I was getting on the bus yesterday with my dragon boat paddle in hand. Why? Loaning it to a friend who has taken up paddling. I’m in semi-retirement from my team, so I thought someone should have the use of this carbon fibre beauty. I hadn’t really considered it, but I guess to the uninitiated (that’s non-dragon boaters – I know, a scant minority of the population!!) it looks like a rather large instrument that might be wielded to some effect against a naughty schoolboy, and is somewhat unusual to see on the bus. A particularly droll soul at the stop commented that he hoped the paddle wasn’t for the driver . . . and before I had a chance to even consider the repercussions, out of my mouth popped “only if he’s been particularly naughty”. It was 7:00am. I clearly hadn’t had enough coffee. But even I could recognize the started expressions on the faces of my fellow transit riders. Oh my. I think I made at least one person’s day – he of the big grin – but there were a few pursed, prune mouths and askance stares. Incorrigible . . . or is it encourageable? Either way, there are times when even I’m surprised by what comes out of my mouth. No filters . . .really, no filters.
I’ve gotten a lot better at work at monitoring what I say, but every so often I inadvertently drop a real clanger. Those little hamster wheels in my head are busy figuring out all the permutations of the subject at hand and somehow, sans filter, out pops whatever it is that’s spinning around in there. I have managed, on occasion, to silence a room. At that point I usually surface out of whatever personal world I’ve been inhabiting, take one look at the faces around me and realize that I must have said something particularly startling and that maybe not everyone would have chosen those words or that moment. Oh darn, another career limiting move. I have managed to not do any permanent damage to my career (at least I don’t think so) other than earning a reputation as being someone who generally just says what she thinks, is a wee bit eccentric and somewhat cavalier about personal reputational risk. All in, not a bad rep to have. I like what Ghandi has to say about speaking the truth and not apologizing.
But I would also temper that with a wee smidgen of humility. In being me, I would imagine that I’m not always “right” (ya think?) and that “right” might often be a very individual perception. It’s ok to be a minority of one, but not if you hurt other people in the process. Laugh at me all you want for my irreverent and somewhat wacky sense of humour, but I don’t ever want to go for laughs, points, success or anything else, at someone else’s expense. There is nothing that is worth leaving a trail of bodies behind you for. Always be kind. And if you shoot from the hip, be prepared with a mea culpa and the occasional apology.
You would think this tendency would make me an open book in personal relationships, Well . . .apparently not so much. I may think I’ve been crystal clear, but the reality, I’ve been told is that I play my cards very close.
I must have some talent as a listener because people have told me the most extraordinary things about themselves on very short acquaintance. And even when I think there has been a mutual exchange, on further reflection I’ve realized that I listen a lot and say very little of substance. The honesty street has been one-way. I have a small gift at weaving good stories that in their humour and detail can deflect from actually revealing anything that might leave me vulnerable. I can talk all around something, but in the end never really say what I’m thinking. When it comes down to it, I could count on one hand the number of people who know the whole story of my life. I have a real gift at deflecting away from anything that is too real and too personal, blogista notwithstanding.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a question that was posed to me recently, that I thought, in the moment, I had answered very clearly. It wasn’t an easy ask, a friend had to share their vulnerability and was seeking reassurance that if the chips were down, they could rely on me. There might have been a bigger question in there as well, about sticking around and longevity. I gave a thoughtful answer but on further reflection I realize that I never answered the core question “if I need you to be there for me, can I count on you”. I should have just said yes, but the hamster wheels got spinning and off I went on a tangent. I need to go back and just say yes, because I’m pretty sure that got lost in translation and I plan to fix that as soon as possible.
Which brings me back to a quote that has lived on my blog for as long as I’ve been writing it: “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes”. From the first time I read it I was drawn to this title of an album by Yellowcard. Maybe I’m only now figuring out why. “Save me from myself and be the soundtrack to these stories that I tell”