Becoming A Man

I seem to have a problem listening. Or is it a problem hearing? I don’t know.

There have been a number of situations over the weeks and months – perhaps – when I have been accused of not paying attention. And that accusation usually comes with others: you weren’t listening on purpose being the thrust of the attack which is insinuated. Paying attention to something else. Tuning out, because you have the mind of an infant which would prefer to be occupying itself with childish thoughts instead of important things, which are happening here, now, this instant. Things which are very very important.

And that would be fair enough, if it were true.

It’s more complicated than that.

To start at the beginning – always a good place to commence a journey – I’m just not very good at focussing on action which exists solely in the realm of thought. Now, I frequently get distracted by a remarkably attractive person on the street or an amusingly misspelled sign passed in the car or commentary of a football match transmitting directly into my ears through radio earbuds (especially if my team’s playing/I have money riding on the result). Yes, distracted. A bit. Sometimes. But this is very different from ‘tuning out’. In fact I’m unable to become absorbed so completely in a novel that I forget where I am and what I’m doing as I read; other people can do this – they seem able to choose to become thus absorbed – and my reaction is pure envy: I wish I could do the same. If I can’t enter this kind of mental zone when I’d really like to, then why would I do it in an environment where a car or train might hit me? It’s not logical.

It doesn’t happen.

(OK. I do have conversations with myself. Quite often, in fact. And they can be rather stimulating. But again, consciousness of now is remains intact.)

Something else happens though, sometimes. It’s as if my cognitive functioning is impaired. Stimuli reach the brain and are assimilated and sorted and attendant functions of that sort are carried out. Understanding or comprehension occurs. Everything is fine up to this point. Internal functions working as they should. Then my companion asks “What do you think?” or she asks if I have been listening (and she may even question whether our communication is what it ought to be). And I will go to answer, and …

Actually, that’s not right; I will start speaking, in a babbling manner, while a response formulates itself. And by the time the answer proper is ready, my mind has caught up to my mouth, moved smartly ahead, and babbling quickly becomes a kind of stammer as mouth hurries to catch up and I become tongue-tied and can’t think of the correct words to use.

And of course it sounds like a poorly expressed protest that no, I was listening, really, honest, the whole time.

It would be tempting to just agree. But that would also be wrong.

I’ll keep trying, despite the cranial apparatus which appears to be falling slowly apart. It’s not easy, and it won’t be easy, but I shall resist.

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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