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I don’t have to be right
My wife is a wordsmith. Anyone who knows her knows this. She and I enjoy the occasional verbal jousting, and even the delightful argument, during which I’m besieged and laid waste to with words that have many syllables, like “orange”, and “whether.” She’s very gracious in our battles, and she doesn’t really require victory. In her own words, “I don’t need to be right, but I do need to be heard.” I don’t blame her! I need to be heard too. Which is why we’re arguing. But we don’t do it much anymore. I’ve just learned to relax and just accept that she’s wrong. It’s all good. On an aside, I secretly love when she calls me a nitwit.
Truthfully, I hate fighting with my wife. It puts that cramp in my tummy. You know that cramp. Fighting with her is like trying to stick to my goal of losing weight, but increasing anyway. The first time, I try to handle it nicely and I’m resolute on a good end. The second time, I get discouraged and just try to muscle through. The third time I’ve lost all semblance of commitment and hope, and decide to just go live with the Taliban instead, all 873 pounds of me. You’ll see me on the news being drop-shipped with the parachute that snaps. That’ll be me plummeting to the ground like a fine-dressed meteor wearing an I-heart-voiceovers T-Shirt.
I do have one way out where I can pretty much ensure my manly victory and be sure to vanquish her. Any time we have a petty – yet fun – argument, it goes something like this:
- Janine: “Honey, it’s Annie’s Macaroni.”
- Me: “No, honey, it’s Auntie’s Macaroni.”
- Janine: “No it isn’t, it’s Annie’s, I swear.”
- Me: “Honey, it isn’t – I just made macaroni, so I literally just looked at the box, and it’s Auntie’s.”
- Janine: *Googles*
- Me: *feeling of dread*
- Janine: “See? Annie’s.”
- *another pause*
- Me: “No one likes you. I checked.”
- Me: *throws dead spiders at wife and flees*
In truth, arguing with her is horrible. All my peace is lost and I need a real reset button.
Why do I talk about “reset buttons” so much? Hmm. I wonder
Is it all because, like all of us, I am a Numbskull Cro-Magnon Idiot?
We’re all Numbskull Cro-Magnon Idiots
I’m preaching truth here: that’s why you’re squirming. We forget that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. That reason is to listen. Not to pick and flick earwax. Not to insert our Airpods and tune out the world. Not to wiggle and make funny monkey faces. But to listen.
It’s quite difficult to listen when you’re in an argument. The argument escalates, tensions rise, and then we’re so preoccupied with proving our own point, that the only real listening we do is preemptive: to find the chink in the armor of whatever our opponent is saying, and prepare a counterargument that’s even more sound and unassailable. We practice this pretty well in the shower. Don’t judge me. You know you do it too, Shower Arguer.
My wife makes a formidable opponent. Oftentimes when we argue, I inevitably find myself crawling into a basement, sucking my thumb, rocking rhythmically and chanting “Find a happy place…find a happy place” through tears. Thank God she doesn’t keep a scorecard.
As an esteemed NCMI (Numbskull Cro-Magnon Idiot) and a Voice Talent – and heck, as a human being, what can you do to de-idiot yourself? Simple, and this one is for my Esspanish readers:
Do we really listen to our clients? Do we listen to our family? Do we listen to God? Do we listen to our spouse? I’m fully cognizant that for some of you, sometimes when your spouse is talking it’s vaguely reminiscent of a Nazgul shriek combined with being shot in the face by a BB gun, or having tattoo work done on your brain. I hear you and I feel your pain. But do we really strive to listen and hear?
When push comes to shove and then you’re arrested for shoving someone so don’t do that, listening is one thing; hearing is something else entirely. Listening is taking in what someone else is saying, and noting it down. Hearing is acknowledging the value of what they said, and retaining it in your heart because it’s important to them. I love that my wife doesn’t need to be right, because:
- that “ups” my own winning ratio
- I don’t have to go live with the Taliban (they’re very hairy and don’t have Skittles or cell service there which impacts my diet and connectivity requirements, curse them), and
- It communicates to me that she takes great value in connecting with other humans rather than some personal victory over them.
Listening with our Ears vs. Hearing with our Hearts
When we’re embroiled in an argument, usually all we hear is ourselves. It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I am not a big man. I am a small puny raisin of a man trapped inside a large lumbering oafish structure of something resembling concrete and scotch tape, that is beginning to show a need for ironing. I need to listen, and even more, I need to hear. Did you know our hearts have ears? Yep: “Ear” is right there in the word “Heart.” Coincidence? Methinks not.
So why is it that I’m predisposed to assume the worst when someone ignores me or fires off an ambiguous or nebulous comment, especially in online or email communication? Without the lack of human intonation and expression, I jump right to the conclusion that I am under attack, that that person is deliberately seeking to harm me, undercutting me, insulting me, casting doubt or blame upon me, whatever. It’s unfortunately my default response. You know it’s yours too. Don’t deny it. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
But why is that??? (Our default response, not denial in Egypt). We automatically assume the worst and never extend the benefit of the doubt…and then it’s anger-unfriend-block-rinse-and-repeat. So much is lost in electronic communications and so we default to the victim role. What did they mean by that??? we think. I’ll quote my wife here again: “You don’t know their story.” I wish more people were willing to know others’ stories. I wish more people were willing to genuinely hear other people.
