You’ve seen them, disheveled and disoriented people who mutter or sometimes curse at no one in particular. They are upset by others, both invisible and only seen in their mind. Their conversation may have taken place years ago only to be acted out again and again.
I talk to myself all the time. I blame my kids. When they were babies, I talked to them all the time even though they probably didn’t understand much of what I said. I had read an article claiming this would improve their intelligence. I remember taking them to the store and asking them what kind of baby food they would like to eat or which tampons I should buy. I got all kinds of amused looks from strangers who thought I was out of my mind. Although I looked like a fool, my kids grew up to be very intelligent adults.
When I became a writer, I discovered reading what I had written aloud helped me find errors and create realistic conversation. It works! I don’t think I had completely gotten out of the habit of talking to myself, so writing compounded the issue.
I would catch myself muttering, “Where’s my car?” in the parking lot, or “Man, this is way too much laundry,” or “Oh, my God. This line is going to take forever,” while waiting at Costco.
In the movie, Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett nails the role of an unstable woman who lives out her socialite lifestyle in her imagination. She takes talking to yourself to a whole new level. I realize there is a big difference between saying your thoughts out loud and being in an altered state of mind. I loved that movie, but it made me more conscious of my occasional habit.
Last winter, I drove to King Soopers grocery store late in the day. I ran into my friend, Jack, who works in the produce department. We chatted until I sensed that I had taken up enough of his time, yammering on about the weather and the price of beans.
I said goodbye and pushed my cart forward. Someone to my right muttered something unintelligible. My cart hadn’t bumped into to anyone, but I said, “Sorry,” just in case I had impeded their progress between the bins of potatoes and the mushroom display.
As I continued toward the bakery, a middle-aged man dressed in a sweater and collared shirt turned and directed his hatred with a seething look that shot me right between the eyes. My cheeks flushed with heat. I couldn’t understand what I did. I reacted the way I always do. “I’m sorry.” I looked around. I hadn’t blocked the aisle. I hadn’t bumped into anyone. I didn’t say anything outrageous or offensive. We were talking beans.
Then I made a big mistake. “I’m really sorry, but what did I do?”
He turned to face me and said, “You are unbelievable!”
As he stormed away, I shouted, “What did I do?” Other shoppers shook their heads and shrugged.
I had made a scene.
Shaking, I made my way through the bakery. The aisles swam. What the hell was that all about? He was such a dick. He must be crazy.
I walked back to produce. The Angry Man had passed behind me, so Jack would have seen him. I told him what happened, but Jack didn’t see him. He was very concerned. “He might be dangerous. Do you want me to walk you to your car?”
It was dark outside, but I told him I wasn’t afraid of the Angry Man.
While shopping for about half the items I needed, I continued to ruminate over what had happened. Then I pushed my cart to the check stand and told the clerk about the confrontation.
“I bet if we could look at your security cameras, we could figure out what set him off.” I said. Then I thought for a moment. I gasped and laughed.
“What’s so funny?” asked the clerk.
“I just realized that if you checked your security cameras, I would look like the crazy maniac. I’ve been thinking out loud since it happened.”
She giggled and assured me that everyone talks to themselves these days.
I drove home and reassessed my habit. The problem is, I write for so many hours every day. I read my comments, drafts of blog posts and my book all out loud. It definitely reinforces this terrible habit. I’ve reread this post several times out loud already.
This was a turning point for me.
If I catch myself thinking with my mouth open, I stop. It has worked for the most part, but according to my family, I still have a long way to go. In the meantime, I’m working on lowering my muttering to a whisper especially when I’m in the grocery store.
Do you talk to yourself? Did you see the movie, Blue Jasmine? Have you ever been verbally accosted by a crazy person?
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