Most of us have heard, and probably used, the term “walking on eggshells.” We use it to describe a delicate situation or a precarious one, usually when we’re dealing with someone with a short temper or a thin skin. Or a mental illness. I have used it frequently, here, to describe what it was like being married to Tony. Every day was an obstacle course as I tried not to crush the fragile eggshells of his ego and self- esteem beneath my too-loud voice, my too-emotional emotions, or whatever ‘too’ he felt was the culprit on a given day.
The thing is, it wasn’t just walking. It was talking too. Talking on eggshells sounds a little strange, but I don’t know how else to describe the feeling that every word that comes out of your mouth is a potential grenade. I got very good at it. I rarely said, flat-out, what I meant. I could do an elaborate verbal tap dance that would rival anything Ann Miller or Savion Glover could produce with their feet.
What I didn’t grasp, until recently, is that I am still doing it. I am still fighting it. I am still inclined to dance, even though I don’t have to any more. I realized it, finally, because I was upset with someone I really care about. I thought I had raised a particular issue very clearly, more than once, and he just wasn’t getting it. That’s what I thought. But then, I took a minute and thought back on our conversations. I went back and read what I had written to him, which I thought was SO CLEAR, and admitted to myself that it… wasn’t. I was tap dancing. I said a lot of words – I am wordy – but none of them were the precise, true problem I was having. I was dancing around it, shuffling, step-ball-changing all over the place, but I never actually hit my mark. I never actually said, “This is the problem, and this is what I think we can do about it.”
The realization hit me like a sucker punch. I AM A WORD PERSON. How could I have been so wrong about what I had written? Then it occurred to me. I was talking on eggshells. Talking around the problem but afraid to step directly on it for fear of breaking something. So afraid.
Here’s the thing about eggshells. They are MEANT to be broken, are they not? How else would the baby chicks get out? How else would we make a birthday cake, or breakfast in bed? HOW ELSE WOULD WE FERTILIZE THE DAMN ROSES? So what I did was, I walked up and crushed those eggshells. I stomped all over them, verbally speaking. I sent a message saying EXACTLY what I meant, because really, it’s not fair to expect anybody to read my mind. Half the time I don’t even know what the heck is going on in there! How could I expect this man, who hasn’t known me very long, to do that without an Aimee-to-English dictionary, a headlamp, and a month’s supply of food? Good grief.
You know what? It was terrifying. It was terrifying. It took every single ounce of courage I had to send that message, because I was so afraid that stating my needs, my wants, would anger him or cause him to reject me.
Reader. It didn’t. He heard me. He did what I asked him to do. I am stronger, and WE are stronger, because of it.
The moral: speak your truth. Stomp all over those freaking eggshells, because they are HOLDING YOU BACK. They were always meant to be broken. For women, especially, I think this is difficult. The newsflash for me is that directness does not equal selfishness, or rudeness or any other –ness. If someone doesn’t like it, THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU. YOU ARE NOT FOR THEM. You are a mighty, eggshell-crushing force of nature. You want someone who will get in there and stomp some damn eggshells with you. And then share the cake.