Literal Thinking in a Hypothetical World

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?

Flawed. Perfectly.

Maybe everyone does this- when someone attacks me in a hurtful way- saying something mean to me- I want to defend myself; I want to protect myself, fight back, stand my ground…but what really happens is I hear them, and know they are right.

It’s never easy when to be called out about our behavior, attitude or actions.  No one likes their flaws to be used against them or exposed.  Having to stick up for yourself sucks. But, truth is, if we don’t, no one else will. Truth is also that usually they are right and we know it.  Yet we fight back, launch an attack of defense or maybe even try to turn the tables and get ugly with them; you know the old the best offense is a defense—throw stone for stone.

Not me, I have finally learned that when someone I love attacks me, I try very hard not to attack back; I don’t pull all the rabbits out of the hat that I have hidden to use against them to hurt them like they are hurting me…I know how bad it hurts to have my flaws exposed, twisted, perverted and used against me. It is not fun, and most people do not fight fair.

Maybe this is a character flaw of mine, but when someone attacks me, in my head I am usually agreeing with them on some level.  That’s why it hurts so badly.  I wish I was one of those really strong people with a thick skin that can stick up for themselves and not let harmful words permeate and paralyze them; but I am not. Never have been, guess I never will be…I have many childhood memories of being picked on and called out-and as scrappy as I was, as much of a fighter as I was, those words would cut into my heart like a sharp knife and I would not forget them. I took it very personally.

One day in high school I was walking down the hall.  I heard some girl calling out: “Slut, there’s that slut!” I was walking alone-she was talking to me. I was scared to death at that moment. The girl was a girl I knew pretty well; she and her boyfriend had just broken up, or so he said…so he had told me…I had known her boyfriend for many years through junior high-he was at a party I was at and told me all about it…he acted interested in me, he had liked me all through jr. high—he gave me a ride home—dropped me at my house, and drove straight to her house to tell her he had been with me…and here it was Monday at school and she was calling me a slut!  I felt like a slut and I had not even done anything.  I was about as “prude” as a girl could be in high school.  He cowered next to her as she attacked me; this guy, an old friend did not say one word as she poked me in the chest and accused me of all sorts of things.  I took it, wanted to kill him, not her.  Not her fault he was a lying snake in the grass.  I survived, my dance teacher helped pull me together and got us two girls together and cleared up the mess.  I moved away the next week. Surviving my worst high school nightmare was the icing on a messed up cake, and I bailed.

Fast forward a gazillion years-after many losses, much heartache, being and feeling abandoned, betrayed, and alone-I take it very seriously when someone I love says hurtful things to me.  I am flawed from the years of human abuse that we all have to live with; funny thing is, I am the first one to stand up and fight for the underdog-always the one who goes ahead in a crowd and keeps others calm in a bad situation.  I am called: confident, independent, headstrong, tenacious, stubborn and strong—I am also called: cold, detached, clingy, ungrateful and unattached…Truth is—I AM ALL OF THESE THINGS!  And sometimes, when someone I love feels the need to point out my flaws and use them against me because they can’t handle them—it hurts, it hurts very badly and my human soft strong loving spirit wants to bail-move away and quit.

I’m working on my weaknesses, trying to keep my strengths in check as not to overwhelm the world with my tenacious headstrong independent often mouthy personality—I’m trying to love others in the process and it is not so easy at times.  It is usually those we love the most who hurt us the most and expose our flaws and use them against us.  I don’t know, maybe, just maybe the next time you are ready to rip someone you love to shreds you will remember the words of a stubborn confident headstrong woman who gets her spirit chipped away a little every time someone calls her out and you will NOT attack, but maybe just maybe you will be kind and remember they already know all about their flaws…

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Still blooming after all these years