While having lunch with someone yesterday I started talking about being a lone woman in the way I experience this. After a few minutes of her trying to fit what I was saying into her notions of alone and lonely, I said, ‘no’ that is not what I’m talking about. In her book, An Unknown Woman, Alice Koller describes a very similar meeting, in which the person she was talking to said, “I know exactly what you’re doing and I can do it too.”
People can be quite arrogant about insisting that they know what they don’t know. I have been accused of this as well. But lately, I am limiting my arrogance to what I really do know ‘from direct experience.’ When I told the woman I was lunching with that I had a hard time finding an apartment in the city we live in, she said, “I’m not going to listen to your negativity about finding an apartment.” I wasn’t expressing any negativity, I was just stating a fact.
The longer I lone, the more I find language inadequate. Everyday I hear people using language carelessly and they think nothing of it. In the end, when the misuse or mangling of language has confused everyone or caused terrible problems, it is common to hear, “Oh, I didn’t mean that,” or “You heard me wrong, or “You misinterpreted what I said.”
Yesterday I called my mother to clarify a very important issue. After talking about this issue for fifteen minutes, she said “I’m so glad you called because now I know that you feel X, and that you are going to do Y.” I was shocked to hear that what she said back to me, her summary of what I said, had nothing to do with what I said. When I pointed this out, she said, “Well, I know what you were “really” saying.”
No, she did not. She just wanted to hear what she wanted to hear. Unfortunately, there are people who become very attuned to this phenomenon at a young age. It was obvious to me as a child what my mother wanted, and did not want to hear, and this became the template for most of our interactions.
If, during a conversation, I sense discord, like when the woman I lunched with said I was being negative about apartment hunting, I sometimes think, ‘why do I bother talking to people at all.’ By simply not talking, I alleviate the onerous burden of having to wonder what somebody really said, or how they felt about what I said – and, best of all, I can prevent petty arguments about what neither of us said.
If a person really wants to simplify their life, the first thing they need to do is cut back on their talking, (and their listening to other people talk) by at least 50%. Through this simple act, I guarantee that you will immediately start to understand the futility of talking.
Many years ago, I told a male friend about a conversation I had with my lover. After going into great detail about this conversation, I asked him what he thought my lover had “really” said to me. In his usual deadpan manner, he said, “Nothing, he didn’t say anything to you.” After being momentarily shocked, I saw the truth of this and we both laughed.
When I have conversations with people now, I assess them afterwards to ferret out what was communicated. Did we spend time ‘pissing in the wind’ or did we say something meaningful to each other. If, after meeting with someone a number of times, I don’t think anything is really being said or I hear the same things being said over and over, I stop seeing the person.
Increasingly, talking is morphing into entertainment. People talk to entertain each other. If this keeps happening, how will anybody be able to distinguish entertainment from non-entertainment? Even horrific catastrophies are being marketed as commercial entertainment and what we used to call news is nothing more than “infomercials.”
Because of the attention paid to the topic of junk food, many of us are now making more meaningful and healthy choices about what we eat. When are we going to start paying attention to junk talk, the incessant flow of nonsensical, petty, and banal words that clog up the brain arteries and prevent truly meaningful communication?
“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Only the echoes of my mind.” ~ Harry Nilsson.