One thing that takes the pressure out of a situation that you cannot control is gossip.
Gossip is when you talk about people, situations or events that are not physically present.
Either the subject is:
A. directly related to you
B. directly related to the people you are talking to
C. directly or indirectly connected to a story that relates to you or someone close to you.
D. Media hype.
Gossip can give us:
E. general information regarding events that have taken place. Someone you know is involved in and/or affected by these events.
F. hearsay and horsepuckies.
G. because you don’t know what else to talk about so you talk about someone else.
I recently came back to my small town of Sequim, WA, after 3 months away. Within one day, I had heard many interesting versions of the same incidents, involving more or less the same cast of characters. I asked questions and I got more than answers. I got STORIES. STORIES are not only about information. They are about contexts. How when so-and-so did such-and-such AND you told them over and over not to do that AND something horrible happened just like you said it would AND why won’t they listen, etc etc etc. My STORY is all about how I think, what I feel or sense, how I filter what I see and hear, how I interpret, based on my past history. It has the potential to inform, educate, create pain, or sometimes entertain . My STORY can also be a familiar, repeating tale that has nothing to do with this particular incident, but reminds me of other incidents where somebody done me wrong, got me wrong, and THEY WERE WRONG, DAMMIT!
In the course of everyone’s day small news items occur: you run into X while shopping at Nash’s. They say something to you like they are in a hurry and will talk later. Later on in the day you see Y (who knows X) and you say, ” I saw X today but they didn’t want to talk. Wonder what’s up with that? They are always weird. All I said was hi, blah blah blah.”
In this piece of gossip is the STORY and inside the STORY our insecurities are on display. In our more enlightened moments when we talk about people who are not present, we may be trying to make sense out of the personal incidents and accidents that happened. “I don’t understand why they could have done or said what they did or said and I want to try to figure out this situation.”
But mostly we are a jumble of unexamined feelings and fleeting thoughts.We are often not comfortable enough in our skins to tolerate situations or people that are different than ourselves.
When we discuss someone else with a hard lack of acceptance it says more about us than them, BUT– as a listener you may be swayed in your opinion of a person or situation by another’s lack of understand or vision. And the worst possibility: you continue to carry the tale to another. Believing something about someone based on hearsay and carrying negativity in your heart is a burden that I want to let go of.
Maybe when you talk to a friend, a trusted friend, about these events, it is not only to dish or diss someone. You agree to erect the cone of silence where all matters discussed are confidential and take time to deconstruct to reconstruct events. Sometimes you figure why it happened as it did, and sometimes you don’t! And usually through talking, the incident will come to some sort of conclusion. And then A) you go talk to or write to the person or persons directly, or B) table it-because it is too hot to handle in the moment, or C) let go, live, and learn.
There are many variation and colors of gossip, in many sizes and shapes.
- The rant gossip: the pressure cooker needs to release. “How dare they?” is one identifying marker.
- The I-told-them-so gossip: when someone does exactly what you told them not to and things turn out exactly as you predicted. I told them!
- The delish gossip: great news about someone or yourself. Celebrate!
Perhaps you say to yourself: but I don’t gossip!
Why do we read People magazine?
How many say “I only read it in the dentist or doctors offices or in line at your neighborhood grocery store”?
Who are these people we are reading about anyway? Why do we care?
Humans are a strange and interesting species, especially if you are one of them. I know that I am a voyeurish, investigative, connect-y specie. I am interested in the conversation someone is having in front of me, standing in the line to go to the movies. I am ready to talk with the tellers at the bank, the barista at my favorite coffee place, the check-out person anywhere. Actually, truth be told, I’m hungry for contact. And I may wish for others to be as interested in connecting as I am, but they really don’t have to be.
I love it when you see a person who has taken the time to choose their dress and “presentation”, and say “ you look great today!” It doesn’t have to be anyone I know. They took the time to create themselves that day, and I want to say, YES! I notice you.
I enjoy walking into a local place and seeing a face I recognize and saying something that connects our conversation today to the conversation that we had a few days ago. “How is your Aunt?” may be the opener that for a brief moment takes us into an eternal relationship–life. My life, your life, doesn’t matter. Someone to listen, someone to speak.
So maybe, this desire to gossip comes from a desire to share in others lives. It may have taken an aberrant form, but with a little training, something great can happen when we can speak more directly to each other, rather than speaking about each other.
Existential loneliness sucks. You may be a people person like me or more of a loner, but there is nobody here but us chickens.
So let’s get on with it.