When I was young, and chatting up a storm at my increasingly annoyed older brother, he finally turned to me and patiently explained, “Andra, everyone gets a certain number of words to use in life. You should be careful or you’re going to run out of words before you’re grown up and then you won’t be able to talk.” That shut me up.
We’ll skip all of the things we could say about this (his genius, my gullibility, our relationship, misuse of power, etc). The thing is, all this time I’d been sure he was bluffing, but now I’m not so sure. There are days (okay, every day) when I feel at some point that I’ve just run out of words. I’m done talking. It is SUCH an effort to think with someone else.
Because that’s what conversation is – matching up your thoughts with someone else’s, jogging alongside another brain’s trail. Frankly, it’s exhausting.
I think there are people who are great conversationalists and they drive the topic. It’s not exhausting for them. It’s just bad for those of us who are trying to get our thoughts in line with the leader. Am I making sense? I’ll specify. Here’s a conversation with my little girl in the car:
“Mommy, can people sit down?”
“Can storks sit down?”
“Uh, yes.” [can't they? I think so. Yes, I've seen them do it in their nest. Good, got that one right.]
“Can cars sit down?”
“Um, not really. No.”
“Cars can drive and stop. That’s all. They can’t sit down.”
“Can bicycles sit down?”
This went on for quite a bit. It seems simple (and maybe even cute to those of you who don’t deal with this every five minutes of every hour of every day) but you have to pay attention. It’s not “uh huh” over and over while your mind wanders over the next hour of grocery shopping and plans date night. It’s getting half-way through your own thought and getting pulled back (play back what she asked really quickly, think about it, form and answer, make yourself move your lips to answer) into the mind of a four-year old over and over. And four-year olds are particularly prone to fantasy, which makes it even harder to get matched up with their line of thought.
Then when my husband comes home, I’ve got to switch gears to adult-style (which is the difference between riding a purple turtle through a lake of strawberry frosting to a castle on the shore and riding a nice Sedan through the streets of a city – not an easy transition). The poor man gets a few coherent sentences of conversation out of me and then my words run out. Just like my brother said they would.
So divy up your allotted amount of talking wisely. There could be a lot of us old ladies sitting quietly, words all used up, in a few years.