Literal Thinking in a Hypothetical World
“I tried to tell you…” These words crack me up. What exactly does that mean? Actually, I get it, I have seen it happen time and time again. I have lived this. I am in the business of “telling” others things. I find myself repeating the same things, ideas, words, and thoughts over and over again in all manner of delivery. I use humor, wit, charm, intelligence, I even throw in a little Spanish and get really loud if necessary. I know how to TELL something. So, really I do understand when someone does not hear me, or pretends they did not hear me or understand me. However, when someone recently said this to me, I laughed out loud. And I don’t mean LOL, I literally laughed out loud.
The reciprocal of being in the business of needing to speak in such a way so that others understand and hear me, is that I must listen. I am one of those that is often described as a “good listener.” I cannot tell you how many phone calls in the middle of the night begin with, “I called you because I knew you would answer…” or how many conversations I have had where the person speaking to me said, “I can’t believe I am telling you that, I have never told anyone that…” You know when you fill out some sort of questionnaire and it asks “How would your friends describe you?” I always teeter between selecting “loyal” or “good listener.” In my world, they go hand in hand. As they should. No doubt.
So I laughed, and was mystified by this statement I recently heard. “I tried to tell you…” What did you send up smoke signals, tell me in sign language behind my back, did you hold up a sign on my blind side where I would not see it? But, you knew you tried? Really. What I have decided this really means is, “Actually nothing I said was real, or true and I didn’t mean any of it; it was more of a hypothetical than a literal thought, feeling, or intention. Got it?”
No, I don’t get it. I am a literal thinker. I am a literal listener, and I hear really well and have a penchant for recalling and remembering details. I am an invaluable resource to certain people who do not have this trait. I am the one they take places and count on to whisper in their ear the name of the person they are talking to and where they met them because they have no clue. I usually get high fived for this. My literal thinking and listening enabled me to follow the thread of conversations chock full of excruciating details with regards to my own child’s life and death. This person said the wrong thing to the wrong person when they tried to convince me they “tried to tell me…”
My literal thinking and listening scares people sometimes. It is an interesting ability to have. For instance, recently, when I ran into someone I had not seen in years and remembered their name, where we met, and all the intimate details of the conversation that was exchanged in a matter of moments. Their raised eyebrows made me realize they were caught off guard. At least they recognized me and then recalled the meeting from 6 years ago. I feel like a stalker sometimes. But I am harmless. I generally use my powers for good not evil. The details shared with me get trapped in the minute crevices of my mind and vast caverns of my heart. Maybe that is why people like to tell me “stuff.”
How about this one, “You only hear what you want to hear!” This is usually spoken from an exasperated, confused, hurt person who has either done something wrong, or feels they are being accused of some wrongdoing. A close friend said this to me one day and I pondered and pondered it. After much self-examination, I decided in a way, he was right. And he should be glad I only hear what I want to hear at times. Because, being so literal, I know exactly what is being said to me, yet, when I choose to hear otherwise it is a deliberate choice made to protect, hope, believe, or gain insight from. His words took me back to a tiny room, early one Saturday morning when a doctor told me my son was going to die and all hope was lost-his words “he might have 6 weeks to live…” were HEARD. I HEARD him loud and clear. Yet, as I listened intently to his matter of fact medical jargon, memorizing them all, I chose to hear something else too; maybe, maybe he has a 10% chance to get into remission again-and if you can get him into remission and keep him alive for a few months we will try again…I chose to focus on this glimmer of hope, but believe me, I heard him tell me my son was full of cancer and was dying right before my eyes. So, the next time someone I love is angry or hurt, lashes out, wants to quit, runaway, or says they hate me, I will hear them, and I will choose to hear what I want to hear too.
Literally, does anyone mean what they say anymore, or is it all just hyperbole? We live in such bizarre times a literal minded woman like myself finds it hard to stay literal. A person who says what they mean, means what they say, does not get far in the world of hypotheticals. If I say I am going to call, I call. If I say, I will be somewhere I almost always am, and if I cannot be there I am sure to follow up with a call or a message. It seems that we listen to our animals better than we listen to each other. If we can interpret their barks or cries why not try that with each other. Okay, I know what our pets say is much more basic and “literal”, but, surely you hear what I am trying to say. Maybe I am more animal than human seeing I am so literal. Maybe that is why I prefer the company of 5 year olds.
“I tried to tell you”, Guess what, I tried to tell you too, I am literal, do not tell me you are going to do something and not do it. Oh the battles launched, relationships destroyed, feelings hurt over those words,“I tried to tell you…” Listen, hear me, hear whatever you want, but how about we try a little harder? Maybe, just maybe we can try to listen a little better, actually hear what is being said to us and what we say to others? Maybe, just maybe we can try in one small corner of our world put some effort into this. For the love of Peace, shall we?