Tag Archives: conversation

Excuse the Mess

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If we were having coffee, you would have a red cat on your knee and a notebook to write on, and we would be writing notes back and forth. Probably we would be fighting over the black cat pen — who had it last?? I thought you had your own pen!! Peeve.

There would be a fresh shower of rain streaming down the windows, as it’s pretty wet these days… windows to front and back, so you would see a quiet street out the front and a hedge at the back with a lot of big trees. The pigeons would sit in the trees and look at you. They are always there, and sometimes a grey squirrel too.

Presumably you would be writing something like, “Well, this is nice, isn’t it, but a bit puzzling. How did I come to be here?”

I would take the cat pen and reply, “I think it’s my fault. I decided to try this hashtag thing — weekendcoffeeshare — without having a clue how hashtags actually work. I thought it would bring bloggers to my page, not here to have coffee with me. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to meet you, but I do hope you will excuse the mess…”

And you would write, “Oh, the mess is fine. Just don’t do it again, that’s all! I am not quite sure how I’m going to get back now. Thingy will be wondering where I disappeared to.”

I would say, “I don’t know. If you know how to work hashtags, it might be the way home for you?”

And you would say, “Sorry, I don’t know a thing about hashtags. Never use them.”

There would be an awkward silence, then the red cat (Delilah) would stretch happily and dig her claws in, as she does love having someone new to torture sit on.

You would say, in a relenting tone of scribble, “Since I am here, I’ve often wondered what you really look like behind that eskimo bear,” and I would say, “Well, as you see… there’s no eskimo bear! It’s upstairs, just sleeping.”

“Oh,” you would say, and “I guess you don’t look like an eskimo bear.”

And I would say, “You don’t look how I imagined, either.”

“What, doesn’t my picture look like me?”

“Noooooo…. you look…. more real.”

“Thank you.”

After another silence, you would say, “Don’t you think that eskimo bear photo is a bit outdated? You’ve had it since you first began blogging in 2005 or whenever. Now it looks kind of soft and old.”

I would start having a panic attack at the thought of just how old the bear is, the camera it was photographed with and the blog, and you hastily say, “Don’t worry! It’s all good.”

“OK,” I’d say. “Let me just get my iPad. Where did you say you lived again? I’ll look up the train times. Where?? OK… PLANE times. Oh, and take the bear with you, just as a souvenir. I feel the need for a brand new profile picture…”

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Profound Deafness: Social Interlude

I was sitting downstairs with our visitors over coffee, thinking “this could be quite nice,” but got bored because I didn’t have the slightest idea what anyone was talking about. It’s not really something you can bear for very long… the next time you look in the mirror your eyelids are heavy with sleep!

I found myself remembering what my audiologist said only a couple of months ago — “you will not be able to take part in normal conversation, but might be able to pick up some environmental sounds.”

People are odd when conversing politely; they look briefly when someone starts talking, then stare at the corners of the ceiling in a laid-back, thoughtful way. There isn’t a whole lot of eye contact going on, and that’s how I communicate, really. I wondered if I was breaking some social rule by looking round at everyone.

In the end I had to potter off… pretended I was just going to the kitchen, then disappeared upstairs! They said I didn’t have to go to lunch with them, so here I am.

I won’t say I’m relieved and cheerful that I’ve been let off the hook… it’s not that at all. You feel depressed for a time because you know you’re missing out. It’s not today’s lunch or conversation you regret so much as all the lunches and conversations in your life — the extra friendships you could have had. You still have friends, but there would have been more.

I will cheer up eventually, but you end up back at this place from time to time.

Put Coffee On, Read Blogs (and comments on introversion)

Coffee pot, mug, miniature rose and bear

A few mixed things running through my mind…

There are books I read recently which strike me as important because of the issues they raise… books such as Quiet by Susan Cain. I’ve often felt things are organized in a way that suits only some types — confident types with good hearing! There are no options, no flexibility. You’re considered flawed if you find a situation more overwhelming than others do, but if they were you, they’d be exactly the same for the same reasons!

Another book, Being Wrong by Kathryn Schultz, had a big impact on me, and I always think back to it when someone is deemed stupid for holding different opinions. We equate ‘wrong’ with ‘stupidity’, which is one reason why people have such a horror of being caught out. Yet there is more to it; mistakes are unavoidable but have their uses. Perhaps our thinking has to change.

A few days ago I was reading the Culture Monk’s post on conflict, and commented that a lot of conflict is unnecessary… too many people base their actions on what they think, not what they know. We accept our own imperfections (to a point) and that of people we love, but expect perfection from everyone else. We look at other people and think we know them, yet have barely scratched the surface. I reckon this is why we need real conversations, not just Facebook status updates and space-limited chats…

I have to say I identified with the bit in Quiet that says introverts love deep and meaningful conversations and find small talk frustrating! I have felt embarrassed on my own behalf, seeing myself as a social clodhopper, but if there are others out there like me, I don’t need to worry so much.

