Staying in touch – why is it so hard?

I know I keep saying this, but this time – this time – will be different. I’ll do better at staying in touch. I will. I will.

But the tiny voice inside me, that voice that knows everything, says: You are defeated already. You know you won’t. You never do, even though you say you love – you do love – all those people you don’t stay in touch with, not even on facebook.

And I feel bad about that.

So, why don’t I stay in touch? Gooood question.

Answer #1: I guess I feel my life isn’t all that interesting? What do I want to tell people about? “I went to the pool today.” “I had an egg for breakfast.” “I feel strong.”

But do I not want to know how they are doing? I do! I do! So why wouldn’t they want to know how I am doing? Huh.

Answer #2: “I’m so busy.”

Really?

Answer #3: It takes so much effort to tell people what I’m up to. In order to do that, I need to sort things out in my mind, process my experience, open up, talk about myself. Huh.

“The unexamined life is a life not lived.”

And this: Open up, you say? When did I stop opening myself? When did I become the shoulder to cry on, who never cries on anybody else’s shoulder? When was the last time I had a girlfriend I talked to every day, confided in, trusted with my secrets? Ah. Before Jack. A very long time ago.

So what the hell happened?

  1. Alcohol gradually formed a buffer between me and the world.
  1. Burnout – literally got so busy, with work that overwhelmed me, with volunteer activities that consumed me, with family obligations –monthly trips to Toronto, trips now magnified by having two families to visit, complicated by the sheer distances between family members, happy but exhausting weekends of driving, driving, driving, punctuated by the good stuff — the love and laughter over meals and endless cups of tea (and, at the time, glasses of wine to wind up the day).
  1. The internet: changed the way I relate to people. Fed into my natural reluctance to pick up the phone and call people. More emails. A buffer. Now I text just to check if it’s okay to call. Exacerbated by the need to call people for work, to which I also developed an aversion.
  1. Telephone technology: I was bad enough at making/returning phone calls when we had landlines that worked perfectly all the time, every time, with reliable clarity and connectivity. Now we’ve traded quality for mobility, so that perfectly functioning landline has been replaced by unreliable, often crappy, VOIP phones and cell phones, the crazy-quilt complexity of routing calls through RingCentral, the spotty coverage of cell phones. (I’ve actually stopped using our magicJack phone altogether except for the odd local call because our internet coverage here in Florida is so spotty. Very frustrating!)
  1. Emails: why don’t I write more? BECAUSE IT TAKES ME FOR-FUCKING-EVER (see answer #3 above)
  1. I’ve become increasingly solipsistic in my old age, increasingly protective of my own space-time. Last year, it was my relentless focus on losing weight and gaining fitness, and on my spiritual path – the Buddhist training and the sobriety both.

So now what?

How do I get over this hump and start doing better at keeping in touch with the people I care about? I know it’s not just a matter of will, any more than losing weight or quitting drinking is just a matter of will. And I know it’s not just one-sided – it’s not like everyone is beating a path to my door and I’m ignoring them and not calling back. But, from my side, how do I support myself in making a change in how I open?

Talker’s Block

In the interview that inspired me to start blogging every day, Seth Godin suggested that you can overcome writer’s block by just writing the way you talk. He said something along the lines of, he doesn’t know of anyone who gets talker’s block. It was a glib remark that I accepted at the time because, well, I was just nodding along with him.

But in fact: Ahem. Over here. I do. I get talker’s block. All. The. Time.

Especially when I’m with people who, um, let’s say, take up a fair share of airtime. When they finally stop for breath and turn to me and say, so, what do you think, or so, what’s going on with you, I find myself sort of bubbling, like a fish out of water, uuuuuuh, I don’t know. I’m okay, I guess. And often, in the time it takes me to collect my thoughts, they’re off and running again and I’ve decided they don’t really want to hear what I think about meditation or my weight loss journey or how my mindfulness practice is going or indeed how my trip to Iceland was last year.

See, I’m what you might call a sociable introvert. I can be sociable enough, but if you want me to talk to you, you have to draw me out. If I sense that you’re not interested, I clam up.

If there’s the slightest breath of conflict in the air, I seize up, I get tongue-tied, I don’t know what to say, I get embarrassed, I feel like I’m babbling. I don’t like having to defend myself or my point of view. I’m happy to share it with you, and I’m happy to have a lively exchange of ideas, but it has to be an exchange. If I sense that you want to challenge me by poking holes in my argument, I just fall apart. It quickly becomes a downward spiral, and I tell you, it’s not pretty.

So I propose that there is indeed at least one person who does get talker’s block. And I suspect I’m not alone.