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By Dorothy Anne Seese


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How many people can you talk to?  If your reply is "quite a few" then it's obvious that you don't really understand the question.  Of course we all have numerous acquaintances to whom we can chat about the weather, arthritis in the big toe or who won the game last night.  I have a somewhat friend that I can call whenever I want to listen to how busy she is or the details of the latest Buick she bought.  (So help me, in the ten years I've known her, I am positive the latest one is her sixth or seventh new Buick!)

She has as many inner hurts as I do, and every now and then, in a desperate moment, she will share them with me.  Yes, they're pretty obvious when you examine the frantic pace she keeps and the way she tries to apply new automobile ownership as a salve to the hurting soul.  But, if she isn't desperate to let off some steam, then the conversation never gets into sharing the stuff that matters.

I believe this is true of the entire nation.  We have 250 million people who need to talk and only a few dozen true listeners who aren't paid professionals.

One phrase I'm sick of hearing is, "deal with it."  Great balls o'fire, that is what I, and others, are trying to do.  What do you mean, "deal with it?"  I think you mean, "shut up and don't bother me with it, I have my own problems."  Well, then, you need someone to talk to also, and your method of dealing with it is to turn others off, and crank your emotional, mental and physical engines into high gear and start running like a desperate cheetah out for a world speed record.

The run from it  exercise only works until you find out that in the still of the night, the hurts are still there, little gnomes that come to steal the joy of your life and stick aching darts into your thoughts.  You haven't dealt with it.  You haven't shared your pain.  You're afraid to share your pain, or you can't afford to hire a professional listener.  Professionals are there to listen, analyze, categorize, chastise, sympathize and collect.  Inside, you know it's all for the money, and inside, the little gnomes are laughing at the charade.  They're laughing as you swallow your pain pills or tranquilizers, or high priced designer drug.

You haven't got a friend you can really talk to!

Neither do a lot of our kids today.  Busy parents, uncaring parents, nasty kids at school, teachers with orders to control words and conduct, leave too many with nowhere to turn but to some video game that allows the venting of steam but never evicts the gnawing gnomes.  Just terminator-zapping some figures on a video screen isn't venting at all, it's fomenting the desire for revenge.

The opportunity to really talk it out is rare.  That was true decades ago when I was a kid, it's just as true today but it's on a more potent level.  My generation didn't shoot, this generation will at the breaking point.  No one can be certain just where that breaking point is.

One of the worst traditions we've carried over from past generations is that mothers and fathers always have a child's best interests at heart.  Don't mistake me, I don't believe the government should ever replace the parent as final authority in child rearing or interfere short of avoiding felonious conduct.  I don't believe it is the job of schools to be surrogate parents.  All I believe is that everyone has the capacity to be a friend, but few have the will to do so.  After all, you have to like someone to be a friend, and how many kids or adults from dysfunctional homes are likable?  It takes a bit of work and a lot of caring to find out the likable qualities, and perhaps some young or older people will never be that likable.

Neither do I believe in the "mother worship" cult that says kids (or adults) can never express a negative sentiment about Mama the Great unless mom got busted by the cops for drug use, child abuse or some other felony.  Irrational and often saber-tongued moms can do a lot of damage and out of stupidity never even have a clue!

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Why is it parents feel they don't need to earn a child's respect?  That's a carryover from the days when parents wielded the power of child ownership, and hopefully those days are gone forever from the American scene.  Parents are stewards with parental authority over the growth, development and maturation of children so that they are prepared for adulthood.  They have as much a duty to listen as they do to set boundaries and enforce rules with discipline.

So who can a child safely talk to?  They don't know and I am not sure, because each case is individual, each case is different.  In former days, it was perhaps an understanding aunt or uncle, cousin or friend.  As for adults who have managed to struggle through, perhaps they have an empathetic cousin or some special friend, but special friends have become fairly scarce these days.  It's really easier to find someone who will share about a no-good, rotten pig of a husband or wife than it is to share about a warped parent.  But, with the exception for the paid slobs who spill their guts to the whole world on talk shows, for a fee, it's hard for many people to really pour out their hurts into someone else's listening ear.  Sometimes it involves things that are horribly difficult to tell.

Then the rage builds up inside, because the torment doesn't go away.  It isn't even abated, until we can somehow vent it out with the empathy of a friend.  They may not feel our pain, but they can give some time to listen and to show they care.

Talking it out lifts much of the pressure that can build into rage.  The talker feels better even if they feel a bit stupid about having to vent stuff they wish had never happened.  That's a social pressure we've put on people, and it isn't appropriate any longer, especially in an age that's trying to replace people with technology.

"Talk to me" is perhaps the silent cry behind all the outbursts of rage, child and adult.

A cry that is all too often lost in the clanging noise of the commute, the roaring at the game, the shouting arguments at home, and the mind-numbing blathering of so-called friends.

Talking and crying can release a lot of steam and re-energize us emotionally for the next day of life in a frantic world.

All a talker needs to help that raging soul is a good, kind listener.

These basics never were replaced by sci-fi technology.  That's because we're so ... well, so utterly human!

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Dorothy Anne Seese, 2001, All rights reserved.

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