Oh, if we could only hear without suspicion or prejudice.
Here’s where I failed to hear recently:
I need to listen to and hear my 3-year-old. Sometimes he can whine on and on, and it irritates me and makes me want to go live with the Taliban. Huh. A lot of things make me want to go live with the Taliban these days. Anyway…since I’m easily irritated by his whining, I can quickly try to stifle his whining and shut him down with a good old fashioned tut-tut. At which point he gives me that look as if to say “But I don’t speak Klingon…?” So that’s when I resort to the chloroform. There-there…it’ll all be better soon….Bubby you sleep now….
As his Daddy, I can habitually try to extinguish his own pain so that I’m sure to not experience any myself. I believe the Prophet Yoda said it best when he said “Fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” What am I afraid of? Getting angry and then stewing or detaching? My job, as his Daddy, is actually to receive and absorb his pain…to receive it and soften it for him, and to be a safe place for him to land that pain. And one of the best things I can do as a Daddy to this little boy is to communicate to him that its ok to have such emotions. Not shut those emotions down because can’t you see I’m watching Whale Wars so please stop whining while the Japanese are hunting my beloved whales and I don’t want to hear all of your blubbering while they’re being reduced to blubber and you’re so insensitive and need to grow up because when I was your age I was 10 and stop putting lunch meat in the DVD player I need a calming bath and some Kenny G leave me alone you runt no you can’t have a pet velociraptor. Not that.
I need to listen to and hear my clients. I recently lost out on a job for a new client. I thought they were a bit nitpicky to begin with, but then they proved that. They replied to my contract email stating “consider this approval of the contract.” However, for legal reasons, I was always encouraged to have them fill out the actual contract, using a hyperlink in their email, that was there from the start, which they were, from the start, instructed to use. So I stood firm, resolute and dogged, and gently insisted that they use the online link to approve. He replied a bit later saying that it was hard to use, and he didn’t know what to enter into some fields. I answered him and assured him that if there was something that he was unsure of, to just guess. He also said my Paypal address wasn’t working, and I assured him that he had the correct one and asked could he try again. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for him, so he went elsewhere. Now, he was a bit particular, and the job didn’t quite pay enough anyway. That usually spells trouble in the form of client-wants-more-than-what-they-paid-for. But I still wanted it, because I like to actually make money in voiceovers and not subsist on Top Ramen.
Am I irritated by losing that client and want to go live with the Taliban? Irritated, yes, but not enough to go live with the Taliban. I’ll settle for a cozy, local extremist cell for now. [ Sidebar: US Government, I am KIDDING. I’m QUITE comfortable living here with my argumentative wife and whiny son, thank you. ] The point being that I should have listened, I should have heard him that he wanted something simpler, and I should have been flexible. Instead, I was a bit too rigid, and he wanted somebody more bendy. Gumby I am not. Lesson learned.
I need to listen and hear my wife. She is under enormous pressure as a SAHM (not to be confused with a Scuba Apparatus Help Mechanism, although she does frequently stress that the intake of oxygen is somewhat beneficial for life), and she has a preschooler and an infant crying and clawing at her all day long. Testing her patience. Challenging her. Increasing her sighs. Making her want to go live with the Taliban. (What IS it with living with the Taliban???) Anyway, my wife is a freaking WARRIOR. I don’t mean the Wonder Woman type or the Xena Warrior Princess type, or even Scarlet Witch or Black Widow or The Wasp or Supergirl or Captain Marvel. I mean ALL of them, rolled into one beautiful, graying, wrinkled, exhausted, bathrobe-wearing mess that is the Picture of Perfection. She’s a saint. Saint Janine. I pray to her. (Confessing my sins to her gets weird though, because that just gives me a handicap in future arguments.) But there are many times where she’s called out for reinforcements, even subtly, and I haven’t heard her, because I’ve been too immersed in my own pursuits. I haven’t met her where she’s at, and I’ve failed her. We’re a team, but it’s been lopsided sometimes. For that I am so sorry. “For better or worse, ‘til death do us part” I committed to her, and I resolve to honor that pledge, even if I have to throw dead spiders occasionally.
I need to listen to and hear God. There are many times every single week where I feel unworthy, unqualified, unappreciated, bitter, and a failure. I rail against God and others because of my feelings, when what I really need to do is step back, breathe, and know in my heart that my value and worth are not dependent on the affirmations of others, the back pats, the ego strokes, the “likes”, the “subscribes”, the “follows” or the voice castings. As a Christian, I know my value is based on so much more, and its indefatigable. “I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God,” so goes the song. I need to receive and believe.
Sorry to get all Christiany on you with that last one, but as Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann so eloquently said, “And that’s the truth. Pfffft.”
So now we come to it. Who can you listen to, and genuinely HEAR today? Who has been clawing and crying at you for a chance to be heard? Who can you help to let it all out? Can you show your heart with an e-a-r, and truly receive what they offer you, even if it’s Tofu-and-M&M casserole? Oh, you mock now, but it’s from the gods, I assure you. Purple and yellow and green and blue and orange and tastes something like a mix of vomit, asphalt and sin, but from some god somewhere nonetheless. Loki I think.
Can you hear me now? Good!!! Hey, the Taliban have great cell service here! Oh look, a Skittle!
HEY! WAIT JUST A S.E.C.!!!
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