism but expressing a need, a need that I can’t live without. And therein lies the difference between him and me. He can live with out talking and I can’t.
And of course, you are thinking: for a woman who just made a film about gender differences, this person is pretty stupid! Doesn’t she know by now that men and women are different? Of course I do know, but it is still hard for me to accept…