Internal Monologue

At a monthly writers’ workshop, our lone male poet advised the 50-something and older women poets, “You don’t need periods.”

I kept quiet, although my inner voice made a few silly comebacks. Heck, I didn’t even smirk despite my tendency to alarm the people around me with sudden braying laughter that continues far too long. This man is a wonderful poet and was, of course, talking about punctuation.

Experts say we all have an inner monologue going on, at least some of the time. Imaging studies show a region of the brain called Broca’s area is active as we speak aloud and also active during our inner speech. In fact, our inner voice stimulates minuscule muscle movements in the larynx as if tempted to make our thoughts audible. Our inner monologues aren’t confined to words. They show up in pictures, imagined actions, visualizations, reflections, emotions, and much more. My inner monologue leans toward the emotionally intense. I often feel simultaneously in love with and touched by a tenuous fragility in everything around me. At the edge of that is a tickly inclination to take mildly funny oddities as absurdly amusing. I like to believe none of this shows up on my face.

After the writers’ workshop I stop to do an errand. As I approach a check-out line at the store I notice with pleasure that a lovely young woman in front of me, her hair done up in mathematically perfect braids, has turned to smile. It’s a genuine, glad-to-see-you smile. This stranger’s smile feels, to me, like a moment of oneness in our chaotic world. Until her smile fades.

“Oh,” she says as I get in line behind her, “I thought you were someone else.”

She explains that I look like her middle school counselor, a person who was a help to her when she most needed it. I wished I had been such a help.

“This,” I say, making an exaggerated circle around my very ordinary face, “is often mistaken for someone else.” We laugh and discuss being misidentified. I tell her someone once insisted we’d gone to college together in Wisconsin, another person told me I was the living image of her sister-in-law.

“There’s a word for that,” she says, looking up and to the right for a long pause. “Oh, generic! That’s it, you have a generic face!” We both grin uncomfortably, then she faces forward to complete her purchase.

And there it was again, my chronic inner monologue. I felt simultaneously in love with and touched by a tenuous fragility in this whole experience. I wanted to hug her as her middle school guidance counselor might have done at finding a former student doing so well, with tears in my eyes. I also felt a sense of celebration at being an age where I’m largely able to float along unnoticed, my inner self chatting along, sometimes making it all the way back to the car before my inner and outer selves contort my generic face with glorious braying laughter.

 

9 thoughts on “Internal Monologue

  1. Sadly my internal monologues tend to be vehement and argumentative and angry. I have long imaginary arguments with people I’m annoyed with. I get a lot of satisfaction from formulating the exact riposte or devastating put-down for these villains. Of course, in real life I bite my lip and decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and perhaps I don’t really need to be so perfectly right… I have all the satisfaction of winning an argument without at the same time winning myself an enemy 🙂

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    • Sounds like your internal monologues resolve things well!

      I suspect a lot of us replay what-I-should-have-said in our heads. Maybe that trains some of us to actually come up with the exact right words in a difficult situation. I’m pretty sure I would not have the courage to say them in person anyway.

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    • Actually, your “long imaginary arguments” brought back a memory. I had a truly horrible first grade teacher — verbally cruel and prone to sudden violence. I’d discovered during my nightly bath that dragging my finger on the bottom of the tub made a squeak that was satisfyingly reminiscent of markers (which I wasn’t allowed to use). So I’d sit in the tub and draw angry pictures of my teacher with angry captions. It didn’t make class any better, but I felt better “writing” about it in the tub.

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      • Oh, my math teacher! She used to numb me to immobility with the ferocity of her sarcasm. It’s no surprise I never got anywhere with math exams, but later in life I did just fine managing million-dollar budgets so it wasn’t lack of ability.

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        • I suspect your sarcastic math teacher would have benefited from knowing that you grew up to managed million-dollar budgets. I dearly wish there was something in place so that teachers (and other professionals working with kids) could get long-term feedback on the kids they once judged. It would help these professionals do a much better job. I’ve written a lot about this because we’ve been given plenty of dire predictions over the years. None of them turned out to be true. Other things we were concerned about, but were dismissed by professionals, did turn out to be problems.

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  2. My internal monologue is constant and loves to meta-analyse itself too so I have a double, sometimes triple, layer of thinking going on inside my head all the time. Tiresome! The tricky part is getting it to turn off at night so I can get some sleep :-0

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