Lost for Words

Photo by David Lopez on Unsplash

I am sure that anyone that has been around my little corner of WP for any length of time will know that I do rather enjoy a bit of a chat on the Comments board.  One or two of you may also have discovered that when real life comes a-knocking and I am at a loss for the right thing to say, my default position is to say nothing and then whittle for days about whether I have appeared uncaring.  If this has happened to you, please accept my apologies.  I really am not uncaring.  I am vividly aware of my propensity for unwittingly putting my foot right in it; my knack of saying exactly the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.  If my brain can be relied upon for any one thing, it is to desert me at my moment of greatest need.

Be certain that, when care and empathy is required, my brain will be the one that is sitting alone in the middle of the bathroom floor in a sea of snot and tissue – incoherent and useless.  If ever I think of the right thing to say, it is always several hours after I should have said it.  My child-like response to pain and anguish is humour.  Wasn’t I, after all, taught that it was the best medicine?  If I encounter someone in obvious distress, and I want to help them feel better (which, obviously, I do) surely the best thing I can do is to make them laugh, right?  Well, actually, no.  It’s a dumb thing to do, and somehow I can’t stop myself doing it.  What is required are apposite words of consolation and support – but I have never been taught them.  I want to say something useful – something comforting – but I don’t know what it is, so, desperate not to cause offence, I say nothing – which I realise might well cause offence.  If I have failed to reply to something that you feel I should have done, then I’m truly sorry – although, given the asinine nature of some of the things that are apt to fall from my lips, you will have to believe me that it is probably for the best.

I have a dreadful habit of enquiring about the health of the dead: of course, I knew they were dead, I went to the flippin’ funeral.  When people tell me that they have broken up with the love of their life, the temptation for me to tell them that I never actually liked him/her anyway can be almost overwhelming.  Bridges are irrevocably burned when they get back together two weeks later.  I have bitten my tongue so often that is a wonder I can even speak.  Mind you, I spend so much time with my foot in my mouth, it’s a surprise I don’t have athletes gum.  I am the conversational equivalent of Monty Python’s giant foot.

Now, just in case you are thinking that I must be a bad person, I’m not.  At least, I don’t think that I am.  Certainly nobody other than my wife has ever told me that I am.  I believe that I am a good man (Mind you, I also believe in Father Christmas and the basic ‘goodness’ of mankind) but I don’t believe in great outpourings of emotion (which doesn’t mean that I don’t want to).  Somehow, to my girdled mind, those who wear their hearts on their sleeves do so only to make them accessible to others: to demonstrate what a fine person they are and, occasionally, as some form of justification for the random fallout when they blow their top.  I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve – if I did, I would have to watch it 24/7 to make sure that it didn’t stop.  As a child I was taught to suck it up so, by and large, that is what I do.  My stock answer to, ‘How are you feeling?’ is ‘Fine.’

I presume that we all have a vision of ourselves, of how we believe ourselves to be.  I presume, also, that few of us perceive ourselves to be ‘bad’.  A huge percentage of violent crimes are committed on the basis that the victim was disrespectful – eg ‘Not my fault guvnor, he brought it on himself.’  Even Ronnie and Reggie must have had some sense of morality that they had to appease, but whilst I can fret for days over a single errant word or gesture, they could probably pacify their conscience on the grounds of, ‘We had to nail his head to the coffee table, because he was not showing us the appropriate level of respect.’  In my world, it is very easy to respect a psychopath with a handful of woodwork tools – it’s putting the requisite distance between us that requires the effort.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say really.  If you ever wonder why I don’t reply to a comment, it is either because I don’t know what to say without putting my foot in it, or I’m being chased by a mobster with a Black & Decker…

Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence – Jorge Luis Borges

27 thoughts on “Lost for Words

  1. On the brighter side, putting distance between you and a woodwork wielding wicked psychopath should be easier since you’ve taken up running (I had to look up Ronnie and Reggie. Charming fellows.). By the way, how are you feeling?

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  2. I could have written this. I mean I’d have used slightly different words but the sentiments would have been similar. And copying sentiments is a kind of plagiarism that is very hard to prove so expect me to borrow this idea for my own blog soon. There will be no royalties coming your way but I will gladly pay you a percentage of any earnings accrued. A percentage of nothing is quite easy to work out…

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  3. I can’t think of anything appropriate to say here so I’ll just smile 🙂
    (I’ll get the l’esprit d’escalier later. But in English probably)

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  4. Humour, the great deflector for all dumb lost gentlemen in an emotional quandary. Silence is golden is the best option, but sometimes you start and can’t stop yourself. I once was talking to a workmate on a monday, after he’d had the previous week off due to a relation of his having left this vale of tears (by his own hand.) I carefully and solicitously asked him how he was? He surprised me by asking me how MY weekend had gone, if I had done anything of interest?
    I blithely replied ‘nah, nothing special, just hung around home.’ True story. Sooooo, silence is golden.

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  5. Good to have found another fellow-“foot-in-mouth”! I am a chatterbox and hence, I put my foot in mouth so frequently that my managers have a difficulty in understanding whether what I said was a compliment or comment… for example, on their 15th work anniversary–“Wow! 15 years! How did you manage it?” On their 50th birthday: “We couldn’t find enough candles for the cake.” On a colleague’s promotion: “What did you do to get promoted?”

    In family too, they now know that I don’t know what to say when I know. So, they better not let me know…

    My daughter, thankfully, is more tactful–“Maa, you are not that fat!” Or may be she hasn’t reached her full potential yet! 😀 Only time will tell.

    So, I understand your first response is silence. I wish mine was too! 😀

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    1. Totally! I get away with a few foot-mouth situations by being generally so sarcastic and annoying that people never take me too seriously. IRL I am trying to learn the silent response now – I get that online it doesn’t work too well, but in real life it’s pretty effective, so long as you don’t walk off as soon as someone’s finished speaking or fall asleep. I’m not finding it easy though, I have to physically stop myself from speaking.

      Anyway, what was that phrase? Those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind. It’s a useful mantra 🙂

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