Monday, March 22, 2010


hard to see what's happening inside so
she feels a need to give complete reports
whenever someone asks.  

----  shamelessly stolen from Grandmére Mimi who got it from the StoryPeople

The late Spousal Unit, for most of the time we were married (all 27+ years of it), was a great believer in giving me all the information he thought I needed in order to tell a story, convey a doctor's report or even just recount a meeting with someone in the grocery line or at the auto parts store. I confess it drove me absolutely bonkers to listen to a 10 minute recitation when I really wanted the Reader's Digest version. I really didn't need a word-for-word recitation of every word of a casual conversation when all I really needed to know was that he had run into so-and-so, they were fine, their family was fine and said to tell me hello.

The older I get the more people I seem to know who have become folks who give full reports on internal stuff (and even some external stuff). The state of their arteries, heart, feet, (occasionally liver) and eyesight require a full recital. Of course it is of primary concern to them and because I'm a friend, it is of some concern to me. Still, there are a lot of times I could do with a little less information.  As they say in the blogosphere, sometimes there's just a bit TMI. So often I grit my teeth, remember to say "uh-huh," "is that so," or "that's awful/wonderful" from time to time. After all, I really do care how they are but I also would prefer talking about books, music, the state of the church or even, heaven forfend, a little about my own health.

I've learned that people really don't want to listen these days but they really do want listeners. Ok, I confess, that rings true for me so I'm not just pointing fingers at other people. There are times I'm sure I give people entirely too much information they don't really need --- or want -- but conversely I'm entirely positive there are a few times I don't give them enough.

Good thing I don't have to explain everything to God.  There are times I just don't want to talk and God understands that. Sometimes I offer a comment but it has little effect on the flow of conversation of others so I sit on the bank with a few pebbles and watch. With some folks it's one of those "companionable silences" that two people can have when they know each other, are comfortable with each other and understand that not every moment has to be filled with questions, statements, comments, asides and even puns. Luckily I have some friends like that -- although admittedly with so many long-distance friends it's hard to have a companionable silence at however-many cents per minute. And even more fortunately, God doesn't insist I spend time detailing every event, thought or twinge. God knows it all anyway and sometimes I just don't feel like reiterating it yet again when I've been through it a dozen or more times in my own head.

The other kind of silence is that of "what can I say that won't sound stupid, whiny, edgy, unkind or that will even be noticed?" There's an old saw about it being "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."  Sometimes the conversation around me goes in places I can't go or to places about which I know nothing. This is a a more defensive silence.  There's stuff going on unseen inside but there's no real need to air out the dirty laundry or even express an opinion that goes against the grain. With God I don't have that worry. Whatever I say or don't say, God understands and that means a lot in a world where listening is almost a lost art.

God's attentiveness ---- something I can count on. Something I need to learn to emulate.

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