Thursday, December 20, 2012

To Whom I Speak

I used to say everything I felt. Speak before I thought. Express anything I deemed relevant to the conversation, tact or timing be damned.
My boss told me yesterday that she didn’t think I say much at all. I’ve never in my life had anyone say that before. Does it means I’ve finally outgrown the above? (Only took forty years...)
I know better, now, than to verbalize everything I feel or think. Feelings are as fickle as a cat in a room full of mice, thoughts don't always need to be articulated. That’s not to say I don’t trust my emotions or speak them or allow them to wash over me at times, but I contemplate more now, about how and if to express myself. Sometimes to the point of fault, I mull over the right verbiage and time and place to let words break through the internal checks I've set up. Freedom of speech often follows contemplation. Only when I feel it will be meaningful, necessary, or favorably received. No longer do I say something just to fill space or add my two cents. Sometimes there is a heaviness to speaking. Silence sometimes means there is something better to listen to. 

Up until a few days ago, I believed I was holding my tongue because, for so many years in my marriage, I felt my opinion wasn’t respected, desired, or solicited. I realized today this is not true. Throughout that whole troubling time I still had people I confided in, and deeply. It is not because I have nothing to say that is ever the cause of my silence, rather it is a response to whoever it is I’m speaking with. How someone reacts to me directly affects how I communicate with them. People who make fun of my interests or viewpoints won’t hear about them again. People that aren’t interested in them will be met with pleasantries thereafter. Once that happens, the person needs to notice it (which rarely happens), and invest effort in a bit of prying to get me to open myself up again.

I have been thinking lately about the people in my life and how I respond to them, mostly because of a few things that have happened this week that all deal with things people have said to me.

* I had a friend text me and tell me my mind is my best asset.
*I had a coworker confide in me about something painful – a woman I barely know, but she chose me to talk to.
*A friend texted me with a simple statement and request: I miss your blogging. Write for me.
*My boss - who is not only the best person I can ever imagine working for, but is also a confidante, cares so much that she listens, gives her opinion, and watches out for my well-being - said to me, “I know you haven’t been happy. And I know it’s not just due to the stress of your recent car accident. It’s because your needs aren’t being met.”  
Interesting how some people discern things that haven’t even seeped into your own consciousness. I'm not saying she's right, but it's caused me to contemplate. And if she's right, the needs she speaks of are not physical. They have to do with how well known I am by the people I spend my time with.  
What I want is to spend time with people that really appreciate the time, like the friend who texted me the other night saying he was frustrated because he’d been really looking forward to getting together with me – this after circumstances thwarted our plans to do so (we did manage a couple days later).
What I want is people when, given the time, fill it as full as they possibly can with words and conversation so rewarding it's like feasting on a delicious meal - one  that has nothing to do with leaving your stomach full but rather delights your senses so much that you can’t possibly believe there is anything else out there more satisfying. I had dinner last week with such a person. We shared a meal in town, and as we were picking through textured nuts, exotic greens, and Oriental flavors, we covered everything - relationships, hobbies, food, travel, photography, nature, religion, and politics  - usually a topic I stay FAR away from, but with this friend, it was not a debate or boxing match, it is simply another thing to flesh out. The conversation was so good I didn’t want it to end. Reason: My brain and soul and spirit are satiated at the feasting table of intellectual intimacy.

What I want are people who provide the opposite rise of a verbal fertile valley, so that the place between two intelligent people - where ideas and thoughts and personalities and the very integral being of a person - can erupt with growth and conversations bounce off of one another. I have no desire to be a soft landing for someone, where I simple absorb what they’re saying, nor a single mountainside they can speak to and hear nothing back from me other than an echo of their own thoughts. 

So this is my note of appreciation for the people who speak in and to and with my life. I mentioned the few people from last week, but there are so.many.more. 
One closing thought. I’ve been texting about this today with a good friend of mine. Here is just one thing he said. I think his words prove my point. "You are intellectually adventurous, and the adventure is cooperative. It’s infectious. And your appetite for understanding things seems limitless."
It's not that I had nothing to say all those years I was married. It's that it became, at some point, easier to not talk because of the way I was responded to. Eventually only surface conversation reigned, because deeper desires and thoughts of the heart were not received or returned. We all have things to say, there are just some people better at being shared with than others. People who listen. People who respond in a way that let's us know we're valued. People who add to the conversation rather than pull from it, making it more like a game of racquetball - volleys and lobs back and forth; an engaging, constant chasing of thoughts - than one where there is a solitary player and the rest of us are the audience.
Lesson Learned: 
The act of telling is not a hard thing. I share very freely with certain {most} people in my life. I, we all, long to know and be known. It's not about having something or nothing to contribute. It's about finding kindred spirits who understand the language your mind speaks.

1 comment: