Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I grew up listening to family dinner conversations. Large amounts of people surrounded enormous quantities of delicious foods, cousins running to and fro, buffet-style seating lined up on a Sunday afternoon, adults laughing and discussing a myriad of topics. I loved listening to them. And as an overly confident and foolish child, I occasionally chimed in with my inane and often short-sighted opinions. That was okay though: my parents, most of all, never made me feel too silly for it and encouraged my experimental attempts at conversation and ideas.

In this big, fat, opinionated family of mine, such conversations would often {easily} escalate. What began as mere banter over minor issues morphed into WWIII. It was so fun to kick back and observe! To an outsider, it might seem to be dysfunction at its finest. But to us, ideas and passionate conversation were the very bread of life, the substance that made you want to stick around and enjoy a second slice of pie at the kitchen table. On any given crisp Autumn evening, you could easily down two slices of texas sheet cake with a cold glass of milk AND listen to the Aunts and Uncles duke it out over the election season. Sweet!

However, as time went on, I realized that the mark of the best conversations were the ones where emotions were left at the door. A rare occurrence indeed, but when witnessed it was impossible to ignore a very profound lesson:

In any dinner conversation it is the idea, the issue at hand, that should be served up on a platter and dissected. Not the people.

This is hard in practice. Very hard. If it did develop into a battle scene - once the cannons ceased fire and everyone retired to their own pursuits - we were mostly quick to forgive, forget, and resume life and love as usual. The overall paradigm of a family attempting imperfectly to love each other usually could override disagreements.

I still love conversation. I would hardly call myself a 'writer', but the feedback I have most frequently received back on my writing style is that it is 'conversational' or, 'it's like I can hear you saying it'. This is basically a really polite way of telling a person they are a complete amateur at best. I run with that. I write the way I speak.

Enter the world of blogging, which I view on one level as a form of dinner conversation. Only with better, smarter people who you can custom pick to surround your table. Awesome! I chime in to some conversations, very intermittently and on rare occasions. What I type in a comments bar is similar to what I could see myself contributing in an exchange with my brothers over Mom's meatloaf during a family gathering. At home during such a scenario, if I feel I'm being interrupted, spoken over, or mis-characterized, I will simply shout louder. The only problem with this method is that too quickly everyone is shouting. And soon nobody can hear the ideas over all. that. noise.

I forgot that the world of blogging is one enormously large dinner table. Hardly a family of siblings who can simply shake off a harshly spoken word. Reality is skewed in a fog of infinite clashing paradigms. And your words can be immortalized. That thing, that darn thing that you spoke too quickly is not easily forgotten, and there is no simple hug that can resolve it on your way out the door.

I shouldn't have balked that she simply "go join an Episcopal church". For one thing, I respect the Episcopal church and the good it does, and for another I am hardly a proponent of unleashing some sort of Mormon gestapo force on a fellow member who questions the status quo or breaks rank with the doctrines of their faith. We need good people, we need smart people, we need thinking people: and that variety and caliber of humankind exist at almost every angle of an idea.

I felt sick this entire weekend. For one thing, despite my upbringing, I am no fan of conflict for the sake of conflict. In interactions with my children, with friends, and other members at church, I felt a bit hollow and hypocritical.  However, on the other hand, I do not always believe that the absence of such conflict is the most accurate measure of a well-lived existence. There is a time to fight, a time to take a stand. But I still couldn't shake a nagging sensation that something was profoundly lacking in my conversations with others. And it hit me later as I reflected on this ridiculous affair:  after a few brief exchanges, the ideas were gone. In a subtle progression that too often happens, we turn from the ideas on the table and instead devour each other.

I am sorry for it. I apologized to her personally for hurt feelings. However, it doesn't seem right that since this went (entirely too) public that I do not also offer up a public apology to the large amounts of visitors (my site meter has now suggested) I have visiting my dinner table.

The ideas can stand on their own merit. Yes, I was hurt by the claims of ignorance and craziness and douchebaggery, but I own my part in muddling the conversation with my yelling, and by responding to others' yelling.

And for that, I am sincerely sorry.

This is done.

I can now return to my job of being an imperfect woman, an imperfect mother, an imperfect fellow Mormon, and a hopefully inconspicuous and very much amateur blogger. Peace, my friends.

No comments: