Thursday, August 29, 2013

Anyways... (That's Crazy!)

This is a typical attempt at an end to any conversation in Wendyland: "Anyways..."

It's kind of like a verbal tic, am "um..." (I don't really do those), or "so..." (I use those, a lot). Kind of a synonym for "moving right along, because what I/you/they just said probably should have been left unsaid or could have been said in ten words (but wow, that lasted, like, an hour!)" If you hear this, I am at this point in the same situation as the proverbial guy wondering how long he should wait after coitus to stop holding his partner without hurting their feelings. Or I have just gone off on a tangent and have forgotten what we were originally talking about.

This is often how I feel when I am having a conversation with other people, I'm sure it goes both ways.  Sometimes listening to other people talk is like waiting for a bus in the suburbs, you're at the stop, the iPod has just run out of charge, it happens to be raining so you can't read a book. There's nothing to look at, and you're a little bored. You tried to make it to the previous bus, watched it pass you as you approached (just too far to run), and now here you are waiting for the next opportunity to take off, start your response. Politely, of course. In the interest of getting us all to our intended destination, I have been accused of interrupting, which I guess is considered a rude thing?

But really, it's not. In my twenties, my father remarried and on top of the politely witty people on my Mum's side, I suddenly gained this much-larger wonderfully raucous pleasantly dysfunctional blended family. We were all very funny people to begin with (even when we are forced to monitor how blue our language gets, hilarious), and have interesting things to say, and were never afraid to speak or laugh a little louder than most people using their "inside voices". But in 1998 the number and variety of people almost tripled. Over the years, those sitting at the Kid's Table grew up and threw their voices in the fray. As a result, when all of us get together for dinner, now you have to interrupt just to get heard. It isn't a me-me-me thing, it's a "hey, I have something to add", a learned response to a completely out-of-control situation.

Factor in the fact my brain moves a little quickly and erratically when it is stimulated, it refuses to do less than two things at once. This organ is built to multi-task, to make a myriad of connections, to reason a multitude of things out quickly. Add to that the fact that I notice microscopic things in strange places and like to point out the sources of my hyper-focus, and really, I would be your worst nightmare as a roommate at a Buddhist Meditation Retreat. It's not that I can't relax, it's just that I happen to be the 5% of the population whose worst nightmare is being stuck in a dim room with very little adornment and no windows while having to sit still/be quiet/try to relax, striving to think of nothing (good luck) while looking at a wall and listening to what others consider to be calming music. Or chanting. Ugh.

For me, those bliss-inducing gifts commonly known as "Spa Treatments" are tantamount to the Eighth Circle of Hell, and "Ending Time-Wasting/Pointless/Painful Conversations", well, that would be possibly right up there (or in there, as each happens to be closer to the Inner Circle) with the Ninth, along with "Half an Hour Early for Your Dentist Appointment". Actually, Maleboge seems like the perfect name for a salon and day spa, it's all posh and French-y sounding, I should really copyright that. Whoops, this is what is popularly known as a tangent.

Anyways...In addition to a brain that likes to sprint, not walk, I also have dog-like hearing and a sensitive nose and palate. I'm just a big ol' mess on any bus, really, unless I am plugged in and can tune out (well, everything but the smells). This is my side of a typical exchange: "O look at THAT, that reminds me of...[insert childhood/drunken 90's anecdote here]...anyways...What's that shiny thing? Do you smell that? What do you think of this...?  THIS is what I mean, let me explain... Are we almost...? So...What is that noise?" Just imagine THAT but in the middle of a dialogue. Now realize that is just the distillation of all of the activity, not even all of what is going on inside my head.

Believe me, I am listening. When I listen to you, I get everything you are saying, plus instant replay, plus the random crap that may or may not be associated with what we are talking about, until the conversation ends, or my brain runs out of charge. Additionally, I am (in fear of not being heard over the Clampetts) formulating a response, and it may have already escaped my lips before you finished talking. Not to be rude, but I probably guessed what you were saying or was able to finish your sentence in my mind. This could be because you have been repeating yourself, but I would prefer you to think it is because we are truly connected. I am aware we are not "on the clock", or trying to win money by answering trivia, but really, you and I are both going to die one day, and wouldn't it be awesome if we got some of our bucket list finished between now and then?

Because in nature there has to be a yin to every yang, one of my other unfortunate attributes happens to be super-politeness. Queue the person who starts by calling you around the time you were just getting ready to go to bed (or approaching you on the couch at a party at 1 a.m.), add in a two-hour long conversation, which started out very interesting, of course, or you would have told them you're about to leave (or not picked up the phone at all), oh oh, here it comes..."Really? That's/you're so crazy." Now put that on a loop, because I have officially run out of wordage. I have the dumb. Truly, I stopped monitoring anything but vocal intonations ten minutes (or longer) ago, but owing to the fact I am too tired/drunk/polite to come up with a denouement to what could have easily been ended by a two year old child simply by saying "I have to go poop now. Bye!", I am forced to respond. Automatically.

Don't mistake my knee-jerk bobblehead nods while you are talking for this state, because I can guarantee nodding means I am listening and formulating a response because I sense that if I talk now, it would make you angry. But if "That's so crazy!" happens to leave my lips, you could be the most attractive, charming and brilliant conversationalist on the planet, a veritable Billy Connolly, but I can guarantee my brain has already taken off its makeup, put on its jammies and crawled under that blanket. It is so tired, it forgot to brush its teeth.

Also, did I mention that while I happen to value being direct, I am not that great at telling a story, because I tend to wander? This is the point in the blog where I say, "So..." Which I try not to use, because one of my bosses used to end that sentence with "...buttons on your underwear!" Almost as annoying as my husband's response to "What time is it?" ("The same time it was 24 hours ago, but a day later."). What was the point of this very one-sided prattling? Perhaps it is that I am not the only one in the world who thinks that most idle chat is pointless. I am not bringing up anything earth-shattering, but when I was looking up synonyms for "conversation" (due to the fact that no one wants to hear the same word ten times in a row, and also because Mirriam-Webster's online thesaurus helps everyone sound incredibly smart), as I read over the options I realized that most of them are very condescending and downright rude. Chit-chatting? Nattering? Engaging in small-talk? Wow.

Perhaps The Art of Conversation is as lost as table manners, waltzing and actually talking face-to-face to someone at a bar or restaurant rather than texting and "checking yourself in on Facebook", but I hate to think so. I know that despite possessing the skill of initiating persiflage (ooh, there's a ten-cent word, right there), I am not so good at maintaining a "proper" discussion, being able to quote famous people from memory, or recalling funny anecdotes. Fortunately I happen to know a lot of people who are, and when we get together, there is some serious artistry and handicraft going on, be it some version of a Philip Glass composition or a canvas by Chagall, our collective words float, jar and collide in just the right way. These kind of could-hardly-be-called-a-dialogue's are what make up for all of the forced chaff and chatter in the world. Every time there's a gap before I dare to interrupt someone droning on and on I think of you, my friends. Rock on.

Today, I read some fantastic advice on striking the right balance during discourse, it was written by Arthur Martine in 1866. From Martine's Handbook of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, I hope this is something that will always hold true: 

"In conversation there must be, as in love and in war, some hazarding, some rattling on; nor need twenty falls affect you, so long as you take cheerfulness and good humor for your guides; but the careful and measured always, though perfectly correct, extremely dull and tedious — a vast blunder from first to last."

'Nuff said.

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