SALES MAN 4:
Look, what do you talk?
What do you talk?
What do you talk?
What do you talk?
SALES MAN 5:
Where do you get it?
SALES MAN 4:
What do you talk?
SALES MAN 2:
You can talk, you can talk, you can bicker
You can talk. You can bicker, bicker, bicker, you can talk
You can talk. You can talk, talk, talk, bicker, bicker, bicker.
You can talk all you wanna, but it’s different than it was.
No it aint, no it aint, but you gotta know the territory
From Meredith Wilson’s classic musical, The Music Man – Rock Island Lyrics | MetroLyrics
To talk or not to talk? To bicker or not to bicker? To blog or not to blog? These are the questions that are vexing the TexPat; too difficult to address before my morning coffee. But while waiting on my first cup of Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters‘ Hidden City Espresso, brought back from my recent trip home to Dallas, I will attempt to shake loose the cobwebs and fire up the neurons.
The “why not to’s” are easy. Particularly when it comes to blogging. There are a million reasons not to blog: the ever-expanding stack of mail and bills on my desk, the expanding waistline when I sit at my computer instead of on a LifeCycle, perpetually hungry people in my house (including one bacon-loving Westie), perpetually privacy-seeking people in my house, finding a real job, keeping my ego in check, keeping my d*#! opinions to myself, etc. I mean who really cares about my obsession with grilled avocado or Oak Cliff?
The question of “who cares” actually explains why I blog. As long as I care, that is all that matters. The TexPat was a nerdy teen who processed the world best through writing about it. When I’m perplexed, upset, euphoric, angry, curious – writing down my thoughts has always been therapeutic and cathartic for me. With blogging, unlike journal writing, one is forced to edit one’s thoughts and rants. That editing process, for me, typically leads to understanding, calm, reason, thoughtfulness. It keeps me from launching an ICBM of an email in the heat of the moment when a paint bomb – or possibly a white flag – would be the more appropriate response. So often I take my amusements, disagreements and opinions to the blog, where I place them into some context and add to a narrative, rather than an argument. It helps me. If it helps someone else, that would be thrilling, but it’s OK if it only makes the world a better place for those who unfortunately find themselves in the TexPat’s path when she’s mad or wants to talk ad nauseum about avocados. Now I can take it to the blog and leave my loved ones alone!
The “why not to’s” when it comes to talk – particularly when the talk turns to bicker – are still easier than the “why to’s.” Though I’m a Texan and an attorney, by training, the TexPat actually doesn’t love conflict. A paradox, I know, but one glance at the daily headlines confirms that life itself is a paradox. Little makes sense, other than nature – though our human tendency toward the nonsensical has turned nature wacky as well. Anyway, it is typically much easier in the short run to still the waters. To keep calm and carry on. To avoid unnecessary conflict. Talk – particularly virtual talk – can often add fuel to a fire rather than dousing the flame. It wrecks friendships and families. It starts revolutions.
But sometimes the status quo and the safe is far more dangerous than the incendiary, isn’t it? Isn’t it the truth, not the safe, that will set us free? Didn’t Thomas Paine’s revolutionary writings more aptly constitute “Common Sense” than the Crown’s tariffs and tyranny? (For purposes of this argument, the TexPat will analyze Thomas Paine’s talk in a vacuum that doesn’t address the universal tyranny vis-a-vis the native population or my slave ancestors). Though silence calms the waters, it is much more difficult to refrain from talk when you feel something is unfair or unjust, or when it affects your personal well-being. Do you talk? Do you bicker? Do you keep it to yourself? It’s a delicate balance. And the fine line between when it’s best to say something or keep your mouth shut is often a high wire without a net to brace your fall if you stumble.
From the blog, They All Hate Us.
On the personal and political level, the TexPat still struggles to figure out when to bicker, when to talk it out or when to “give up and have a margarita.” When to follow Public Enemy’s clarion call to “fight the power!” Or when to “whisper words of wisdom, let it be,” as Paul McCartney so eloquently composed for The Beatles. On the political front, our representative democracy works best when we remain engaged, when we talk, when we bicker, when we express ideas, when we seek truth and justice for all. There’s always an issue of timing and strategy that affects when and how we talk and act in the political arena – the tension between the urgency of now and the long arc of justice. There’s an obvious line that should be drawn when talking and bickering turns to terror. And if we are only talking to hear ourselves talk, instead of seeking truth, then silence might be the best path. I guess you gotta know the territory to select the best route.
