Do You Talk To Yourself?

Well I do, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! Mind you, I do it mainly when I’m alone. When other people are around it is generally considered to be bossiness on my part, or they think I’m losing it. I try to start each short conversation with, “Gerry,….” It’s an attempt to disarm any opposition and generally works, even when I am actually trying to give disguised orders to someone else! So, yes, I talk to myself. Now you’re going to want to know why and when I do this, right? Well, there are several reasons and occasions. Let me tell you about a few…

First, and perhaps foremost, I use it as a safety technique. Take the car for instance, before setting out on one of my short trips into town I will use the Bell Telephone technique of having their driver walk around the van doing a visual check for problems. A soft tire can end up as a flat before you make it back home, so I say to myself “Do the Bell visual check, Gerry!” Inside the car, a quick check of the gauges lets me know if I have enough gas in the tank, or if something is overheating already. (I admit that my memory is not what it should be, and sometimes some of these steps are overlooked, but I suggest you “not do as I do, but do as I say!”)

Then there’s that urge at the traffic light to cross ahead of oncoming traffic to get into the shopping centre. There was a time when I wouldn’t have hesitated for a moment, but nowadays I tell myself, “Better to lose a couple of minutes than lose your life”. If my wife is not riding alongside me I will say it for her, “Slow down, Gerry, it’s a 50km zone!” I don’t just think it now; I need to hear those words ringing in my ears to remind me I’m no longer a teenager. Someone has to remind me!

I also talk to myself in the house, especially in the kitchen! That large double-size cup I use for my soup can become a bit wobbly when I lift it down from the microwave after five minutes on full power. It’s big, and it’s hot. “Careful, Gerry, take it slow! Don’t try carrying anything with the other hand either, you may need it to steady things before you reach the table.” I don’t just think it I say it, either out loud or to myself. But I say it! And when I drain the boiling water from that large pot of spaghetti, it’s time for another “Careful, Gerry!’ I make sure the path between the stove and the sink is clear – clear of people and clear of high-standing items on the counter. The details are worked out mentally, but I still say out loud, “Careful, Gerry!”

At our house, we place those very sharp knives at the back of the dishwasher, with their pointed ends facing aft. (You can get stabbed pretty nastily if the business end is pointed towards you next time you stick your hand in there!) And when the dishwasher’s full I ask myself, “Is it after 7pm yet?” That’s when the cheaper electricity rates kick in. (By the way, we do our washing and drying “after hours” now, and it really keeps the electricity bill down.) Then there’s yet another “Be careful, Gerry!” when it’s my turn to empty the dishwasher. The last thing I want is broken glass on the kitchen floor. You see, I like to walk around the house barefooted which gives me an incentive to keep the floor cleaner than it would otherwise be. No sense in getting cut up over household chores!

What about bedtime? I spend so much time on the computer that I literally have to say out loud, “It’s time for bed, Gerry. You’re getting tired!” After decades of exerting my perceived right to go to bed when I want to, there is nobody around now who gives a hoot what time I turn in. So I have to challenge myself otherwise I would still be sitting there at dawn, when the birds start to chirp again.

And what about those steps at the front door? It’s true I had stainless steel grab-bars installed on either side of the front door after my knee replacement. They are great for making it back safely into the house, but not much use on the way out unless I talk to myself first. In this case it’s, “Remember when you tripped going over the doorstep and hit your face on the wall opposite?” That usually works. The day that happened I had a bloody face after hitting the bricks on the wall opposite. My nose hurt for days.

During the winter, there’s that little stretch of path that slopes down just enough to cause a fall when there’s ice everywhere. That’s the time for another warning. This one is not just a thought either; it’s a very deliberate “Careful, Gerry!” I don’t know about you, but I hate slipping on ice. I never seem to land on anything soft, despite being overweight!

Most of the above is to do with safety, and the need to be more careful now that I’m not young anymore. But where else does talking to oneself come in handy? Well, I’ve done it pretty well every time I’ve been home alone and had to make my own meal. There’s usually quite a little conversation that goes on, starting with, “Now, what shall I have?” The next several minutes are spent rummaging through the freezer, the fridge, and the pantry with great plans for a great meal! Talking to oneself in this situation is a study in energy conservation. Eventually, it resolves itself down to, “Ah forget it. I’ll just make a cheese sandwich!” That fills the stomach, and it can even be eaten at the counter where and while you prepare it. Saves time, saves electricity and saves laying and clearing a table! It’s time and motion efficiency in a nutshell.

Singing in the shower! Now, there’s another way in which I talk to myself. I say “talk to myself” because it’s hardly singing, and as yet I haven’t found anyone interested in listening. It is therapeutic, and I recommend it. Besides, if you’re singing one of those Italian love songs or arias loud enough, it tends to drown out any urgent calls from beyond the door.

If you make a cup of tea or coffee for someone, and you are a senior, it pays to repeat out loud to yourself in the kitchen their requests as far as sugar and cream go. “I told you I don’t take sugar!” is usually spat out with venom from a contorted face. On the other hand, “I take it black!” is more an expression of disappointment than anger, but only because they see your error before they take that first mouthful. Either way, without talking to oneself about their order is taking an unnecessary risk! There’s a world of difference between “double double” and black.

And finally, muttering under your breath can help you let off steam before you say something out loud that you’ll later regret. A word of caution though, muttering under your breath in the armed forces is dealt with quite severely. I realize I’m pretty old now, but with the way things are going in the world today I wouldn’t be surprised to be “called-up” for military duty again, so I keep my dog-tags handy and watch my muttering. Just make sure there are no officers, senior or otherwise around when you mutter!

So, there you have it. I talk to myself, and I recommend the same for you. Talk yourself into safety and talk yourself out of trouble! Talk yourself out of making complicated meals; but check to see who’s listening before you mutter! They say talking to yourself is not a problem, unless you start answering back. But I don’t buy that. Why shouldn’t I have the last word, it’s my nickel?

If you have a pet dog or cat, talk to them! They love it and will never tell on you. You can tell them anything and they’ll give you a lick, regardless. It’s “those others” who are the problem. They’ll pretend they never talk to themselves, but they do! When you’re not around, they’ll jabber away about their aches and pains, their neighbours, their spouses and yes even about you! So don’t feel guilty! When you want to talk to yourself, let it all hang out. Just check first that you are alone, and that the outside doors are locked!

Look upon this way! If you’re alone, there’s no-one around to take offence at anything you say, nobody’s going to ball you out or punch you on the nose for saying the wrong thing, and no-one’s going to know what you REALLY think of them. It’s what’s known as a “win-win” situation! Only your conscience will know what you said and/or meant, and at our age who worries about guilty feelings anymore, anyway?

Talk to yourself, you’ll never get a more receptive audience!

Gerry Wood April 07, 2015