All Talk

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    New research out of Toronto confirms what I’ve been telling myself and my husband – loudly and repeatedly – for many years now. Talking to yourself is not a bad thing.

    In fact, these brilliant Canadian scientists say that “using your inner voice plays an important role in controlling impulsive behaviors.” So there!

    I feel a lot better now. But the thing is, my inner voice? Well, it’s a little on the outspoken side. And impulsive behaviors? In the grand scheme of family life, how many truly impulsive behaviors might a parent grapple with in a typical day? Impulsive enough, that is, to warrant a dialogue with that aforementioned inner voice.

    Making dinner, for example. If, on the fly, I decide to throw together a little somethin’ from the You’ve Got Supper team, I might ask myself, Do I have what I need to make those enchiladas? My inner voice might respond, Nope. Best go a different direction. Impulsive enchiladas averted.

    The good news, I guess, is that it’s always my voice I’m talking to. The bad news? You know that common expression, It’s okay as long as you don’t answer yourself? Well, I do that, too. But according to this report, even that’s all right.

    DogTalkI’ve been talking to myself for as long as I can remember. As a girl, ideas for stories, poems, diary entries, and book reports streamed through my head and out of my mouth before ending up on paper. The aspiring writer in me was constantly at work, processing potential plot lines for episodes of Family Ties and Soap, and acting out scripts for SNL skits in my bedroom. Later, as a young professional, what I used to call “thinking out loud” was a valuable tool to organize my thoughts and keep projects on track. Although, I’m pretty sure the folks in the cubicles next to mine didn’t see a whole lot of value in it.

    The chatter only intensified when I became a parent. Strike that. It heightened even before then, when we got our dog. Working from home, I had a constant companion in Rosco, a big, black lab-mix with soulful eyes who had a way of cocking his head reassuringly in my direction. You’re not crazy, he seemed to say. I know exactly what you mean. You should definitely unload the dishwasher before you start writing the copy for that brochure.

    He listened earnestly as I bandied about ideas for projects and sought to organize the events ahead of me, whether it was home or work related. In fact, I think it might have been Rosco’s idea to start making lists and using iCal to keep our family even more organized. You’re not crazy, he seemed to say. But you’re never going to remember that appointment unless you write it down somewhere. Woof!

    So that’s what it boils down to. At the house, with the kids and Rosco nearby, it never felt like I was talking to myself. I was just trying to keep everyone in the loop. Same goes for driving in the car or shopping at the grocery store. With an 8-month-old along for the ride, I had an attentive audience. Drooling yes, but attentive nonetheless. When I pushed a shopping cart down aisle seven and asked, Linguini or fettuccine tonight? I was engaging my baby in conversation. People tend to look at you funny when you’re talking to your purse.

    The thing is, the organizing professionals say you need to find a system and stick with it. The older I get and the busier my family becomes, the more I realize my system of self-administered verbal reminders (okay, talking to myself) isn’t working so well anymore. Maybe it never did.

    These days, Rosco’s in dog heaven and the kids are at school all day. That leaves me here with my lists, iCal, and my inner voice. Perhaps I could make a concerted effort this New Year to cut down on the conversation. I could try changing my ways, as one friend suggested, by plugging in and listening to music instead of my persistent inner voice.

    It’s worth a shot I guess. But I’m pretty sure I’ll talk myself out of it.

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    Karen Schwartzkopf
    Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family: husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director, and their daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey. You can read Karen’s take on parenting in the Editor’s Voice.