You're a good listener.
That's got to be part of the draw of the internet, specifically chatrooms and blogs and that ilk. Being listened to, or at least being given the illusion of being listened to. When you post on your blog or your webpage or you make some witty comment in your irc channel, you're almost guaranteed a shot at someone reading it, even if what you're talking about is so wildly esoteric that there's only three other people in the world who have heard of a Three-Legged Cast Iron Westerbanger Mark IV with the Optional Tin Frammistantz Top with the erratum in the maker's mark.
I learned a long time ago from a very wise sage something that has, I hope, helped channel my life in a direction I'd like it to go in. I was told "We've got two ears, two eyes, and one mouth, and we ought to use them in that ratio." So, from that point forward I tried to concentrate on that thought--listen and watch twice as often as I spoke. And it's amasing what you can hear and see when you take the mouth out of gear and let your own noise quieten down.
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of noise out there that you have to sift through, but if you dig through the pile of dung long enough, you'll find that pony. People used to remark to me about my wit, my maturity for my age (I was born middle-aged) and that I was a good listener. It saddens me how few people realised that the third part of that was the key factor, and the rest was just benefits gained thereby. Shutting up and being open to what was out there makes the rest fall in line like dominoes at a Rube Goldberg Exhibition.
But that's the rub, rube--no one listens anymore. We're a world full of desperate story tellers with no audience, and what is a storyteller without an audience but some lunatic standing on the side of the road talking to himself. Nobody wants to listen anymore. And the next step? The really hard one? Not coming back with some sure-fire answer when you've listened. It's one thing to sit and listen to someone pour their heart out. It's quite another thing to sympathise with this person. It's still ANOTHER, and here's the hard part, not to offer some sort of sage advice or sure-fire gimcrackery to fix it for them. People don't usually WANT an answer to their troubles, and if they do then they'll likely not use it anyway. And I pride myself on being a good listener, and STILL have to catch myself from spouting some old rhubarb about time wounding all heels or rolling stones and moss husbandry. I think we've spent our entire lives hearing other people 'listen' when in reality they're just waiting their turn to talk, and when their turn comes they've already got it all planned out--your Guaranteed To Work Answer To All Your Problems In A Bag. And it's always flummery, but we've been trained that way from the starting line.
And that leads me to another thing I have been thinking about a lot here of late, and simply hadn't had the chance to write about--arguing. I have spent my entire life NOT being an arguer. I dislike confrontation, and while I still do suffer from road rage and will shout and scream in the confines of my own helmet at mouth-breathers and other assorted four-wheel vermin, in the real world I dislike arguing intensely. The reason? See above. When you get into an argument with someone, both (or all) sides immediately start from one point: I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE NOT. How can you possibly get any sort of direction or learning or understanding from interaction when you're both so certain that the other is wrong and it's your divine duty to show them the error of their ways? What gives? No one. What's accomplished? Nothing.
At work there is a woman who is old enough to know better, but doesn't. She likes to point blame wherever she can except where it might possibly do some good, and I know it infuriates my boss (aka my daughter) when she does it to me because I simply shrug it off and go on about my day. I know she's wrong, because the difficulties she's addressing lie outside the boundary of my job, so there's no WAY I could be at fault; I'm just a handy target, and since I don't fight back I'm even easier. So, it runs like this.
"This is your fault, Irrelephant."
"Uhm...yeah. You're fault. I'm gonna go get an espresso."
Over. It's already run off my back like water on Turtle Wax, and they've been defused. Dare I say "I've won?" No, that's childish. It was never a battle to begin with when one side won't take the field. I could have stood my ground, could have said
"But that's not my job, I don't see that paperwork, X does..."
and we would have been off to the races, arguing over why it's wrong, why it's my fault, and why old girl needs to take her espresso and her wrinkles and leap off a very tall building, but I know what it would do to me--stress, adrenaline shakes, and a lot of free-floating anger that would make my stomach boil, my jaws sore from clenching, and likely pay off in a few decades with an early heart attack, and it STILL wouldn't get her to see that she needs to take that particular problem to X to address it.
So that's how it goes with Irrelephant. I'm trying to take the long view--In (insert amount here) years, what will it all matter? That's makes so much of life easier--not taking it too seriously. I used to be miserable at work when I was 18 years old and a janitor for the Federal Government. I used to fume and fuss and throw tantrums and do all the things that 18 year olds do when they're rather be sitting in front of the television. And what do those three and a half years matter to me now? Absolutely nothing. I took a very few things from those years--I found Monty Python on cable, I learned that I am wildly allergic to poison ivy, and twenty years later I realised that I like to weed flowerbeds.
Mmmm. Worth being blindly angry every day, I'm sure.