All my life I’ve struggled with the spoken word. Anytime I engage in conversation, I’ve got a litany of words streaming through my head, Matrix-like, and must sort through them in order to ensure what I’m about to say lends proper weight, meaning, gravitas. At the same time, I’m aware most people couldn’t care less. But I can’t alter who I am at whim. Meanwhile I cringe as others begin drifting away, looking furtively from side to side as though they want to be anywhere but inside of this suddenly far-too-complex interaction.
While making conversation might be easy for some, consider the bane of a thesaurus-like brain. If you really can’t or don’t want to stretch your imagination, simply consider the paradox that is the (American) English language. (This should be easy for those of you for whom English is your second language.) Although I have passing knowledge of French and Spanish, I lack fluency, though I’d like to believe there are languages out there that make it easier to say what one means and thus to mean what one says. Spoken (American) English seems facile only if one does not seek to use it too creatively.
Take for instance the greeting, How are you? Really, and I’ve found this to be disappointingly true, most folks don’t want to know how I am. Instead they simply desire the briefest of intercourse, want mirrored back to them that all is well in their world. Thus I have discovered the proper answer is simply Great! or Fine! or Fabulous! Or if I haven’t the stomach for perfidy, I can always get away with a simple Okay. (Period. Or dot-dot-dot.) More than the most cursory reply seems to hold little interest, and I can’t bear dismissive looks anyway. The word pleasantries does not really fit and yet its meaning does: inconsequential banter, though I don’t find it pleasant in the least; do forgive my honesty. I find it banal and shallow.
Consider the word discriminate. I do not discriminate based on color, gender, sexual proclivity or religious viewpoint. But I do discriminate when it comes to the quality of my interactions. If I didn’t, I’d ramble on to a four year-old about my future plans for education or my mother’s bad knees. If I did not discriminate, I might find myself in a dangerous situation. Or I might choose eggs when I really wish I would have eaten the chicken instead, though this is purely metaphor, being vegetarian these days. All this before I open my mouth.
While I strive not to judge others knowing it is unfair, if I do not judge anything about them or about myself, if I fail to have opinions about human behavior or with regard to various life situations, I’d never be able to write. Anything. At all. It’s simply the way I’m wired.