Follow that runaway train…of thought?

I used to believe that I spoke and had thought processes like other people.  I would ruminate something, I would say it out loud, the other person would reply and there you have it!  Conversation.  So imagine, to my chagrin, when suddenly my friends and (most) family members could not understand me.  They would tilt their head to one side and stare at me, quite perplexed.  It was like I was speaking a foreign language.  I would then continue to explain my thought process, step by step, and then they would open their mouths slightly and melodiously say, “ohhhhhh,” whilst nodding their heads.  What had happened to my talent for great conversation?

As I said before, I can hold conversations with anybody of any age, any gender, on any topic.  So it befuddled me when it appeared that I was babbling incoherently.  It occurred to me one day that there were certain people who completely understood me and what I was saying.  My sister was top of the list.  My mother too.  My dad, most of the time.  My niece, however, gave me THAT look one day.  I gave her a questioning look back.  She calmly asked, whilst politely puzzled:  “What does Baba (grandma in Croatian) have to do with a glass of water?”  At first, this bewildered me.  Then the AH-HA moment hit!  Get ready for this doozy.

First, let me ask if you have ever seen the show Gilmore Girls?  I LOVE watching this show!  Why?  The amount of fast-talking conversation is incredible.  They jump from topic to topic in seconds flat.  Basically, they talk like I do.  There is no desire to scrimp on words and get to the point quickly.  It’s about conversation and language and using all kinds of words and comparisons and leaping from one idea to the next.  That was what my AH-HA was about.  I was speaking quickly, and as I spoke a new idea would pop into my head.  However, I might not say anything aloud about it, but then my next thought would be spoken out loud leaving a possible gap in the logical conclusion.  Get it?  No?  Ok, here is the train of thought explanation of the “Baba and the glass of water story”:

Me out loud:  Baba is in so much pain with her hip, but she just won’t let anyone help her.  She has to do it all by herself because she doesn’t want to bother anyone.

Niece out loud:  I know, even when I invite them over for lunch she says it’s too much work for me and that I have so many other responsibilities so why don’t we just come over to her place for a meal.

Me in my head:  She has always been like that.  So stubborn.  That’s why we never learned to cook because she had to do everything.  Even her brother-in-law told me that she won’t even have a glass of water in his home, but she expects them to come to her place for elaborate meals.

Me out loud:  Not even a glass of water!

Niece:  *dumbfounded look

Ok…now you are caught up with how my brain works.  There are the inner thoughts that are constantly in motion.  It’s like there are trigger words people say to me and my mind grabs it like a football and starts running for the end zone.  With every yard I pass, a new thought gets attached to it.  By the time I get to the end zone I have left the football field and ended up on the soccer field.  See what I mean?

I decided to do some quick research about this special phenomenon of mine.  With my Google prowess I typed:  the difference between male and female thought patterns.  DING!  There is quite a variance between the gender brain functions and thought patterns.  I will summarize it quickly if you don’t feel like reading about it.  Scientists study four primary areas of the brain:  processing, chemistry, structure, and activity.  With processing, it appears that males use more gray matter than white matter and with females it’s the opposite.  The gray areas are localized and lead to those gents having more of a tunnel vision so they focus on one thing until complete.  The ladies, with their white brain, basically have their brain networking with the gray parts.  Thus, women are able to multi-task fantastically.  Both are good in their own ways.  The rest of the article was interesting, but being a multi-tasker, let’s get back to the story.

I then explained to my niece how my brain works…as you now also know.  I still continue to speak in this way.  One day at my parent’s place my mother was telling me and my sister about this lady in the village.  The story continued about some surgery.  Then it went to some doctor.  Then something about pills.  Then how awful THAT man is.  She was shaking her head in anger and the rest of us just looked at each other.  My father asked, “What man?”  My sister and I burst out laughing.  We were prodigies!  After a few precise questions we finally figured out who she had been talking about.  Her whole story had involved words like “her” “that lady” “that neighbour” and “him”.  Once names were attached to the pronouns we had the final answer.  Way more fun than Jeopardy, but just as challenging!

Fast forward a few months.  I was visiting my niece again.  I was regaling her with some fantastic story and when I stopped she smiled and slyly said, “I actually followed that train of thought almost all the way to the end.”  Kudos to her!  I am bequeathing her with the gift of pursuing that runaway train…of thought!

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The World is Full of Rings, Dings, Pings, and Beeps…

I was sitting in a restaurant, waiting for my friends and I heard a PING!  I grabbed my purse and pulled out my cell phone.  Nope.  No new message for me.  As I was putting my cell back into the pocket I heard several voices around me say, “Nope, wasn’t my phone.”  I had seen with my own eyes that there had been nothing new on my smart phone.  But…if it wasn’t their phones then….yup, I grabbed my cell again and looked.  Nuthin’.  That got me thinking about how different our society is now thanks(?) to “smart” phones.

