Recently, when I’ve written the date, I’ve been putting the year as 2016. Am I losing my mind? Am I a time traveller? Or am I just always somewhere else? I worry about an early slow descent into dementia (who doesn’t at 3 am in the morning? ) but I think the reality is that I never fully concentrate on what I am doing and then I wonder where the hell the day has gone.
People have me pegged as a ‘good listener’, but most of the time, I’m not actually listening, I’m waiting for them to leave the room so I can get on with shit. There’s a massive difference between genuinely giving someone your attention and just being so trapped by social morés that you sit and plaster on an ‘Í’m here for you’ face while secretly sweating with the urge to tell them to do one. I have conveniently blended these two skills and convinced myself and others that I am, for want of a better phrase ‘good at listening’. But they don’t come from the same point. The more admirable route would be for me to tell the speaker that I’m busy and to come back another time and/or never, depending on the nature of their grievance. but that would involve a measure of self empowerment and willingness to preserve oneself and one’s sanity. The road more often travelled by me, to sit and ‘listen’ involves a form of self-preservation, but more from a fear of others than from genuinely looking out for the big id. That internal monologue that cringes in your ear ‘ Oh God, I’ll look so rude if I tell them to go away now, they’ll pull that affronted face and then they’ll say something about me to someone else and about how rude I am and how I’m not a good listener after all, ah God oh God. I’ll just quickly send this email while nodding at whatever they’re saying and then I’ll apologise for sending this email and really pretend to give them my attention’. Lest you think me a horrific she-devil, can I just stress that I’m talking about listening not when people have a real genuine problem that they want to talk through, but when people just want a good long moan about the injustices of the break duty rota or how someone didn’t say hello to them that morning.
This is not Syrian crisis that I’m pretending to listen to.
And of course, everyone needs to vent, I understand this and I hold nothing against the plaintiffs in these cases. They’re lovely people. It’s me, I’m the problem. Almost how certain folk were set up as the town scribes when no-one knew how to write, I have become the team’s rant-guardian. This is my fault, I’ve let it happen. Sure, I give all the physical signs to show that I want the person to leave; foot wedged in door, body turning away, making eye contact with others, the triple impact conclusive comment, shurg and eye roll. But still it come, a ticker tape of slights, perceived or real. And I’ve taken it. I’ve not just lay down on the floor, I’ve written welcome on my face and permitted people to traipse their shit in and park their arses for the long haul.
So how to extricate myself? Maybe erect a sign? ‘ You’re too wrapped up in your own problems and I’m passable at faking’? Even this feels too passive. I’m going to have to flat out tell people – the ‘hurt face’ has held sway over me for too long!
And now, having written this, I realise thatI have been moaning. I sincerely hope that you pretend read it and got on with something more useful instead.