Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Rough Draft of My Brain

Dear Friends,

Three of you have told me in the last few weeks that my attempts to start thinking more before I talk are possibly folly. This has ruminated in me for a while, so I'm opening the gates. WARNING: you are about to enter the inner workings of Morgan's reflective mind. Blah blah blah or forever hold your peace (Piece? Maybe...).

My office is a fluorescent cave. It gets to me. When my officemate isn't there, I keep the lights off, even though that makes it dark -- my window is artistically sliver-like. But I don't mind the dark. I don't even mind the Twilight jokes, since it means I don't get a fluorescent light headache. My officemate is on a business trip this week.

The downside of her absence is that I don't have her to bounce ideas off of. She's excellent at listening to some project I'm about to work on and make the task a million times simpler than I would have. Today, I spent two and a half hours working on a pressing project doing totally unnecessary things primarily because I am not good at simplifying tasks. I've also had to pass along a project I'm really loving because I am not the person for it for the same reason; I have to learn to write simply, to be straightforward, to not get attached to unnecessary facts and phrases just because I like them; I have to learn to get less caught up in romance because I miss the reality of it. I suppose the bit about romance has a lot less to do with work and a lot more to do with me, but I like the way it sounded, so I'm not going to cut it.

Case and point.

People can learn to write in declarative sentences. I have learned to write in declarative sentences. I have almost learned to think in them -- if I think about thinking in them, I can make myself do it. I think my life would be easier on other people if I were better at this type of thought. I'm not. I want to fix that.

But maybe, and this idea is by no means uniquely mine, 'fixing' is the wrong word.

I think that the words we choose to talk about our lives matter. I have a friend who actively listens to everything I say. I never knew how much I talked purely because I like it until I met this person. I never realized how little thought I put into my words until I met this person. It feels good to know you're being listened to. It also made me want to make sure what I said actually mattered, so that his energy was not wasted. I think people can tell when you're thinking by talking and thinking before talking. I think that translates into how people listen to you, and I think there's a relationship between being able to think before speaking and listening well.

This afternoon, thinking aloud, I invited C. to dinner, and then I., and then J.. I didn't contemplate what I was going to make until John asked me what kind of wine should hit the table. Never before meditated ideas flew about in gchat. Dinner was a rousing success, Bullshit (the card game) was a rousing success, the British sitcoms we watched afterwards because we'd been talking about British sitcoms were a rousing success.

It isn't that every sentence needs thought beforehand to be good. It's that the habit of thinking before an action could be really valuable. I would probably be able to simplify the way I do things -- and thus avoid hours of extra work and heartache -- if I could.

But then, this little rough draft of my brain wouldn't exist, would it? And aren't you just loving that it does?

The other side of this problem is that in listening to other people I am inclined to think about what they say as they say it rather than think about what I am about to say. In order to avoid long pauses, however, one must either craft a response while the other person is talking or think while speaking.

Perhaps the answer there is allowing peaceful pauses. I like that thought. It didn't come around until the second draft of this here posting.

I have learned that declarative sentences are valuable. I am convinced that people who think in them, really think in them without having to remind themselves to, cause their people much less... turmoil, in that what they say has been edited for purpose and to avoid hurting anybody. But I don't actually feel that this is a better default model for me. It's a skill, but these last weeks and weeks of trying to learn it have made me feel... cold. I actively feel less warm when I am busy feeling guilty that I'm not thinking and phrasing simply enough. I've started feeling bad about faux pas instead of laughing about them.

I'm going to keep trying, so I can turn on and off this thinking-before-I-speak thing. Perhaps with pauses in conversations, this new speech pattern is possible. But for better or for worse, I am too complicated for simple sentence structures in my heart of hearts. About this I can be clear, but to untangle myself into simple statements would be to untangle the layers of truths and memories which keep me feeling warm and fuzzy and full of wonder; I think perhaps these things are worth more than simplicity in the soul.

There's a difference here, between presenting myself clearly and thoughtfully and doing so as a reflection of my inner self. I've conflated them because my problem with thinking before I speak/speaking simply is that I do not like to present myself differently than how I feel myself to be. That may be silly. It may be wise. I don't know.

I still do want to listen better, think more, and bring stillness with me when I go. I want to be clear and thoughtful in my conversations and my thoghts. I want to not say inappropriate things at work. Maybe these things don't require thoughts constructed of short, declarative sentences... maybe they require a deeper separation of thoughts and verbalization. Perhaps everything that pops into my head is there for me, not everybody else.

I mean, I knew that, it's just a matter of feeling it.

Goodness, but life takes work!


  1. This post and the ones before (in the blog, after in time) just warm my heart! I got a note in the mail today, from someone I shall see on Saturday, but it still made my day. Connections are so important. For what it's worth, you're one of those kids from Monticello (at age 54, I'm allowed to call you a kid) I think I will always remember. You were unique and comfortable with it. You stood out. It is good to see you have not changed. :-)

  2. Thank you!
    I think I've changed a lot, but then sometimes and in some ways, absolutely not at all.
    That's a comforting thought.
    I will not forget you either, Jean!