There’s presumably controversy about whether people should be classified as introverts and extroverts, and especially if we should say ‘introverts do this thing and that thing’ whereas maybe extroverts do as well. If we wear the terminology lightly and just pay attention to the message, we can see the book is important because it’s a voice that says “no, there’s nothing wrong with you! You’re one of many.”

I’ve become more of a reader than a writer. Though I’ve not visited many blogs lately, I get hold of a lot of books and search Google for articles. It’s likely I would read blogs on a regular basis if I figured out how to work them into my daily routine (and didn’t overwhelm myself with things like BuzzFeed).

My sister gave me a pink espresso pot for my birthday. I don’t hear it bubble when coffee is coming through, but I feel it rumble on the hob. I’m not much of a blogger now, but… put coffee on, read blogs? Sounds perfect to me.

Pensive Station

Geo said she puts her blog posts up without worrying too much (except for typos). I think hers always sound better than mine… down to earth and bubbly and sometimes dark and pensive, but never irritable or laboured, the way mine sometimes do. Recently I tried to write about a dark dream I had, and it came across as… I’m not sure.

I seem to be running scared of ever getting in a dark mood again, even though that’s impossible! I don’t want to be dark, and I don’t want to sound dark — maybe I’ve done too much of that in my life. But I still have things I’d like to talk about and describe, because otherwise how would people ever know or remember?

Something I rather wanted to explore, whether in my head or by blog, or journal, or email… when Joy was here on a visit, she was standing talking on her way out to the door. (She loves to talk!) I was thinking how I was more relaxed, and a while ago I would have been leaning on a door frame or sitting on a chair or something, worried about a panic attack, even if it seemed unlikely. But in the ping-pong game of conversation (or should it be volleyball?), even when I’m taking a back seat and leaving it to the other players, I know that a look will sometimes come my way, to include me (Joy is very well brought up… much better manners than me!) or to gauge my expression. So I’m still a player too.

I suppose… I do not really know what is being said, so I can’t quite react the way that’s expected. I might smile or frown in the wrong places, or just look blank and stupid (which isn’t a great option!) Or I could go away, or read a book, or watch TV, but those activities are rude when you have a guest, or are seen as rude. So you feel a bit bored, and a bit distracted (thoughts tending to drift elsewhere), and a bit stupid, and don’t quite know what to do with yourself or how to look.

And because you’re all focused on the look of the thing and don’t know what it’s all about, you feel awkward all of the time. And perhaps it’s all that awkwardness that made me nervous and (ultimately) agoraphobic.

Anyway, Joy (who I like and wish I could chat with much more) was still talking, and I was wondering how different I would be if, all of these 40 years and more, I had actually been hearing people, been focused on their words (and not just my own body language), getting involved. Would I ever have been quite as jumpy and ‘off in a world of my own’? I don’t think so, because I do like a good conversation! I would have got used to answering people and smiling in the right places, and there would have been less reason for me to feel awkward.

I wonder if I can put this up on my blog and not edit or delete it?

Overheard in a Café?

Well, not really overheard in a café… just written down in our conversation notepad.

Me: “Do you find mixed cultural groups get more ‘scratchy’ than more local or national groups?”
Mum: “No. You just have to look at student coffee groups to see how well the mixes get on.”
Me: “Students always get on well — they’re young, hopeful, living away from home and looking for friends. Older people are less interested in making friends — they have their kids.”
Mum: “Maybe ‘job envy’ comes into it.”

Me: “I’ve come to the conclusion that being ‘naive’ and ‘innocent’ is a kind of freedom. Not knowing all the things and people that annoy others. Being free to make up one’s own mind.”

Me: “I’m beginning to not recognize this town. Because the [censored] shop was empty, I walked right past the opticians next door. I was wondering why I didn’t see the opticians anyway, and realized it looks more empty than opticiany.”
Mum: “Did they not have Easter bunnies in the window? You get the feeling they’ve been breeding. There are more every day.”
Me: “That’s why we need more dragons.”

Me: “Songs are funny — I attached a Roxy Music song to a picture I uploaded, and got a quicker, more positive reaction than normal. It’s a point of connection, I guess — older people realize you come from the same place, so to speak.”

Mum: “Headline in the paper saying that primary children are to be allowed to use blogs and ‘Twitters’ at school.”
Me: “I find that strange. Workplaces are trying to stamp out the practice — shouldn’t wonder if some screen for blogs the way they screen for drugs!”

Me: “Even if I could answer phones, I’d never agree to be anyone’s Phone-a-Friend… in case they ask me which film had Ponderosa,  or which Spice Girl did what.”
Mum: “The idea is they ask things you would be likely to know.”
Me: “Unless all your friends listen to UB40, and blog rather than watch Eastenders/Pop Idol/football, in which case you might get asked the unanswerable question anyway.”
Mum: “More likely to get the Jane Austen ones.”
Me: “‘Irony’ [like in Jane Austen novels] is an odd word — I always thought I knew what it was, and every time I had to write an essay on it, I thought I did well… but always got a poor mark along with the comment that I hadn’t really got the point of it. Or something. I can’t remember what I did write in those essays!”

