Sunday, August 29, 2010


I've become quieter. I don't talk as much when I'm with people anymore and I'm not seeking to be with people as much either. I've been thinking about why.

Mainly, it has become difficult to have conversation. I'm trying to think of an occasion when there was time for conversation without the end of the lunch, gathering, evening, dinner, or whatever, looming large. Even when there is conversation it doesn't have an opportunity to come to a natural conclusion. Instead, it is regimented by the arbitrary numbers on a clock.

In my world, at least, there seems to be rare opportunity for real conversation. When it does present itself, I'm tentative about trying to engage for fear it will be cut short by the clock, someone's phone, or an interruption to my train of thought. If I'm sharing myself in a meaningful way and you interrupt me or change the subject I feel foolish for having put myself out there in the first place.

If i'm interrupted repeatedly - verbally or non-verbally - I tend to disengage. I'm not saying that's good, just that it's my way. And I'm not talking about only the typical interruptions, but the more subtle ones.

Sometimes people interject a word of agreement into the conversation in order to speed you along, so they can speak. Sometimes people do something that brings the attention to them and changes the focus of the conversation. Sometimes people jump in when you take a breath, so they can talk. Sometimes people quickly change the subject of the conversation or offer a platitude instead of something meaningful. Sometimes it's obvious they are biding their time until you stop talking and they can go on to the next thing they want to do. Sometimes it's a suddenly animated body language that indicates they can barely wait to talk and are just waiting for you to stop.

It simply takes too much energy for me to try and overcome those things. I mentally retreat into my inner world. The only logical assumption is that people take these actions because what I'm saying is boring them. I'm growing acutely aware that what is of interest to me is not of interest to very many other people, so perhaps I bore people more often than I've previously realized.

It's ironic that I'm a person who craves connection with other people and it seems to be more elusive all the time. But, I can't fake interest in other things, and if my interests are boring to others, I'm not sure what options exist other than to expand my circle or retreat. I've tried to work on the former while continuing to live in this community, but find the latter is seductively easier.

I'm reminded once again of William Stafford's last conversation with his son, Kim. Kim was astonished that his dad, who had written daily for 50 years, said he had stories he hadn't told. When Kim asked why, William Stafford said he had been waiting for someone to ask.

Maybe I'm just growing to accept that no one is asking because no one wants to hear my stories or thoughts, so there's no reason to fight to tell them. Maybe they're of no interest or use to anyone but me, so it makes sense to just turn them over in my head instead of trying to share them. Maybe it's yet another reason why I write so much.

I don't know that anyone will ever read the many thousands of pages I've written over the years, but for some reason I feel a need to record thoughts. I would love to share with others, and expand my thought processes with their input, but I find it more and more necessary to turn to books for that. It's one way I can have new thoughts coming into my world that isn't dependent on conversation with others.

It's not as satisfying as having real conversation, but that is something I can't seem to figure out how to do on a regular basis. So, I've noticed that I spend more and more time alone - reading, thinking, painting and writing - instead of trying to connect with other people.

It's not my first choice, but it's the logical choice. I must have stimulation for my brain, and while I'd like that to come, partially, in the form of meaningful conversation, the amount of energy I have to expend for even a chance at that is astronomical when compared to going to the library.

Although I don't think it's necessarily healthy, nor is it my first choice, I find myself retreating into my own world more and more, and being quieter even when I am with people. I'm fighting the concept of learned helplessness, but it has become such a daunting task to create situations where conversation can happen, that I am trying less often.


Susannah said...

Hi Patsy - I really identify with this and I too have retreated into quiet.

I understand the feelings and the nuances that we pick up that stop a sharing, that cause retreat.

But I have looked honestly at myself and I too find myself in conversation with people just waiting my turn to speak.

Listening, really listening is an art and most people are more interested in being heard than in hearing.

That is the wonderful thing about blog writing, you are never interrupted, you can express yourself fully and if someone comes along and reads and connects with what you say then it widens the circle of who you can touch and interact with.

Blogs can be a wonderful two way thing, I have met some wonderful people through their visits to my blog and mine to theirs. Once I would read a blog like a magazine, forgetting that there was a person behind it, until I started blogging. :-) now if I comment in a meaningful way and am not answered I feel I am being ignored.

Anyway, I had better stop before this turns into an essay. :-)

A wonderfully written post covering something that I imagine more people than you suspect, experience.

Patsy Terrell said...

I wonder if we've gotten into the habit of wanting to speak more because we fear we'll never be heard otherwise, because there's so little opportunity for conversation.

I posed a question about this on facbook last night and while multiple people said they could identify, none seemed to want conversation enough to create the time/space for it.

It has occurred to me to put an ad on Craig's List for conversation. Seems incredibly odd, but it could be an interesting sociological experiment.

Thanks for writing!

(And I always answer blog comments unless I just miss one somewhere along the way!)

Susannah said...

Actually the Craigs List thing would be a very interesting experiment! I wonder how many other people would feel like it too?. . . and be brave enough to answer.

Nice talking to you. :-)

Patsy Terrell said...

you too! maybe one of these days I'll try the Craig's List deal... there's a whole blog in tracking that process! :)