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I Suck at Email

Okay, maybe that title isn’t exactly fair. At work, I’m the email boss. I think my replies are timely, succinct, and at times even tastefully humorous. But on the personal front, I suck. If your message requires a quick answer, sure, I get it done. However, those personal emails or messages that are more in-depth and along the lines of “how are the kids?” or “which albums have you been listening to?” or even “what’s your favorites on Netflix there days?” have me stuck. You will not get a reply in under three weeks. It could take years. It is my kryptonite.

Those “fact-only” emails are easy: “can you be at this place on this day?” Yes. Or no. Or how about this instead? Easy. But “how are the kids?” C’mon. I have a friggin website devoted to that with a blog, photos, and videos, but you’ve decided you want it straight from the horses mouth, which is cool, but my brain starts running through a catalog of all the amazing, funny, wonderful, fun, scary things that have happened just in the last week and the thought of transferring it to written word in even the most basic way requires a special place and time. I like you. I like my kids. I want to do you all justice. So you don’t get that reply that’s timely, succinct, or even tastefully funny.

Maybe my standards are too high? Maybe you really don’t care, you’re just being polite, and you want the grocery store checkout lady version: “oh, they’re great, crazy as ever!” Done. But again, I like you. I like my kids. You deserve more. WE deserve more.

On top of all this, throw in the multiple channels that compete on a daily basis. I get phone calls, texts, direct messages and mentions on Twitter, messages on Facebook, and Google+, and oh, right, what’s that old-ass thing called? EMAIL. Granted, I love some of these alternate forms of communication for various reasons:

  • DM on Twitter: Great for people to send a private note who don’t have your other info and maybe who you don’t want to have it. Feels less personal and “up in your grill”.
  • Facebook/Google+ message: Convenient for people already surfing Facebook, and again, don’t have your other contact info. Feels less personal and “up in your grill”.
  • Texts: Great for places you can’t talk and quicker than dialing, ringing, waiting, talking, saying good-bye, hanging up when all you want to say is, “I’m on my way.”

I like being in touch though, that’s the thing. Especially since moving away from my old turf, I feel it keeps me present, even when I’m not. So yes, the obvious answer might be toning it back down to just phone or phone and email, but I don’t think that’s the main issue. For me, it’s that I care too damn much. Words are important. My life and your life, they’re important. I don’t want the checkout clerk or drive-thru version. And it would all be perfect if I just made the time and saved the energy to type out my brain and heart to all your messages, preferrably before a year passes.

Shit. In the time I wrote this damn post, I could have answered at least one of you in my InBox with some finely crafted email love. Next time. I promise.

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Fight

I haven’t moved. She walked away a while ago but I remain in the same position, on the couch, not moving an inch. The light on the timer just went out and I sit in the dark, hearing the cat’s tail flip on the carpet by my feet. We went round and round tonight, almost politely, and through the whole argument, I didn’t move an inch.

Finally she said we should just talk later and I said fine. She walked into the kitchen. I stayed. She came back a minute later wanting to wrap things up before sleep but I didn’t budge. We said we heard what the other was saying but we kept talking and explaining. I knew even if she heard what I said it wouldn’t change what she was going to do. I think she felt the same. So the argument went on. Still, my position on the couch didn’t change. I don’t think even my face changed.

We came to silence. She pet the cat too much and he snapped at her. She said fine, and walked away with a trailing “I love you.” I sat silent and let her leave. I knew I should have said it but I didn’t want to.

I couldn’t move. I felt my chest get warm and I wanted to scream or put my fist through the wall, just to the left of the TV, but I sat perfectly still. The warmth grew. The light went out. The wind blew outside and I sat thinking about how I didn’t want to get up and start the motion towards bed.

I want to sit here all night. I’m imagining how numb I’ll be by 3 a.m. Why? Maybe if I don’t move, my point I was trying to make will linger on. Maybe I want to go numb. Maybe I have to stay still so I won’t yell, I don’t know.

She’s asleep. Nothing’s changed.

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Listen

This morning I was messing around on the piano, figuring out one of my favorite songs (Raining in Baltimore, Counting Crows). I almost had all the chords right and I started singing the verses and chorus with it to check to see if I was right. I kept doing some phrases over and over, trying this, then trying that. In the middle of doing this, I noticed a soft little voice singing behind me. It was my 5-year-old, singing her own song to the chord progression. I stopped singing but kept playing the chords, listening to her little song. I had to play softer to hear her, but I’m glad I noticed her in the background, because it was the sweetest little melody, with the silliest words; one of those rare moments as a parent you don’t want to miss.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned playing music, especially in college as a music major, is to listen. It’s something that’s easy to remember when you’re on stage, rehearsing or performing, but it’s the in-between moments we don’t always pay attention to; the little phrases of music that happen all around us every day. This experience this morning reminded me of all the things that we can miss out on if we don’t listen, and how important it is to always be listening. It’s easy to extrapolate that out into every day communication as well. If we’re not listening to each other first and foremost, then we’re not communicating and we’re not learning. And if we’re not doing these things, we are not improving. Listening is really the beginning of our interaction with the world. It’s such a fundamental thing and I’m thankful I was reminded of this today.

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