Mum: “There was an interesting programme about Narnia and C.S. Lewis last night. The thinking is that he wrote each Narnia story to represent one of the 7 planets recognized in antiquity. Lots of eminent scholars are backing up the thesis.”
Me: “Why would he go to all the trouble? Why planets?”
Mum: “Apparently he was very interested in planetology. Remember the books I was looking for — ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ etc. Also they said he wrote other stuff themed likewise. Said he was not a children’s writer — a v. learned academic.”
Me: “I prefer that to ‘children’s writer with an agenda’.”
Mum: “The programme was entitled ‘The Narnia Code’.”

Me: “It said on the blurb of Anthony Hopkin’s biography that he failed at school because he was too busy with his art projects — he does look like a bit of a dreamer.”
Mum: “Depends on what he failed at. To get into university, or O Levels?”
Me: “Can’t remember — could have been Highers or A Levels.”

Mum: “This [red] pen is a good writer. A lot of these coloured ones are terrible.”
Me: “Can’t remember where from — suspect Morrisons. V. cheap. If we have to lose pens in town, might as well be these cheap ones.”
Mum: “Do we?”
Me: “My two favourite Parker pens disappeared.”
Mum: “Might be in my jug on the desk.”
Me: “Long gone, even before I came here — but who knows? Might be in a forgotten pocket or bag. Or swallowed by the sofa — it recently regurgitated my cat brooch.”

Me (in Costa’s): “I hate it when all that’s left are the middle tables. We were lucky to get this one — I moved used crockery off it.”
Mum: “Students back. There seems to be a strange trend of lecturers and students having coffee while discussing work. Odd.”
Me: “We were spoiled in [censored] — we had our own street (cafe, book shop).”
Mum: “Lots of choice here nowadays. Not when E was up. She said they reckoned they couldn’t afford daily coffees anyway. A wonder she survived!”
Me: “We went home for coffee except when feeling adventurous.”
Mum: “Used to be that I went to town shopping and never dreamt of having coffee on my own.”

Me: “Girl out there with forget-me-not blue hair. Gone now.”

Mum: “Kirsty rang and said ‘Have you heard I have a new computer?’ I said ‘no!’ and she said ‘it is a lovely red one!!’ E says it’s like people when asked what kind of car have they bought say — ‘a blue one’.”
Me: “I hate it when people put a picture on the picture sites and never say anything about it — what their inspiration was, which software they used, etc. Just ‘enjoy!’ or ‘ 🙂 ‘ or nothing at all. Makes you want to slap them.”
Mum: “Or zap them?”

Me: “Don’t underestimate what people can hear — their ears flap so they can write ‘overheard in a café’ blog posts.”
Mum: “I know what they can hear. No chance unless they are at the next table.”

Or possibly this table?

Sympathy and Snoopery

I enjoyed Andrea’s blog post You just don’t get it. I seem to respond that way to people’s stories… recently a friend was talking about a parent who died, and so I talked about my parent who died. I remembered the darkness of those days and could share that with her, even though I didn’t know her father. In any case, it seemed better to express myself as “I’m with you” rather than “I’m looking at you from a distance and I’m sorry for you.”

My friend (who has always been chatty) seemed OK with it, but not everyone would want such a response, perhaps.

I realize (from reading around) that people sometimes wonder why a friend always brings the conversation back to him/herself. In some cases that friend is more interested in talking than listening, but in other cases that friend has listened and is using this method to say “I’ve been in your boat and have felt that same muddy water swirling round my ankles. You’re not alone.”

Sometimes I have a problem not unrelated; if I’m telling someone about my day, I’m happy if they reciprocate and tell me about theirs. I feel awkward sometimes about saying “well, what about you?” in case they don’t really want to discuss it. Someone I know gets irritated when one of her friends starts a phonecall with “well, did you have a nice day? Why not? What went wrong?” Her reaction is “I only want to tell you about it if I decide that myself.”

I like to be told about friends’ experiences… but I don’t want to come across as nosy or irritating, so I tell my own stories. Some of my friends seem to understand that my story is just half of the exchange, but others haven’t a clue about it. Some even take it as a request for advice, which can be infuriating!

Just a few days ago, I was reading Intensity by Dean Koontz. In the first few pages are two close friends (female students) chatting, and when one asked a personal question, the other laughingly called it ‘snoopery’. The first friend said she was dodging the question, and the second friend finally answered. I found myself thinking that the first friend, by insisting on a reply, had more courage than I have these days, but then I used to have that kind of friendship with Honey… I would say we were more like sisters, only I don’t know how many sisters have a relationship so relaxed.

It left me wondering what friendship means; if it means different things to different people; how much we are allowed to ask questions or be involved in another person’s life, and which questions we are allowed to ask? If email is seen as a ‘non’ way to talk, just as internet friends aren’t viewed as real? And why one person might be quite secretive about nothing at all, and another person is open about all sorts of things.

I suppose I’ve wandered away from the starting topic, but I enjoyed Andrea’s post because she put into words this thing… how people try to connect in different ways, and don’t always recognize those differences.