Casual conversation and my voice…what a PITA these days!
I remember a time my parents could not get my off the phone and I wrote letters to out of state friends constantly. Now I am making an effort to get at least some of that back. It is hilariously painful!
My life is good. I am able to live it in a way I choose right now, and for this I am very grateful. I am able to stay at home with my children while they are little, volunteer in their schools, drive them to extra curricular activities and build and make things with them. The only downside to all of this business is that it leaves me very short on time for adult conversation.
My children are learning how to have conversations. There isn’t much give and take in these situations. Either it is about taking turns while they tell me things and I listen, or it is about me modeling good listening and asking lots of questions to which I rarely get many answers. I know it is important to keep asking and listening. But it is tiring.
On top of not having the opportunity for much adult conversation, I am entering into my 40s, which is a time of serious evaluation for a lot of us. It is a time many of us decide we really have to be who we are and stop being so very afraid to show that we have thoughts and opinions that are not always of our audience.
So, when faced with an adult conversation these days, I am challenged. On the one hand, I am out of practice with someone actually LISTENING to me. And, on the other, I am often fighting with many years of unsaid opinions and thoughts, of which just dealing with which ones I should share and which ones I really should just still keep to myself makes me CRANKY in general.
I find that looking right into someone’s eyes with my full attention makes my mind wander. For those of my friends who have wondered why I look like I am in a spacey trance looking at you, or why I have to pull my eyes away a few seconds before I speak, it is just this: human beings are lovely to look at! We all look so interesting! I am looking at the way you speak and your shiny teeth. I am noting that your eyes sparkle. I am noting how your forehead crinkles when you are excited by what you are saying. I am also losing my train of thought. Dang! What was I going to say? Oh, hey, here is the wall. Now I can think.
This is why, in the middle of many a conversation with my husband, I actually do blurt out, “Aw, you are sooo pretty!” and I forget my point entirely. I know it is fine to do that with him, but of course it is not a good idea to do that with someone I’ve just met.
Expressing what I really want to say to people I am not close friends with is also terrifying. Stay at home mom culture is tricky. When my son was a year old, I joined a moms group with kids born in the same year. I learned a lot. But I also saw some moms really be hard on each other. It made me want to be super extra nice and make sure I hosted playdates regularly with the kids with which my son got along. I was very careful to be kind and not cause waves.
As my son has gotten older, I continued in this vein with most of my casual acquaintances, but this tack ended up really biting me in the butt. I didn’t want to say things to these friends for fear of being unkind. The word “no” became increasingly difficult. My own fault! Boundaries are important. But it is a big leap for me to exercise those boundaries and admit that not everyone I like is my closest friend.
So now, when I do express my thoughts and I know they are not going to be popular, I get all pumped up. My voice gets louder and wavers a little in that bendy electric wire way. Dang! It’s embarrassing. I figure it will get better with practice.
Right now it is pretty funny for me, and I can laugh about it later, but I had an experience recently where I think I made the group of people I was with concerned I was going to break down in tears. Awkward! Frickin’ wavery and high pitched voice while I was trying to make my point. In that circumstance, it was hard to get all of the words out for all I wanted to say, the stupid fight or flight jumpy chemicals were getting in the way. But I did finally make my point. It got out there. So I’m happy, but concerned about how to pick up the aftermath. I can tell people are a little mad. I know they weren’t so happy with me because the point I was making, but the raised voice made it an unlikeable AND ugly point. Blah!
But, I’m not giving up, no way.
Yesterday I had the best conversation with a friend over the phone. It was during one of those days I was stuck driving and driving all day as our car needed repairs and I had my 3 year old with me all day to make comfortable. My friend told me about the perils of her eye injury and her weird experience of getting something taken out of her eye that day by the doctor. I was so proud of her! She was badass! Her eye is doing well now.
Talking to my friend reminded me of the rush it is to have a great adult conversation with a friend and how much I need it for my mental health. So, I am grateful for my adult friends who like me despite of my faults. It is sure nice to know that I have someone to talk to when I’ve had one of those days where I’ve had to show people who I am and they don’t like me so much. It happens, and it isn’t the end of the world, though it is still terrifying for me. I know that the better I am at conversation, the more I can give back to the lovely person I am looking at as a way of saying thank you.