Am I talking to me?

I've got to talk to somebody intelligent around here.

I talk to myself. Out loud and in public.

Do you remember the first time you saw someone using headphones to talk on the phone? It made it hard to tell the difference between the crazy people and some guy who’s on the horn with his broker.

I rant and rave my way down the sidewalk. I’m not on the phone. I don’t know what that says about my mental state. I can’t presume what strangers think of me.

When my mom has seen me do it, she’d say, “You’ve got to talk to somebody intelligent around here.” She made me feel ok about it even though the compliment was at her expense. She’s a gracious person.

I come from a long line of self-talkers. My dad does it. My grandfather probably did it, my great grandfather, too. I bet my great great grandfather talked to himself. He lived in Italy so he was doing it in Italian, which means I wouldn’t have understood what the hell he was saying.

I’ve seen my dad talk to himself while he’s organizing the garage. Raking leaves. Cleaning the kitchen. Driving. If my dad isn’t talking to somebody else, he’s talking to himself. And my dad loves talking to other people. Almost as much as he loves talking to himself.

My dad is in a trance when he’s in the middle of one of his monologues. His arms and legs move independently as if his head is simply decorative.  His face is stoic, his eyes distant, and his lips fluttering, like Bill Pullman’s character in Igby Goes Down if you’ll forgive the obscure reference.

For my dad, mundane tasks free him up to do some reflecting. His brain is on autopilot, the way it is for people who have ideas while in the shower. By the way, that never happens to me while bathing. I concentrate on the order that I need to clean my parts. Crotch then feet, not vice versa.

I’ve often eavesdropped on my dad’s solo convos. Mostly he seems to talk to himself about things he should have said during interactions with other people. Either telling my mom why he didn’t want to fix something in the house or informing a rude client what he thought of him. When I listen close, it sounds like my dad makes some good points. Too bad the people that need to hear it aren’t around.

Before the Lyme disease epidemic, people wanted deer to come close to their home. My parents were those people and one day I saw my dad hanging a salt lick in a tree. If you’ve never seen a salt lick, it is a brick of salt housed in a metal frame with a wire loop at the top. I have no clue who discovered that deer love salt. I could look it up, but I don’t care that much.

My dad was on the fringe of the woods behind the house threading the wire with a tree branch, talking to himself the whole time. To the unsuspecting eye, it appeared he was having an in-depth conversation with a dangling rectangular piece of sodium in the forest. I wonder what he and the salt discussed. What to do about that jerk in the office? What should he have said to that guy who cut in front of him at the hardware store? Was he saving enough for retirement? I hope he got what he needed from his heart to heart with the salt.

My dad appears to solve his problems while talking to himself. Well, except for the problem of not being able to address things in the moment. He comes out of his trance alert and ready to take on the world. Similar to Robert Deniro’s character in Awakenings (yet another obscure reference).

I think it’s meditative for my dad to ramble to himself even though he looks insane. Sitting criss-cross applesauce with your eyes closed while chanting doesn’t look particularly sane either.

I’m exactly like my father and the fathers before him. I’m keeping the legacy of self-talking alive. It’s in my blood. Honestly, I see it as a sign of respect. The men in my family have been talking to themselves for generations. Who am I to break this tradition?

Someday I hope to pass this gift onto my children. Although I have two daughters, I don’t think you have to be a man to talk to yourself. If I did some digging, I’m sure I’d find a lot of women self-talkers in the family. My Aunt Mary seemed like the type to give herself a good talking to.

I work things out by talking to myself. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who do the same thing. For me, it’s like writing in a journal but without the need for a notebook and less private. Everybody in earshot hears my diary.

I might look crazy, but I’ve got to talk to somebody intelligent around here.

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