Friday, March 01, 2013

Listen



The biggest thing I hate about myself at first doesn’t seem like a particularly large negative, but it’s sure as hell hard to change it.


I’m a shocking listener.  

My coffee making skills are improving; gift-giving isn’t too shabby and making people laugh is reasonably easy when shared experiences and silly jokes are flung about, but being able to shut up for long(ish) periods and let someone else have their fair shake of the sauce bottle is something that continually eludes me.

Actually, elude is copping out lightly, making my problem seem more cuddly-wuddly than it deserves to be.  More honest ways to describe it could include ‘overbearing,’ ‘trying far too hard,’ or ‘obviously allergic to companionable silence.’ Yes to them all, sadly, and let’s add the one that seems funny but really truly isn’t: being a bloody annoying show off.

It only takes a few easily-digestible advice columns or first year, week one Psychology to understand that it stems from my desperate need for approval, attention and the spotlight.  It takes slightly more than a Cliff notes’ read of Freud or flick through ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ to note that despite already appreciating that my childhood gave me all of those things – as well as love, support, encouragement, freedom and creativity – my selfish behaviour continues.

People often remark about vacuous types who are clearly just waiting for you to stop moving your mouth so that they can jump in and start again.  I’ve nodded in recognition, but know via my crawling insides that I’m one of those people. Geez it hurts to write that as I’d much rather be depicted as friendly, caring, sociable and a cheerful ‘front of house’ hostess with the most-ess.

There have been more times than I wish to count that have seen me step outside of myself and witness my almost-hysterical, strident desire to hold sway over a gathering and feel a combined sense of deep shame and an inability to stop it. Usually, taking the dirty dishes out to the kitchen or a change to the dessert course can help break my dinner party domination but only if LC is there to dash in behind me and softly whisper something like, “Kath, this isn’t meant to be nasty but you never give anyone a chance to speak!”

He is always correct.  “If there are eight people at the table, it’s best to assume that you should only get one eighth of the conversation space.”  My stupid, nasally, look-at-moiye voice.... it's not like I enjoy hearing it, or that anyone has remarked on its melodiousness, but why can't I shut the hell up?

My crest-fallen face always upsets him and he apologises profusely.  After twenty years of togetherness shouldn’t still have to do this but he’s been forced to do it time after time and after time and still sees his wife embarrass him, herself and their child with her ‘Look at me! Hear me! LIKE ME! Antics.  I’m forty four years old for pharksakes.
















Another thing it's long past time to be brutally truthful about is how the sound of laughter is like melted Lindt chocolate being lovingly poured all over my ego, dripping through to every crack and crevice of my painfully shallow and personality-parched body.  My soul thrives on it and craves more of it the more it is given.  Friends sometimes manage to get a word in and tell entertaining stories of their past or recent adventures or observations, and I barge in, with an Annie Oakley-style, ‘Anything you can do I can do (say, tell, enact, sing, recall, embellish, mimic) better,’ undoubtedly causing guests – and LC – to sit back and eventually give up.  It’s impossible to bust through when I'm locked and loaded in full show-off mode.

“For gods’ sake Mum, stop talking and listen to me!”  This one hurts the most because it's true.  

It's been a struggle writing this blog lately because a lot of what affects or interests me is of a deeply personal nature.  It would be a betrayal of the other people involved if I discussed issues that not only concern me but them also.  Having a rueful laugh is one thing, but it should only be my flaws that I dissect here at the keyboard.














I need to take my cue from Milly the dog. She sits, she listens and somehow understands what is required of her.  A swish of her tail, a raised eyebrow muscle or zany smile as she dashes past in the park says it all.

Chewing gum has always given me a stomach ache (juices flowing, no food arriving = tummy in turmoil) but maybe it would help keep my jabber jaws occupied and other guests able to complete a full sentence or three without a Kath-style conversation crash in.  Drinking more might help keep my cake hole under control but only if it's non-alcoholic.  Too many fermented fruits or yeasty bubbles just make me worse.  Diet coke and water is a viable option as it would also see me visit the bathroom more often, thus creating even more breaks for my buddies.