Have you ever heard of “classical conditioning” a.k.a. Pavlov’s research with dogs?  Looking around me (and at myself) I see how much we have become like those dogs.  Our phone PINGS and we all grab for our phones.  Commercials on tv that include those text message sounds drive me nuts!  I think it’s my phone and then realize where the sound came from.  How did this happen?

Here is my theory.  When the smart phone first came out it was incredible technology.  The information at your finger tips made us more proficient in our jobs.  We could look up information, share said information, and best of all, we could do this ANYWHERE.  Being capable of doing this at any moment in any place made our lives so much easier…at first.

With such technology in the palm of our hands we were now expected to answer questions immediately.  There was no more leaving a message and saying, “when you get back to the office, can you please send me that info?”  More and more people are now driving and texting.  Why?  There is no such thing as patience.  Everything is about instant gratification.  Everything is needed NOW!  RIGHT NOW!  You can tell people you are driving and they still think they can berate you for not getting them what they want.  This moved on from work to the “fun” stuff as well.  Our phones have become our crutches if we are left waiting somewhere.

Waiting in a restaurant for friends to arrive?  Check out if anything new was posted on Facebook.  There are the gazillion apps so you can play a game.  Doctor’s office?  If you look around you will see the majority of people there are playing on their phones.  If they aren’t, they have given their phones to their kids to play on so that they will behave.  Do you know what used to happen?  Someone would look at you and maybe start talking about the weather or talk about their child’s illness.  There would be this thing called “conversation”.  And there was never any doubt what tone the person was using when they spoke.  Not like text injuries.  You know…the one where you text someone, and you thought you were being smart and funny, and they text back yelling at you because they totally misunderstood your text.  Why?  Text does not do intonation.  I guess that’s why emoticons are used.  Hmmmm, then again, maybe it’s because we have become so lazy in texting that pictures are easier to use.

Ever had this problem?  Your phone has died and you need to call someone.  How do you do it?  You don’t know anyone’s phone number off by heart.  I remember having everyone’s phone number memorized.  Not anymore.

My cell phone pings with texts.  It dings with Facebook and Twitter notifications.  It rings too.  That’s only because Wiseguy prefers to call me instead of texting.  Old school works for us.  We can figure stuff out in seconds rather than texting back and forth.  So, that got me thinking about other sounds that make me react.

My clothes dryer.  I can hear it buzz from anywhere in the house.  No one else does.  But I do.  I have been trained to hear that sound.  My microwave…beep beep beeps when it’s finished rotating and heating my food.  My oven dings 3 times when it has reached my desired temperature.  It dings once when I turn it off.  My car ding ding dings if I leave my lights on or if the keys are in the ignition once I have opened the door.  If you are a pedestrian,  you might have noticed new signal lights at intersections that ding to let you know when you can cross.  When I am grocery shopping, and my items cross over the scanner, each one beeps before being put into my grocery bag.  Those are but a few of the sounds that I am trained on hearing.

It’s true…whenever one of these rings, dings, pings, or beeps sound off I have been trained to react.  Sometimes I love it and oftentimes I hate it.  I hate when I’m otherwise occupied, like watching a movie.  I hear the ping and my body uneasily twitches.  Why?  Because I feel the need to pause my movie and get up and see who has texted me.  One day I decided not to carry my barnacle along with me.   It was liberating!  True, I felt guilty for not responding to my plethora of text messages, but I felt great knowing that I did what I wanted.  I enjoyed my movie.  I didn’t even check my phone afterward.  I waited until the next day.  Crazy?  Maybe.  I also felt…liberated.  I had broken my Pavlovian dog mode and began to decide what I wanted to do and not what my brain had trained me to do.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am addicted to my smart phone.  I try not to pull out my phone when I am waiting somewhere.  I don’t actually talk to people because nowadays people are creeped out when a stranger talks to them.  I WILL say that Wiseguy tried and succeeded in creating a memorable experience by NOT using our cell phones.

We were at a restaurant and Wiseguy and I were discussing something that could have easily been solved by grabbing our cell phones and “Googling” for the answer.  Instead, he asked our server the question.  It became a “conversation”.  A slight debate.  I itched to grab my phone, but no…we waited for our server to come back with an answer.  (It was about colleges and universities in Ontario).  Well, our server came back with the answer.  He admitted he had used his smart phone, BUT….Wiseguy and I did NOT!  We did old-fashioned “question, debate, and final answer” technique.  It felt really good!

This world of ours is full of rings, dings, pings, and beeps, but feel free to unplug sometime.  It’s good to have time for your own thoughts.  It’s good not be “on-call” 24-7.  Take time to enjoy the outdoors without having to take selfies in your environment.  Keep some stuff private so that it feels special just for you.  I love technology and sometimes I regret not taking videos or pictures of events happening around me and then I think how happy I am that I got to see it live and it will live on forever in my memory.  Always vivid…always true…and not documented.  It’s my truth to myself.

P.S.  My phone has not made any noise since I began this article.  The silence is quite deafening, but I think I can used to it.