Enough About Me. Let’s Talk About You. What Do You Think of Me? (Day #25)

Posted in: Thinking Big

I’ve been doing a lot of talking lately.  To Lil Mil.  To family and friends who have asked about Lil Mil.  To you, through this blog.  Even, in some sense, to myself, as I try to process the experience of motherhood.

I’ve also been doing a lot of listening.  To Lil Mil, as a I try to discern the difference between her various moans. To friends and family, as they dispense parenting advice.  To other bloggers, speaking through their blogs.  To Husband, as he describes his day.

But I realized something yesterday.  I realized something as I read a particularly poignant post on my favorite blog, Ivy League Insecurities (I say particularly poignant because nearly all of Aidan’s posts are poignant.  Honest, impeccably written, and arrestingly poignant).  I realized that I have not had a conversation – a real conversation – in a long time.  Too long.

(Sidebar:  I just noticed that Aidan’s post for today is about the very conversation that prompted this post.  A talking-really-talking kind of conversation.  So when you’re done here, go read that).

So anyway, there I was, racking my brain, combing through the days and the countless interactions since Lil Mil’s birth, trying to come up with one real, meaningful, talking-really-talking conversation.

And I came up with one.  One.  In 30+ days.  A period of time in which I have seen more people – talked and listened to more people – than I usually do in twice as long.  And yet.

One.**

It was a couple days after Lil Mil was born.  One of the rainiest.  A close friend stopped by to see me and the baby. We sat on the couch.  She held Lil Mil.  And we talked.  Really talked.  It wasn’t a pour-your-guts-out kind of conversation.  It wasn’t exceptionally deep.  But it was real.  Conversations with this friend usually are.

Thirty days.  One real conversation.

Not that the other interactions and exchanges that I’ve had in the past month have been meaningless or superficial.  Not at all.  Much of what I’ve heard has been incredibly meaningful.  And I hope that at least some of what I’ve said has been, too.  It’s just that there’s been a disconnect between the talking and the listening.  It hasn’t been an even exchange.

In most cases, I’ve been the conversation dominator.  Not intentionally, but perhaps unavoidably.  I have a new baby.  I’m a first-time mom.  Inevitably, people are full of questions and suggestions and advice.  So they ask.  I answer.  They listen and advise.  There’s generally a lot of smiling and some sympathetic nods.  We feel as though we are communicating, and to some extent we are.  But not as deeply as we could be.  We’re too programmed, I think, to revert to our respective roles.  Friend and friend with new baby.  Mother and daughter.  Husband and wife.  We say what we are supposed to say and nothing more, maybe because we are trying to convince ourselves that we feel exactly what we are supposed to feel.

Conversations with friends who don’t have children are the hardest, because they seem the most determined to keep the conversation focused on me.  After all, I’m the one living in Life with a Newborn.  I’m the one experiencing the big Life Change.  My questions about their lives are brushed aside as they ask the predictable, expected questions about mine.  Are you getting any sleep?  What’s it like being a mom?  How’s Husband doing?  Can you believe you have a baby?

The funny thing about these questions is that they’re actually quite loaded.  My real answers would probably transport us from not-really-talking to talking-really-talking.  But then again, it’d still be one-sided.  The conversation would still be uneven.  I’d walk away feeling heard and understood and they wouldn’t.

So what’s the remedy?  How do we change the ratio of real to something-less-than?  And is that what we really want?

Or are meaningful conversations just too burdensome, too time and energy intensive?  Do they demand too much of us for everyday life?  Is it unrealistic to think that we could talk and listen and hear and be heard on a regular basis?

Maybe.  Probably.

Because, let’s be honest – there are times when a real conversation is the last thing we want.  Moments when we’d prefer not to acknowledge What Is, when we’d prefer to Act As If instead.

But.

We need the real.  We need the deep.  We need the meaningful.  Maybe not all the time.  But sometimes.  We need to know and be known.  To understand and be understood.

At least, I do.   That’s why I started this project.  Yes, I wanted to finish my novel, and I liked the challenge of doing it publicly.  But the real reason?  I was afraid.  I was afraid that motherhood would take something from me.  That this detour would take me somewhere I didn’t want to go, and that I wouldn’t be able to find my way back.

I was afraid that I would get lost.

This blog, then, was supposed to be my map.  My posts were supposed to be my breadcrumbs, leading the way back to who I had been.  Your comments were supposed to be my guardrails.  This was how I was going to find my way back if I needed to, if my attempt to embrace this detour didn’t go as planned, if I one day woke up somewhere I didn’t want to be.  Someone I didn’t want to be.

I knew that writing by itself wouldn’t be enough.   I knew that in order to truly embrace this detour, I needed travel companions.  Voices in my head other than my own.  This blog, then, was supposed to be a talking-really-talking conversation, a place where I would force myself to be real and honest and raw among strangers (who I hoped would cease to be strangers) in an effort to preserve the me-ness of me.

I have no idea if that will make sense to you.  It makes sense to me.

This blog was supposed to be a conversation.  But I have been doing all the talking.  This blog was supposed to be a conversation. It has become a monologue.

It’s my fault.  I have not facilitated an even exchange.  I have asked for feedback, but narrowly.  I have fished for certain responses.  I have invited limited suggestions, welcomed particular advice.  And because of that, this conversation has become one-sided.  Which means that it’s not really a conversation.  It’s something less-than.

I want that to change.  I want to know about your lives and your journeys.  I want to ask instead of just tell.  I want to hear from you.  I want to know you.

So, talk to me.  Comment if you want.  Email me if you’d prefer.  Send me a link to your blog instead.  Please don’t feel obligated to respond to my posts. Don’t let the word “comment” fool you.  Just talk.

Oh!  And a brief addendum.  Last night, after my big I-have-only-had-one-real-conversation-in-the-last-month realization, a friend stopped by to visit.  She was on her way somewhere and could only stay a few minutes, so our conversation was brief.  It was brief, but it was real.

Real conversations: 1  Something-less-than:  0.  I’m off to a good start.

Maybe it’s easier than we think.

(How many real conversations have you had in the last month?  Are there certain people with whom it’s easier for you to have real conversations?  When was the last time you felt truly “heard”?  Do you think blogs count as a real conversations?  Do you like questions at the bottom of blog posts or do you find them annoying?)

** Not including conversations with Sister.  Conversations with Sister are always talking-really-talking conversations.  Conversations with Sister don’t count.

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