Seriously though, I owe several hundred people over the past two decades an apology or two.

And more recently, Sapphire.  The thing she needs most right now is my ear. And my two arms for a hug.  Hugs I can do and will try very hard to offer them more often.  And in silence.


27 comments:

Pandora Behr said...

You are being far, far, far too hard on yourself.

And if you need an ear, just so you can talk, without having to stop for others - you know where I am.. Hugs xx

wilbo43 said...

A lot of us have that trait, Kath, you are not alone.

Cheers,

Bill

Alexia said...

I'm sure you are hyperbollicking* here, Kath! As Pandora says, don't be so hard on yourself. I wish I could have a fraction of your obviously extroverted, outgoing, sociable nature, as I am the complete opposite - I find social occasions hard and would far rather sit back and listen to others than talk myself :)

Your Sapphire is so lovely - what a gorgeous smile!!

* I just made this word up based on the fact that my students all prefer to pronounce it "hy-per-bowl" rather than "hy-per-bol-ee".

Kath Lockett said...

Thank you, Pandora, for being too kind and offering an ear. That's what *I* should be doing more often.

Wilbo43, I just wish that I could dial mine down to eight instead of eleven....

Hyperbollocking, Alexia? LOVE the word but actually I'm being as honest as I can in this post. We went out to dinner tonight with the lovely A family and again my excitement reached 'eleven'. Then again, so did two out of four of the A family members, so at least mine was partly camouflaged.

A work in progress to be sure.

FruitCake said...

Y are not alone. Many of us walk away from social occasions wondering why it’s so bloody hard to shut up.
No criminal intent? No gong.
Would you rather whisper something others are only supposed to hear third hand than try to outdo others around a dinner table? I doubt it.
The gum wouldn’t help anyway – there’s something rather disconcerting about people who chew when their gob is always open.
Drinking wouldn’t help – imagine feeling bad about talking too much and feeling bad about what you said!

What about a “safe” sign? Next time you have guests for dinner, place a bowl of salted peanuts on the table. When you start to steal other people’s thunder, LC could pick up a wee peanut and throw it at you. Maybe a cream pie would be better than peanuts. What about a food fight? That would get both the introverts and the extroverts who can’t compete all involved in a team event where no talking is required.

I suspect your conclusion gets to the real problem your post sets out to address – The importance of having the last word is not lost on you at all.

Helen Balcony said...

Oh, don't beat yourself up. We all do it! (Also, "Tony Abbott" in the last post - gold! Bwahahaha!)

The Elephant's Child said...

As a nervy introvert I either talk way, way too much or skulk in the shadows. Both have their negatives, but I would rather have you as a dinner guest than my skulking self. Much rather.

River said...

The Annie Oakley thing? Me too, when talking to strangers at the checkout. I'd either top their story or have a me too option, or I'd be giving advice that was probably unwanted...
I'm not usually a talker, but I don't listen well either. Especially if a story goes on too long. My mind wanders.

Anji said...

I suffer from the same.

You know Kath if you went silent they'd all be worried about you.

Take care

Kath Lockett said...

Very insightful, Fruitcake. I think I'll get LC to give me a 'sign' that I'll do my best to heed.

Thanks Ms Balcony. I was hoping that someone would 'pick up' (not literally) on the Tony Abbott reference. In our household it's either him or Andrew Bolt!

E-Child, I'd love to have you as a dinner guest. And 'nervy introvert' is probably what I am, too. Too worried about entertaining others instead of relaxing and letting the others entertain themselves....

River, I never thought of a wandering mind, it's more a worry about what *I* need to say in response.

Anji, that is Sooooooo true! Last night, on the way to friends' for dinner, I was already trying to be a bit quieter and LC and Sapph both asked if I was feeling OK!

Red Nomad OZ said...

If you've got a reputation as a humourist, it's tempting to keep trying to prove it. Especially when your experiences are so much more fascinating ...

No, I'm not commenting on your perceived shortcomings - these are the cringe-worthy thoughts I had about myself while reading your post!!

