Monday, October 20, 2014

I get the conversation thing

When our daughter Laura was 16 (nearly 20 years ago), she said to me one day, "Linda, it doesn't take much to make you happy. All you need is something to read, something to write, somewhere to walk, and someone to talk to." She was right.

My husband Art is not a talker. When we're at home, or on a quiet vacation, he can sit and read for hours without saying a word. This happened several years ago when we were on a home exchange at Peaks Island, just across the harbor from Portland, Maine. By the 7th day of our stay, I was nearly mad with boredom, and he was entirely content, having read five books.

I had this idea that if I persisted in trying to initiate conversations with Art, one day he'd realize that he was, in fact, an avid conversationalist. That an exchange of dialogue with me was far more interesting than a football game or a murder mystery or repair of the front porch or a nap. I've had this idea for more than 20 years and so far it hasn't happened.

When I quit my last job four years ago, I took up new activities to meet new people and engage my curiosity. I became a mediator and I met with my writers' group and I chatted with my neighbors. It wasn't quite enough. Then we spent a winter in Tucson and it was an answer because I had regular activities and some of them were discussion groups where people talked. Then we spent another winter in Tucson and I met more people. Art met some people too, of course, but he was also free to spend quiet time in our park model, reading or puttering or watching TV. I found that once I had met my social needs, I could leave the man alone and we could enjoy quiet time together as well as occasional conversation. In six weeks we will be leaving for Tucson. I am getting emails from people in our winter community and I'll be glad to see them all.

This summer I joined the Unitarian community. I participate in a few activities and Art does a couple of them with me. I took on a scheduling project for the church photo directory and I had phone conversations with people I hadn't met yet. I'm part of the planning group for the Tiny Houses project.

I spent last weekend at Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island with the Vashonistas, a group of women who blog. It was our third year together, and probably not the last. We did a lot of talking and laughing.

I now find that I am getting enough conversation from other people that I relish quiet time as well, and that's a good balance for Art and me.

For the next five days we are in Ocean Park, Washington, in a timeshare condo three blocks from the Pacific Ocean. We got here this afternoon and in four hours we have said relatively little except for a few brief exchanges of mutual interest. So far it feels pretty good.

This conversation thing. It sure took me a long time to figure it out.


Carole said...

Maybe it's the introvert/extrovert thing, whether we recharge our inner batteries by being engaged with other people, or by being by ourselves. Reminds me of the Kiersey Bates/ Myers Briggs personality and temperment evaluation. The point of the book ("Please Understand Me") was to accept who we are, and who others are, and not try to change them.

I definitely tend to be on the quiet side and feel overwhelmed when too much time is spent with too many people. I think I have a pretty good balance in retirement between alone time and time with friends.

Sounds like you and Art have figured out a good balance between the two of you.

DJan said...

I require a fair amount of social interaction to be happy, and I rarely get it from my partner, who is like Art, quiet and reticent. Fortunately I have an active social life so I don't feel any lack of stimulation.

Didn't we have a great weekend? I'm already looking forward to next year. :-)

#1Nana said...

Hope you're still enjoying the solitude at the beach. I know I laughed and talked enough last weekend to meet my monthly quota.

Rosaria Williams said...

It's a fine line between over-burdening each other, and being engaged just so. It is a big problem for the newly retired; yet, you're the first blogger that brought this topic up. Great observation!

Arkansas Patti said...

It looks like you have found a great way to balance two personalities. I agree with rosaria in that you are probably not alone as couples retire and realize they now have at least 12 hours a day face to face.
You have done a great job finding folks to help fill the conversation void so that you too can enjoy those companionable silences.
Glad you all had such a great time with your fellow bloggers.

Grandmother Mary said...

We chose the one who compliments us but then want to change him/her to our style. Good for you for finding the balance and the way to meet your needs without changing him.