Personal talk is trickier. Sometimes speaking the truth in personal situations is akin to ripping a fresh scab off a wound. You have to determine when the benefits are worth the ouch. There’s no benefit, or healing, if you never get past the ouch. So I suppose you have to determine whether the person you are talking to is open to what you have to say, and vice versa. Whether it expands your potential for mutual understanding or shrinks it. Or, on the other hand, whether you have nothing to lose by speaking your mind. The TexPat had two recent experiences – one where she talked, one where she didn’t – that didn’t go well, and she’s still trying to figure out what the lesson to be learned should be.
In the first instance, I shared my opinion with a family member I felt was taking me for granted, when I should have kept my stupid mouth shut. She was not in a state of mind to hear me objectively, the method of communication was the fatally flawed realm of the virtual, and the well-meaning talk unleashed a torrid of venom in response that ended our ability to talk at all, much less bicker. Thankfully that situation is beginning to turn around. I have learned that there was nothing to gain and a lot to lose for being truthful about my feelings and trying to talk it out in that moment, no matter how “right” I deemed my talk to be.
The second instance involved a friend – I should probably refer to her as a former friend. In her legitimate concern and agony re the feelings of her very sensitive child, she unleashed a torrid of accusations against my child and, by extension, me. I don’t take “mean girl” accusations lightly – demanded that my daughter immediately call and apologize for the other child’s hurt feelings, provided my own apologies, invited her to tell me what we could do to help make her child feel better, called all the other parents at the two weekend events we both attended to investigate what my daughter said to make sure I appropriately addressed it. Every single person – none of which had any interest in defending me or my child – stated that my former friend’s accusations were untrue and completely off base. The child became upset, but my daughter neither said or did anything mean, intentional or otherwise. The child left the first event quite happy, so if she was upset that evening, it was a complete mystery to everyone. Every single person, adult and child, confirmed my daughter’s version of the story. My daughter even urged that we shouldn’t be upset at my former friend’s child – she felt that there was a legitimate misunderstanding at the second event that unintentionally made the girl upset, even though she may have amped up the drama of her discontent in order to prompt her parents to immediately take her home, where she felt more secure and at ease. I never responded to the untruthful, “heat of the moment” accusations my friend made in her email. She is going through enough, and given my recent experience with my family member, I felt that maybe I shouldn’t rub salt in her wounds. Is being “right” worth causing additional pain? Sometimes it is easier for people to feel that other people are the sole cause of their pain rather than dealing with their own contribution to it. I should just let it go and move on. I did let it go – in that when the question of “what do you talk?” was raised, I said nothing other than “I’m sorry.” But it has been eating away at me. I gave my former friend the benefit of the doubt and took great pains to ease her pain and make sure I pursued the facts of the matter so that I would handle the situation appropriately and do right by her. But that truth-seeking revealed that this “friend” never gave me the benefit of the doubt or made any efforts to seek the truth of the situation – if for no other reason than to help her daughter work through her feelings in a meaningful, not superficial way. This friend accused us for causing her daughter pain over the years of our friendship, but she regularly sent her daughter to our house. Common sense? No, just raw emotion. The kind of raw emotion that can’t be reasoned with or turned into anything constructive until it turns to reflection. I empathize with her situation on many levels. But as a human being, it is very hard for me to be the constant waste receptacle for the projection of others’ pain because I’m better able to handle it. Because their pain is “more important” than mine. So I try to analyze it, write about it, edit it down to the essentials to stop myself from starting an unnecessary war – either with them or within myself.
What do you talk? Particularly when talk isn’t cheap? Perhaps I should just shut up and put on the blinders and convince myself that the other person is “crazy” not malicious, to enable me to hold my tongue.
From the blog, Shiny Starr Light
I don’t want my talk, or my silence, to generate the sort of venom that is no good for anyone. But it’s hard.