Here’s what I discovered the hard way: when I’m playing Name That Tune In 3 Notes, I never hear the song. I can never savor the music, linger over the lyrics or sway to the rhythm of the beat.
I’m always on to the next thing.
My buzzer brain, my game show mentality, finished your sentences in my head before your mouth spit out the words. In the first few moments of what you were saying, I already knew where you were going, had raced ahead and sat there waiting for you to catch up. I tried desperately to not appear distracted or bored (having learned-again, the hard way- that doing so was off putting) but my tapping foot usually gave me away. There were times that the person I was listening to did actually take an unexpected direction in their remarks, but I was always tuned in enough and more than quick enough to adjust and beat them down that path as well.
I wasn’t always helpful but I was rarely confused.
I was wrong often enough, but never uncertain.
After all, it was only a game.
What I couldn’t understand, what truly confused me, was that I never felt close to anyone. In spite of all of my listening, my answers and my understanding, none of it seemed to bring you closer to me, or me to you. This included friends, family members and romantic interests. I fixed things. I solved things. I predicted things. I answered things.
What I didn’t do was to get to know you.
I named your tune but didn’t hear your music.
And I didn’t let you get to know me. I kept everything and everyone at arm’s length. Including myself.
Clever me. Unhappy me. I was playing the game well enough but I wasn’t winning in the ways that I had thought.
None of this could have been articulated at the time. It was, however, an aching feeling. Undefined but undeniable. A void. Something was hollow that should have been full.
It wasn’t my work life that suffered. I was suitably promoted and compensated because of my nimble problem solving abilities. I was fast tracked constantly, which only seemed appropriate.
What failed to appear was the emotional grand prize that I presumed would accompany the outside accomplishments. I had anticipated that my happiness would simply emerge from the pile of points I had accumulated everywhere.
In some very real way I was like that 8 year old kid in the penny arcade who was racking up hundreds of tickets paid out from the skittle ball game and feeling as if he was winning big time, only to find out at the check-out counter that it required 1,000 tickets to redeem a tiny bouncy ball, or 2 pencils or a rubber spider. There was shock, disbelief and a bit of anger.
This was unfair. This was not right. Something went very wrong. Someone should have told me.
Much later in my life, out of curiosity, I went and watched the faces of other children as they stood with their parents at one of those redemption counters. Their reactions mirrored my own. They would look into the case, recount their tickets and look up at their parents (who had some explaining, apologizing and consoling to do). Then there would be a protest (levels varied), tears (drama varied) followed by the head drop.
It was the head drop that always broke my heart.
Someone should have explained this to them. Someone should have explained that points and tickets can never be redeemed for anything of real value. Someone should have, before they ever started playing the games, explained to them what really was going on and what really mattered.
Young heads and older heads should never have to drop like that.
We all have some explaining to do.