Friday, August 22, 2014

I Got One!

The silence is deafening. So is the constant blather.

Adjusting to life as a virtually non-speaking individual has been difficult in some ways. I still go to work each day, but I have discovered, my ability to speak loudly enough is dependent upon the temperature of the room, the humidity, the amount of sleep I've had the night before, even my diet. And if I've been assaulted by the automatic air freshener just as I entered the ladies' room, you can kiss De Oratore good-bye.

I have also discovered how much and how loudly we speak. I'm not sure of the origin -- it seems no one really is (or if they are, they're not saying) -- but there is an axiom: Two ears, one mouth; do the math. And I just pulled this one out of my hat in a discussion with our eleven year-old; she confessed she's a bit nervous about the upcoming school year.

We all have a tendency to talk too much. We don't make room in our lives for others when we insist on making our discussions, our experiences, our ideas about us. How can we possibly know if someone is a suitable friend, example, or lover if we spend all of our time telling them who we are instead of finding out who they are? We open our mouths and allow -- however unintentionally -- hurtful, offensive things to simply tumble right out. We pee in the pool before the other person has even had the opportunity to step on in. When was the last time you asked anyone a question? And spent the time listening? Not for a chance to jump in, but really listening to their point of view? Or their vacation details? Or the fear and sadness that lies beneath their griping? Or their need to be heard? In my silence, I have found myself most frustrated by other's assumptions about how I feel or what I think. It's difficult enough to be heard the first time, to watch people squirm as I try carefully to express my thought with an economy of words... But to have to back track, correct, explain or erase? Most people have stepped out to the concession stand minutes ago. Oh, and trust me, the next person that says "small little" or "6 AM this morning" is going to get my foot right in their can! It's just an example of how redundant we are, and how much we truly enjoy listening to ourselves.

And this is a loud society. Oddly enough, spending so much time in silence has caused me to be extremely sensitive to sound. Some mornings I awake, expecting to hear my "old voice." The moment I speak to one of the dogs, I know Betty Boop is still here. Some days I'm actually relieved. After years of having children in tow, and craving just fifteen-minutes to escape to Swiss Farm, crank up the tunes and be an individual again, it seems odd that my car radio's most frequently used preset is "OFF." And absolutely everything hums. The fridge, the nuker, the computer, the battery operated clock, the air conditioner -- even the cable box! My office is the quintessential fourth grade classroom. One person is having a phone conversation, so the next person turns the radio up to hear over the phone conversation. The next person speaks a little more loudly to the person next to her in order to compete with the phone conversation and the radio. The person now entering the room yells above the din simply to ascertain the person they are seeking is, in fact, located in this office. On and on it goes until the teacher -- of late, that's been me -- finally loses her cool and tells everyone to shut-up. Of course, I can't raise my voice to do so, but one look, distributed evenly to all offenders usually does the trick. That is, until it escalates again. I've taken to cupping my hand around the phone like Deep Throat exchanging secrets with The Post. Just about the time I've mastered this method of communication, I pick up the receiver only to find the World's Loudest Conversationalist on the other end.

I'm not sure if or when this sound barrier will be broken -- everyday is a journey -- but I do hope these lessons stay with me:

Talk a little less; listen a little more;

Speak softly, sweetly and carefully;

And if, after multiple attempts, you can't seem to be heard above the din...

That's right. There's always Mr. Microphone.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why I Wrote the Check

I had managed to stay under the radar for quite a while. I haven’t blogged for a bit. I haven’t really spent much time hanging out on social media as of late. None of this has to do with ice or ALS or being challenged (double entendre intended), however, it has worked to my advantage. Out of sight, out of mind, right? That is, until last night. My husband, our youngest and I were challenged to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I can’t speak for them, but I will be writing a check, and here’s why:

First of all, charity is important to me -- always has been. It’s great that people are waking up to the ravaging effects of a disease that has been killing people for years. But, if you haven’t heard, if you aren’t aware, you have been living under a rock. My dumping a bucket of ice over my head cannot possibly make one more person aware that ALS exists, ice is cold, and thousands of people everywhere are choosing to dump buckets on their heads because…

And this leads me to my Number Two. It is in vogue. And most things “in vogue” are picked off by every bandwagon jumper and wanna be that comes down the pike. Just like a Vuitton knockoff, the Ice Bucket Challenge has been corrupted and misused to death -- lots of dumping and not nearly enough giving -- to any charity. While it’s great the challenge has done some wonderful things for ALS lately, this too shall pass. People will go back to living their lives of privilege and “I-want-ness,” totally disregarding charity of any kind. And next thing you know, the “in” thing will be The Yellow Snow Challenge for homeless pets (No? Don’t think it’ll take off?) And it will raise money because people love to be “in.” Sad.

Thirdly, I am bitter. I admit it. Where were all these folks when ALS painfully, slowly, deliberately took the life of Tommy F., one of the first patients I’d ever seen endure something so horrible? I watched day after day as his wife, saint that she was, visited and encouraged and struggled and tried to make merry. I didn’t appreciate her defiant, monumental endurance in the midst of such pain. Today, married to someone for whom I’d give my life, I wonder how her heart didn’t simply give out. She read to him and spoke to him for hours, knowing his mind was sharp as a tack and her husband was there, trapped in a body that was betraying him every moment of the day. She forced a smile when he could no longer eat, and she stroked his hair when the only thing he would spell with his eyes was, “Let me d--“ (she would hush him and refuse to allow him to continue). It’s great these folks are all here now, but why? Because it is in vogue? Because everybody is talking about it? Because fifteen minutes of fame is ours, thanks to social media? Well, if it works, if people continue to give, if people remember the victims and the families who are victims as well, I guess it’s all worth it, right?

So, dump your ice, post your videos, but don’t forget to write your checks and say your prayers.