One of my clinic supervisors told me repeatedly to talk less in therapy sessions. Mostly to let my clinic partner take the lead more, give her the opportunity to develop rather than maintain her uncertainty and insecurities by filling in the gaps myself. I tried. I don’t know how successful I was. My supervisor told me I was good at talking to patients, though – “you really do have the gift of the gab”, she said. As far as compliments go I’m not sure it’s my favorite one. But it’s true. I talk a lot. Even when I’m trying not to talk a lot. Even when I’m in one of those conversations where feel like I’m being constantly interrupted and talked over and every sentence is only half-finished because someone else has something they want to say, people tell me I talk a lot. I’m good at talking. I’m good at talking in front of people, I’m good at talking without being pre-prepared for needing to talk, I’m good at answering difficult questions and looking like I’m sure of the answer even when I’m making it up as I go along. I’m good at the technicalities of talking, too – at pronouncing difficult words, at tongue-twisters, at picking up words I haven’t heard before and matching them to meanings. It makes me impatient, sometimes. When I understand what someone’s telling me, I want them to move along and tell me the next thing. I try to show them I understand so they know they don’t have to keep explaining the first bit but unfortunately sometimes it comes out as interrupting or finishing sentences. I try not to, but my mouth runs away with me. I like getting other people to talk, too. I like joining a group of silent strangers and making them into chatting acquaintances. I like getting a kid to go from quiet and withdrawn to telling me all about their favourite toys. It’s like a game.
When I’m tired, though, I lose the power of speech and language. My head feels wooden, solid, and turning the strings of sounds I hear from other people is a struggle that takes all my attention. I say, “sorry, I’m not following you”, and hope it sounds like I think the concept they’re explaining is so deep and complex that I need more help rather than I just couldn’t piece a single meaningful word out of the gabble. Sometimes I come to a grinding halt while talking, the words just fade out on my tongue and I have to recollect how to articulate the letters carefully, almost one at a time. Sometimes I forget the word I want altogether, forget what I was talking about entirely. I have to start again at the beginning of the thought and run through it until I can pick up where the words went wrong in my mouth. I find it hard to think of things to say, useful things to contribute, I find myself becoming unsociable, mute, avoiding casual chitchat because it’s so much work. Work to listen and understand, work to construct a meaningful reply, work to make my face give the same message as my words – just work. It’s hard, so much harder than usual, to get pitch and tone and pacing right. I come off sounding abrupt or catty or sullen.
Obviously I’m exaggerating the size of the problem. It’s a problem for me because I FEEL like I should be different. But I still function close enough to normally, I think. People aren’t avoiding me in the lunchroom at work, so I must be reasonably successful at not sounding like a cranky bitch ALL the time. People are still giving me time to wave a hand slightly dramatically in the air, scrunch my face in concentration, and say, “…so the, the, THING will just… where was I up to?” Sometimes they say, “wow, you’re REALLY tired, aren’t you?” And I pull a face that I hope indicates good-natured self-mockery and nod my head while my mind hurriedly marshals thoughts into words and prepares my mouth to form the right shapes again. So I know I’m exaggerating. It still frustrates me, but I know it’s not as big a problem as I feel it is. If it was, my place of employment would not be giving me what they ARE giving me… extra resource, another head, a person to report to me and take over the administrative part of my job while I expand the analytical, data-crunching, problem-solving part of my job. THIS is the good thing that happened this week. Admittedly it’s not actually advertised yet, so I’m still trying not to count my chickens before they hatch, but the general manager is behind it and requesting funding from higher up to create the extra position. I’m told he usually gets what he wants. For a good thing I did – well, I negotiated some pricing with a customer, so that we can supply them only the larger size of a product while the smaller size is out of stock without costing them extra or losing out on too much revenue ourselves. Which I’m proud of, because usually I would advocate the easy road of just matching the pricing from one product to the other or hand it off to the sales manager to deal with. But I knew that he was too busy and the value too small to put his time into, so I worked it out and got agreement from the customer and everyone’s happy. A small victory, perhaps, but a victory nonetheless. This week I’m grateful for… supportive colleagues and managers and an employer who wants to keep me on board. It’s all about work, this week. Probably because it feels like all I do is work and come home and sleep and go back to work. No, that’s a lie! I had three days off last week and we went to Pisa. So I’m also grateful for cheap flights and being close to so many interesting destinations. We walked everywhere in Pisa, though, so I came back worn out. My next holiday is in six and a half weeks. I can’t wait. I’m grateful for that, too – things to look forward to! Good things to come! Hooray!