If I had a dime for every time my father said to me, “Put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion” I’d be quite wealthy. It’s not that I am a slow learner. I heard him. But I wanted to be heard. Impulsivity and tactlessness make for fine stand up comedy; I can get my sons rolling so fast, they end up with hiccups for hours. But that verbal blunt weapon is best suited for small, intimate groups and not for a Twitter feed. I learned my paternal lesson and I ride the brake verbally. I regard my thoughts before I speak, I self-censor. I have a fine and true friend who can hear the producers in the control booth of my head repeatedly pressing the rewind button. They say, “Stop censoring”. They know I am careful with my words and they insist I just be open, honest and “myself”.
I have little need to proclaim my opinion to the general public. I don’t have soapboxes for the town square. That is not to say I lack an opinion. Far from it. I just know that the capacity to change another person’s beliefs is exceedingly low and if I like that person well enough….I can accept or tolerate who they are, including beliefs that differ or diverge from my own. A high school boyfriend had this motto (already well formed and time tested by the age of 17)…..”People are going to believe what they want to believe…..and people are going to do what they want to do.” I’ve often wanted to return to that now grown man (who practices law and whom I suspect only improved on his cynicism and skepticism) and I want to ask him, “How had you learned this by such a young age?” In all honesty, I also knew this at age 16…..but I still held fast on the childish notion that maybe, just maybe….it wasn’t so. I hear his voice clearly on that desolate day standing in the kitchen of a classic Miami house (bulldozed long ago to make way for an Old Cutler Road McMansion). I see his facial expression and his sad pragmatism….and a seed of hope that maybe I’d hear him and be saved from the disillusion and grief of learning the lesson the hard way. People are fixed and no one will change. It was one of my earliest peer-learned lessions. I wonder if that young man had any idea of the impact he had upon my life.
Now, I consider myself a good communicator partly because I learned to ride the break. I hold my own counsel. I accept that people will believe what they want to believe…..even if what they believe about me is untrue and incorrect. They believe they know me better than I know myself. And since people lack an ability to LISTEN….trying to explain myself, trying to correct the inaccuracies…is futile. And arguments only solidify peoples’ opinions and belief structure. They defend their position like hill #41, refusing to cede the bunker to the enemy. So, I tootle along my way, stay focused on what I DO in hopes that my actions convey what their opinions falsely register. And if they are both BLIND and DEAF….I accept the pointlessness and the impossibility of them ever truly knowing me. What they really want is to project upon me who they think I am. And that, my friends, is magical thinking. And if I learned my lessons well….I learned, “Just stick to the facts.” And keep moving.