Why I’m Not Talking

It took over a dozen tries to get a picture of this butterfly. Somethings are worth the effort and the wait.

It took over a dozen tries to get a picture of this butterfly. Somethings are worth the effort and the wait.

Socializing is really difficult for me sometimes.  Now is one of those times.  I have the skills. I don’t mind the mild anxiety (what should I say? did I say too much?did I leave too early? did I stay too long?….) that comes with the activity. It’s just that talking is draining these days.  I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the experience.

Some of the nicest people I know have reached out to me in the aftermath of the emotional and financial tornado that mowed down my life and I can’t connect right now.  I don’t mean to be rude, mean, or indifferent.  I just don’t have it in me to talk.

This is where I wish I could have gotten away with telling everyone that my husband had died after spending all of our money.  If I was a poor widow no one would be expecting me to return calls or go out to social events yet.  But memories and empathy are in short supply these days and apparently the rest and recover period has expired for women whose husbands walk out on them after 18 months and take all the money.

It’s hard to be upset with anyone–that takes too much energy also. Everyone’s got her/his own troubles to manage.  Also, I know I make people feel better about their own lives when they can get me to talk about what is going on in mine.  By comparison their stress isn’t so bad.  (It’s a tough job being at the top of the life stressor heap, but somebody’s got to do it.) So I can’t blame them for wanting to “check in” on me from time to time.

I sound like I’m depressed.  Yep. I am. Gratefully, it’s not the ‘can’t get out of bed or brush my teeth’ variety.  It’s the ‘my life just blew up and I’m overwhelmed’ type of depression.  And what I’ve learned is that I am newly sensitive to my own energy level, especially if it dips too low.  Life is difficult enough at the moment. I don’t want to let myself get to the ‘can’t get out of bed’ place.

Talking drains my energy.  Especially talking about him, what he did, what he’s done to me recently, and what he might do when it’s time to go to court.  And if I try to answer the question, “what are you going to do now?” you can be certain it will need to be followed by a long nap because I have no reasonable ideas about where to go from here.

All of this reminded me of an old saying that my mother and grandmother used to repeat,  “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I can tell you everything you need to know about my family by saying this:  there wasn’t a lot of talking in my house.

This was crazy-making to us kids because you couldn’t figure out what was wrong all the time and you couldn’t predict when the next unsettling event was going to take place.  We might as well have been living on a chicken farm for all the eggshells we walked on.

Predictably, I started talking when I left home to go to college.  I don’t think I ever stopped.  This too has had its problems, but they were not nearly as difficult or as stressful as living with the quiet and courteous hostility that I grew up with.

Hmmm…quiet, courteous, and hostile. I guess that’s who my husband really was. After all my experience in my family with that style of non-communication I am surprised that I didn’t pick up on it in him.  My family never walked out on me though. Maybe the kind of hostility that makes someone treat you really well up until the moment they leave you is a different kind of rage.  Or maybe hostility is just so familiar to me that I didn’t take notice of it.  Something like the odor in your house after you cook a favorite family meal….only a guest who hadn’t eaten that meal before would notice the smell. I wonder, what does rage smell like? Garlic? Cauliflower? Tomato sauce? Liver and onions? Burnt popcorn?

I digress.

Curiously, I am invoking the right to “not say anything at all” precisely because I can’t “say anything nice” at the moment.  Am I reverting? Nah. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself. So please, don’t argue with me. Thanks.)

I think, I hope I’ve come full circle.  I’m not pretending I’m not angry. I’m not repressing or suppressing my anger only to have it exert itself in other ways or all at once.  I’m not “saying anything at all” because talking about the devastation my personal tornado has caused makes me feel depleted and upset. It hurts me. Having the experience of being a victim is draining.  I can’t afford the energy loss if I want to stay up and out of bed.

My dear family tried their best but we missed the point.  “Don’t say anything at all” is not for the purpose of being courteous, it is to allow you to express your anger appropriately, make adjustments in your life as needed, and then transcend the negativity. “Don’t say anything at all” is a way to power up out of being a victim.

Conversely, unless you’re trying to sort things out and create solutions for yourself, talking about the awful things that life throws at you, telling that story over and over again, keeps you in the victim spot.  And it can do so permanently, if you let it.  I, for one, do not want to become the docent of the ruins of my own life, recounting the stories of what once was my life and how the tornado called Bob came through and destroyed it all. I’ll end up being a personal archeological site: uncomfortable, dusty, and boring.

Perhaps I’ll take up storytelling again when I can link my losses to what I can create in their aftermath.  But for now, I’m not saying anything.