Comfortable silences

I know I’m an odd duck. I like the silences that make most people feel uncomfortable. I only get uncomfortable when it becomes painful obvious that the other person is uncomfortable. I don’t like to make people feel out of sorts.

Back some eleven years or so ago, before I decided to kick the booze monkey riding my back, I was one of those other kinds of people — one of those poor folks who could and would fill up any uncomfortable space of silence that might rear it’s ugly head. I’d kill it and make a bloody event of the matter. Body part everywhere (none of the mine) and the silence was soundly defeated each and every time.

In assuming the mantle of the recovering perpetually-shitfaced drunkard, I pulled away from everyone and everything. In the process, I ended up losing that lubrication that alcohol gives you in your more sober moments. I found that I cared more about the words I was using when talking to people and, more often than not, got lost in half-sentences and stutters as I realized I hadn’t actually used the word that would have been best for the situation, but one that was quite likely to be misinterpreted. Usually, it was a realization about mid-way through whatever 25 cent word I was using that was the less clear word and I’d try to fix it by mashing the words together like a portmanteau and everything would come out ugly sounding.

So, I started taking my time to talk, often pausing for several second (or longer) before saying anything. This would cause major distress for folks, who would rush to fill in the silence I had the temerity to allow to bloom like a weed in the conversational pristine lawn.

Even taking a deep breath to signal I was going to say something was a bit of a put-off for a lot of people. So, I just let them babble on. It spared me having to decide which words were the best words if I just nodded, uh-huh’d and listened to them.

Over these past eleven years, I’ve largely forgotten how to have a regular conversation. My silences have become the norm and, as people who know me talk, they have largely given up the pretense of allowing me time to respond or react.

And I’m okay with that. I just wish they were.

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