On the plus side - if it was THAT bad, they'd stop inviting you, wouldn't they?!?!?!

diane b said...

If this is al you have to worry about in life you are doing okay. As most of us have said we all have this problem at times. I've noticed that I'm calming down and giving others a go more now that I'm older. It'll come to you later in life. Getting LC to give you a sign when its getting too much is a good idea. This must have been a hard post to write. Millie puts up with you without a complaint and with love and faithfulness. Sapphire too probably. great shot of her here.

Kath Lockett said...

That's a very kind way of looking at things, RedNomadOz. Then again, maybe it's LC and Sapphire's company they want....?

Thanks dianeb. Dogs are rather long suffering though, aren't they?

nuttynoton said...

Are you trying to over analyse yourself and find faults. As others say we all do this at times particularly when excitable or something interesting has happened we want to share? Just be yourself and let other people tell you if you are hogging the limelight. I think you are a lovely caring family!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I echo many of the sentiments above...you are being too hard on yourself. I LOVE the introspection you show in this piece. You seem like a wonderful person Kath!!

Kath Lockett said...

Thank you, nuttynoton. We *are* a lovely, caring little family for sure - it's just that I could do a lot more to improve things.

OpEx you've now found yourself an admirer and a friend! :)

Jilly said...

Hey Kath - We looooovvvvveee you - and this blog doesn't have to be one where you air all your perceived faults. If we all started to list everything down about ourselves.... we'd be here a long time (every one of us!). So what if you talk a lot? You are ENTERTAINING - yes, you talk a lot (as do I), but there are many many worse things. Now, don't be so hard on yourself - you can't change who you essentially are. xxx

My Life In Sweden said...

Yes, dogs are so smart. We could all learn a lot from them actually. Lovely photos of Milly. :)

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Jilly. Maybe 'change' is too strong, but 'improve' is more suitable?

MLIS - Milly hates it when I get the camera out and either ducks her head or turns away, so I'm always proud when I get a good one.

JahTeh said...

Loudmouth Lockett, this is what blogging is for, we have the front of house and the comments are back row.
I know what you mean about the personal stuff though. At parties I'm generally impersonating an ice queen because I know if someone is kind enough to sit with me I won't shut up.
Ms Balcony can back me up about going to a grogblog where the noise level could bring down a 747 probably two if the wine is good.

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franzy said...

Yeah yeah yeah, insecurity this, self-analysis that. Whatever.

I do the same thing. I'm loud, funny and when I'm on a roll and people are facing in my direction, there's literally no stopping me. But, to quote Homer "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are!"

But, don't worry, as usual, I have a simple solution to your problem:

Ask questions.

That's it. Whenever you're in a group of people who are talking, even if they're all boring as hell and you're the only one with interesting stories, you'll come out seeming like Henry Bloomin' Kissinger, if you work in a question to your stories.

Don't chew gum, don't keep your mouth busy, just blah away to your heart's content and punctuate your fabulous wit and winning personality with some bullshit questions.

I promise you: this works. I have met total strangers who I think think I'm great, just because I let them tell their boring stories while I came up with something properly awesome, which I would carefully round off with a question.

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy, I *do* do that when I'm somewhere with (mostly) people I've never met before. The question technique is always a winner. Somehow though, I need to do it for people I know very well and see very often.

"Loudmouth Lockett", JahTeh? I think that could be a contender for a new blog header!

Thanks, Yummy Mummy!

Fenstar de Luxe said...

I wouldn't worry too much about talking so much.

If you want to change, don't speak any less, just try to give some time before replying or jumping in, be conscious of yourself. You can change it, I used to be a lot like that myself.

I think it also comes from people being afraid of silences. Not sitting by yourself silence, the being around others silences. Learn to embrace them.

Kath Lockett said...

Fernstar, you're absolutely spot on about being afraid of silence. Not at home or with LC, but the social kind....

Helen Balcony said...

JahTeh - it would be good to have a NOISY grogblog if Kath comes to visit Melbourne in the next few years...

Kath Lockett said...

Aw shucks Helen, I'd *love* to!