I have a very hard time deciding on items in the store, and if I feel hurried, it becomes much more difficult. There are no words, just a little bit of whining and a repetitively flapping right hand. I even feel rude in that moment, but any extra input makes the decision process much harder, and stopping to respond appropriately will make the whole thing crumble.
Sometimes you can hear the work it takes to turn a question into my answer.
Friend: Lydia, do you like this song?
Me: Do you like this song?… do I… I Do… Like… This…. Song. I do like it. Yes.
I repeat questions back sometimes, but the other thing to make sure you know before you ask me a question is that my yes/no is unreliable. I do better with a whole story than yes/no. It’s like my brain registers that there’s a question that requires one or the other, and my mouth just picks one. Then, a minute later, after I’ve processed…or after the poor person trusts my answer…I actually hear the words and understand and hear my own voice like some far-away movie. I hear the voice and realize I gave the wrong answer. Sometimes I don’t notice until the person brings the item or whatever it is.
Mom: Do you need anything from upstairs?
Me: Mom, can you help?
Mom: What do you need?
Me: My blue shoes are upstairs!
Mom: Do you need anything from downstairs?
Me: Yes, please!
Mom: What do you need?
Me: I’m good!
The little words can be the hardest. As a writer, I have impeccable grammar, but when I talk, things like verb forms and tenses can get a little jumbled. I find the big words of a sentence and then fill in the little words around them, and sometimes I get them in the wrong place, too. I typically don’t correct myself, but now and then…
(I was looking at two different types of cookies in the store.)
Me: What are the…What were… the…What are the difference? No, wait–what… IS… the difference?
Me: Dawn, what are the–no. What… were… UGH!
My answers are full of Lydia-isms. People who know me understand me the best, especially my mom. A lot of times, with doctors (I have super complicated medical issues, so I see a lot of doctors, and I’m afraid of them because of misunderstandings in the past that got ugly), I say a word or two and look to my mom, who knows what I’m getting at and says it in standard English.
After meeting with a surgeon about my carpal tunnel, my mom called my sister…
Me to my mom: Did you tell her that they would make looser the ouch?
I saw a video recently of me in the store, and I sound incredibly rude. I can be way too loud (I can’t hear my own volume–not at all), and all the social niceties are lost. It’s YES! And NO! But I’m not yelling. I am fighting for words, and I can’t fight for all the ones that don’t really matter at that time. It’s good if I get the yes and no the right way!
Sister: Hey, Lyd? Did you get paper towels at the store?
Me: I DID!
Sister: You don’t have to yell at me! I was just checking!
I also tend to interrupt. A lot. I always say, “I aimed for the pause!” I mean the pause between two talkers—I try to get my voice in that pause so I can say my thing and not interrupt. But my processing lags. Words are noise, until my brain sorts them through.
It’s easy to say that I often fail when it comes to language. Even if my choice of words don’t work as I wish they would, my hard work and multiple attempts should communicate how hard I’m trying and how much I want to connect and share my joy with other people.
Many words that are supposed to be opposites lose their opposition in me. Am I quiet or loud? Social or aloof? Mature or immature? Introverted or extroverted? Painfully tuned in or cluelessly tuned out? I am all of them, sometimes both at the very same time. I may have a hard time with language at times, but maybe that’s because language has a pretty tough time with me, too. We are the old married couple that nit-picks, play-fights, and takes hilarious-but-ouchy stabs of criticism. Sometimes we blow up at one another for being the same way we’ve been all our shared existence and then, the next day, resign ourselves to making this thing work–what choice do we have? We’ve been volleying like this as long as I can remember.
[Tweet “Please be patient with me when I get caught, frustrated, or when I try, fail, and try again. #PenfriendProject”]
Spoken language is a part of the world my brain doesn’t use easily, but I keep trying to get better at it. I also find ways to fill in the gaps with prompts, scripts, and assistive technology. Please be patient with me when I get caught, frustrated, or when I try, fail, and try again. It shows incredible respect and support to wait patiently without jumping into the gaps when I get stuck. If the pause feels awkward, remember that I am anything but paused. Remember that my brain is working really, really hard for that single idea.