31 March 2012

absence and the conversational arts

Before I get into the topic of this post, can we just mull over the fact that I haven't written here in nearly two years?! You thought I'd given up on this blog, right? Sure, I've only used it during that time for the blogroll, but I have considered posting now and again. Usually I'd get an idea but not have the time to follow through with the post.

That's the story of my life as a writer ... if I were Shakespeare, I'd have completed the sonnets, yes, but maybe only a play or two, plus there'd be a lot of pieces of paper that said things like: "Play about Danish prince? TRAGEDY. Mother marries father's brother!! 'To be or not to be?' (monologue about choosing life/death) Girlfriend goes crazy, drowns. Everyone dies (?)"

You think I'm being flip, but I have several spec scripts, comedy sketches, and books in this format. I love ideas; they're always sparkly and delightful and the best thing ever. Half-finished works freak me out, and completed works mystify me.


Okay, what I was ACTUALLY going to write about was my current interpersonal hurdle: having a normal give-and-take conversation with a grown-up. Before I had kids, I thought that when stay-at-home parents talked about having difficulty talking to people their own age, they couldn't follow along with the topics of conversation because of falling out of touch with current events, sleep deprivation, etc. Now that I have a 4-year-old and a 3 1/2-month-old, I realize that the issue is not content (or consciousness), but conditioning.

When you are a new mother with a baby, there is a lot of silence in your day. (That is, when the baby is not screaming. Let's not sugar-coat things.) You feel weird talking aloud to yourself, and the baby can't understand you, so the only things you say are "sshs" and lyrics to lullabies (or, in my case, Broadway shows and Beatles songs). Then you read books that tell you about keeping a running dialogue with your baby, and after a length of time, this becomes second nature. By now your child is starting to talk, but you are mostly forced to draw things out of your child with questions. You are responsible for the lion's share of the conversation, pausing only for nods or "NO!"s as they come.

Thus, when you attempt to talk to someone whose vocabulary extends past a dozen words, and who has opinions, anecdotes and questions of their own, you have a hard time switching gears from constant narration to an equal discourse. You're so used to preparing something else to say to drown out the quiet that you find yourself half-listening to what the other person is saying in order to ready your next statement. You come across as jumpy, inconsiderate, and vain, when really you're just trying to remember how talking is supposed to go. How does it go again? When do I speak? When do I shut up? Should I be asking more questions, or am I asking too many? Is this when I should volunteer something about myself, or does that sound conceited?

I find that after every conversation I have, I'm doing some post-game analysis on how it went, so that I can improve for the next time. I'm so desperate not to come off as crazy THAT I DRIVE MYSELF CRAZY.

So please cut myself, and others in my situation, some of that so-called "slack." Also, please don't assume that because we're struggling for things to say that we don't have any feelings or experiences to share that are not child-related. As much as I love my kids, I am generally dying to talk about myself in the singular again - and, one of these days, I'll remember how to do it.

1 comment:

Jenn @ Living Luxe for Less said...

I'm totally feeling you on this! Now that G is starting to babble more it seems like all I do all day is babble back! And then when my husband does get home from work all I do is talk about the baby! Someone told me this year that couples with kids should try and set aside one hour a week with no electronics and no talking about the kids. I've tried but it's hard to do!