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  • Got a Minute? We Need to Talk...

    I’ve always loved to talk. People who know me say I could start a conversation with a wall, and fill in the parts when the wall doesn’t respond.

    Of course, talking to the wall sometimes is the only intelligent conversation I can find.

    I’ve used that pithy response many times over the years, largely because it’s my best self-defense. Looking back as an adult, my perception is that I had a lonely childhood. And I believe that perception has a lot of truth, at least as I see it now.

    Since I was a kid, my mind has run a million miles a minute, thoughts skipping from one to the next like a game of hopscotch. My brain was an RSS feed, anxious to deliver opinions and observations on anything that crossed my cerebral cortex. To paraphrase, I could have been ADHD before ADHD was cool.

    In reality, I was a person desperate to connect, and I didn’t know how. I needed someone to understand, to listen, to acknowledge these often disparate — and occasionally fleeting — thoughts. Of course, few people have the capacity for unfiltered, 24/7 access to what someone is thinking, even if the thoughts aren’t mean or malicious. It’s just too tiring.

    Oddly, on several administrations of the Myers-Briggs, I have straddled the line between the “I” and the “E.” Depending on the day, I’m either classified as an introvert or an extravert, which only contributes to my personal mystery. It also partly explains why, despite needing the occasional dose of Immodium for my mouth (or, in this case, fingertips), I hate it when people speak in meetings just to hear themselves talk. Amazingly, despite my ongoing inner dialogue, I have learned not to speak out unless I have something to say.

    That’s one reason I find the phenomenon of social networking so interesting. Sitting behind a computer screen evens the playing field. It’s an emotionally safe way to make those connections. Even if the friends we have are only casual acquaintances, or long-ago people we knew as children (Facebook is in many ways the high school reunion from hell), the fact that it thrives speaks loudly to our need to share our thoughts with the world.

    How this manifests itself in my children is interesting. Despite lacking a formal diagnosis, Nicholas is the first to tell you he’s ADD, while Katharine is the recipient of ADHD with extra sprinkles. Ben always must express himself, even if he doesn’t comprehend fully at times what he’s trying to express. Only Emma has thus far escaped that portion of my DNA; in so many ways she reminds me of her mom, which is one reason she has that special allocation of space in my heart.

    Talking, and the ongoing desire to connect, does have its advantages. But accessing those does not come without a key skill, the ability to listen. What I found when I became a journalist was that I had the opportunity — and often the privilege — to listen to the stories of others. With and through them, I built the life that today allows me to tell my own.

    I believe everyone needs to connect to others in some way. But I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s OK to have dead air. Silence, after all, has its place.