Friday, May 27, 2011

The Lab Frog

The one single most common theme underlying these blogs (and, to perhaps only a slightly lesser degree, all my writing) is self-analysis. I am utterly fascinated with what makes human beings who they are, what makes them tick, and why. I stand outside myself like a high-school biology student dissecting a frog, trying to figure out what reaction touching a laid-bare muscle will produce, and why. I'm sure some would/will see this analogy as an exercise in extreme egotism, but I prefer to think that I use myself as a perennial example simply because my own responses/reactions are the only ones of which I can be truly sure. I am never so egocentric as to automatically assume your responses/reactions will be identical to mine, though I do believe it's likely there are sufficient similarities to get you to read about mine.

I also assume there are great differences between us. You, I am convinced, are far more emotionally mature than I. I've never outgrown the child's need for be liked. As a result, I've always been excessively self-conscious.

I recently did a blog on communications, and today came to yet another interesting (to me) observation on the subject. One of the reasons I became a writer was because of my perceived--and I am convinced quite real--difficulties in communicating verbally. I've never been good at it. Probably because of my desire/need to be liked, I am always afraid I will say something which will make me appear stupid...something, I fear, of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I always either fail to say things the way I want to say them or, in stumbling all over myself trying to string my thoughts together, I become tongue-tied. It's been a problem I've had all my life, but it has grown far more severe as I've gotten older, and especially so in the past eight years since my bout with tongue cancer robbed me of much of the physical control over my mouth.

Like everything, communicating verbally is a skill which can atrophy with lack of use. The various forms of withdrawal from the mainstream which come with aging...the loss of the need/chance for frequent verbal exchanges with co-workers at a daily job, fewer group social contacts...reduce the need to hone verbal abilities. Even when I was in the mainstream, I was always awkward talking with people I did not know well. As the years pass, the opportunities to engage in other than cursory conversation lessen, especially with other than one's circle of close friends. For me, the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that, thanks to the physical changes to my mouth mentioned above, many people have difficulty understanding me when I talk. It has reached the point where I am embarrassed to try to carry on a conversation with relative strangers.

But communicating in writing is, for me, a refuge. I am infinitely more self confident in writing than in speaking. Once a sentence is spoken orally, its reality cannot be withdrawn, or changed. But with writing, there is the delayed reality, if you will, of the fact that by its very nature there is a considerable time lapse between the thought and the time it is read. If I write a sentence and decide I don't like the way it sounds, I can go back and rewrite it as often as necessary until it does say what I want to say in the way I want to say it. Of course, once the verbal sentence reaches the ear, or the written sentence reaches the eye, it is set in stone. But with writing, the interim between the thought and the in-print expression allows time for reconsideration, for honing, for fine-tuning not possible with vocal speech.

I can be far more assured, far more convincing in conveying the thoughts I want to convey, far less fearful of being thought a fool when I have the luxury of the time to review and re-examine my words before conveying them to you when I do so in writing.

And here we are at the end of the blog, and the frog remains on the dissecting table, only one very small muscle even cursorily examined. There are an infinite number to go. Can you see my fascination? Better yet, can you share it?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

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