“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.” -Yogi Berra


This quote reminds me of my own head as well as my interactions with others. I was sitting around yesterday with roughly four different conversations taking place in my mind.. bills, Thanksgiving, papers to grade, life. I felt my breathing increasing and I literally started pacing around. It was then I put my tennis shoes on and hit the treadmill in the basement. My husband- God love him- texted and asked if I needed him to come downstairs. I respectfully declined as I had enough voices running an already crowded three-ring circus in my head. So I walked, jogged, ran- blasting my music until I calmed my head. Then, as my heart rate slowed, so did my head. I was able to shut some voices out and compartmentalize as needed. It sort of felt like cleaning my closet- clothes to keep, to mend, to donate, to toss. (Okay, the “to mend” part I threw in for balance; I don’t mend clothes…)

When I think back to conversations I’ve had in the past, I realize I rarely if ever listened. Not to others, not in meetings, not at the dinner table. The only “listening” I did was to hear the negative self-talk and we see where that got me. I made sure to stay quiet enough in groups to make it appear as if I were listening. The reality is, I was thinking about drinking, mainly. And when my opinion was asked, I would provide one of two things: either something so mundane and obvious, the contribution was really unworthy or something sarcastic and “anti” authority; again, useless.

And sometimes- more often than not- I assumed the role of “filler.” I felt it was my social responsibility to fill the air with conversation; I mean, if I weren’t going to amuse the masses, who would? I perceived that people found me funny, outspoken, downright absurd. In truth, though, I was drunk and the more I drank, the more I fueled the “conversations” with my ridiculous antics, often times, at the expense of others’ dignity and self-worth. My mantra was, “Well, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”

Wow. I am thankful no one had a score sheet counting the amount of times I was insulting, hurtful, belittling, and rude over the past 30 years. If I really (through my numbed state so we know how accurate that perception was) felt as if I had indeed insulted someone or hurt their feelings I would sidle up to them and say, “Oh, I’m sorry. You KNOW I would NEVER say anything to hurt you. I was kidding.” And just like that, I was forgiven. People took what I said at face value. I was the poster girl for “consider the source”- a fun-loving, drunk girl who just wanted everybody to have as good of a time as she was.

The underlying problem, of course, is that the night generally ended with my husband ushering me out of the bar, party, family gathering, bon fire, etc. supporting my almost passed out self to the vehicle and me asking, “Why are we leaving so early? I have half a drink left!”

So now, I turn back to conversation. I have complained that I have lost my voice over the years. The funny thing is, I’ve never shut up long enough to hear it. I haven’t allowed myself sober time to reflect, to think and then to speak- if the conversation warrants a comment at all. I see this now. In the past if I happened to be quiet, people would inevitably ask me what was wrong. I had to be sick if I wasn’t talking. Often times, I would make things up to excuse why I wasn’t talking.

But I see now how that is all different today. I can actually sit among adults, listen to what is being said and not feel compelled to entertain, to comment, to analyze. I am far less exhausted at the end of the day; I am sure much of this is due to the fact that I am not the self-appointed entertainment anymore.

So as I continue to clean out my closet, I have a clown suit for sale. Any takers?

 

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