It’s the same canned music at my day job, day after day. You know, that innocuous steady bum-bum-bum in the background that plays at every store, airport, cultural destination. Inoffensive enough if you’re just visiting an establishment. Truthfully? You might even not notice it. You might just stroll around and be none the wiser to the sounds that populate my days. You might wonder if music was even playing at all. You might, if you’re not a person like me. I’ve always paid attention to the song in the background for some reason because who knows? Maybe a great song has been paired by the universe to particularly match the moment of what’s going on. Or if by chance its a really awful, wildly inappropriate song for the moment, even better. Sometimes, it’s just a lyric or an idea from the random song picked out of a hat by the digital music gods, droning on the background that inexplicably matches the moment. Like, “Hey! Shut up”, for example.
This lyric, featured in what’s sort of a love song from 1989 by Bonnie Raitt entitled “Have a Heart,” slaps a smirk on my face each time it comes on. For one thing, it’s the very first thing we hear Raitt say at the tip-top of the song. It’s a funny and sassy on-brand way to start a Bonnie Raitt song. Though tiny in demeanor, Raitt’s been to hell and back so if she playfully tells you, “Hey! Shut up” you might wanna consider it. Not only do I find this a hilarious way to start a song, it’s advice I pretty much need to hear all day long.
A beloved friend I got sober with, who met me when I was whirling dervish of emotions and a category 5 hot mess, once described me as “wonderfully verbal.” Although too much of a saint to admit it, I’m sure he was trying to say I talked too much. This is something I’ve known for decades. “Blurt it out and clean it up later”is how we roll around these parts. As frank and fun as that can be, it’s also frequently insensitive and just stupid. As I’ve aged, however, I’ve tried to run things through a filter BEFORE they blast out of my mouth and for the most part there has been some improvement in this department. My husband, who just last weekend shook his head and tried to get me to stop blabbing my big dumb opinions around friends who may be offended by said opinions, might argue about my progress. Nevertheless, I am at the very least aware that I need to pause before things fly out of my mouth. What I still struggle with is shutting up entirely. Particularly when there are dynamics that have NOTHING to do with me or where my opinion isn’t really necessary. If I’m really real here (which isn’t that the bare minimum that we expect from people who never shut up?) I’ll tell you that I had this lyric in mind and wanted to give you sparkling before and after look at how someone who needed to shut up and finally did. You’d marvel at how my life had changed and soon you’d do the same thing. Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do but just yesterday more garbage flew out of my mouth at the speed of light. Sigh.
Without getting into the particulars and blathering even more, let’s just say I participated in a bitchfest, some gossiping, a little character assassination and general asshole-bigmouth shenanigans. It was at the end of my day too. I’d made it several hours without running my mouth and for nothing. 3 minutes of yammering shot it all to hell. I was really disappointed in myself too. Look, I’m 43 and what was cute in the cafeteria at 17 or delightfully vicious in the club at 25, is just plain ugly now. Earlier this week as my sponsor and i talked about my character defects (because we’re at that joyful and not uncomfortable at all stage of our work. Please stab me.), I fessed up to gossip being a big problem for me. What was fun, now feels icky. He pointed out that maybe it feels gross now because it no longer works. I wholeheartedly agreed and assumed that was that. It doesn’t feel good therefore it will go away and I shall never do it again. Roll the credits and cue the triumphant music! What I neglected to consider is that in order to not feel icky I have to stop the behavior entirely. Double sigh.
As a writer, communicator and lifelong bigmouth, on a cellular level I know the benefits of editing. I know that I need to organize my thoughts for them to make sense. I know that sometimes being quiet and listening is more called for and even for valuable than talking just to hear myself talk. I also know that thinking about what I’m going to say can before I say can often save me from embarrassing or confusing statements.
Yet here we are at the top of a new day. With more opportunities to say stupid shit and clean them up later. Sadly, I am clearly in no position to give you advice on how to shut up and how it might change your life. What I can tell you is this : noticing the music in the background, being great at conversation, even having frank funny and unpopular thoughts that get you unfollowed on Twitter are actually character assets.
The other stuff? It’s a work in progress, as cliche as that might sound. I’m taking the fact that I feel terrible when I engage in this behavior as a step in the right direction. Following through and changing is the tough part and it always has been. It’s the part that separates the men from the boys and one where I really have to buckle down and change. Therfore, I wouldn’t be surprised if a post entitled “Oops. I did it again” shows up in your newsfeed soon. But until then I can try, I can listen and I can attempt to shut up.