Sunday, July 1, 2012

"The 'Stuff' in the Stuffing" Therapy Session 4: Communication

Word Vomit

Do you know the email message that makes you feel like you were just assulted with a bunch of words that really should have made some kind of coherent sense, but you just can't figure it out?  That is what I call word vomit.  I have a strong dislike for word vomit emails.  Life is busy enough without me sitting in front of the computer - in total frustration - trying to sort out a sentence so that it makes grammatical sense or parse out an apparent stream-of-conscious thought put into words.  World: Please leave the free-writing for your journal (or blog), don't include it in an email that was supposed to give information.

Then there are those that are just plain poor writers.  Before you think of me as some heartless bitch, let me give you some background.  I had an average public school education.  Not an academic standout, mind you - just average.  I went on to college and loafed around for a couple of years because I really had no idea what I wanted to do in life.  And then it hit me.  Actually, a car hit me.  Well, not specifically me, a car hit my car.  A lady decided to window-shop and drive, and I was just in the way.  My head snapped forward and back like a marionette doll, and there you have it.  My life was suddenly derailed.  For like ten years.  My mushy brain got battered around and all of a sudden I couldn't read like I used to.  Or write.  Or be able to watch a sitcom and not forget what happened during the commercial break. 

Life didn't really begin to get back on track until a couple of years later when my mom made me get a job.  She handed me the classifieds and said that so-and-so restaurant was hiring servers.  Let me just tell you now - the best therapy for an individual with a closed head injury with short-term memory loss is to hand them an order pad and force them to be a waiter/waitress.  No, really!  The first few months certainly sucked, but then I started to get the hang of it.  I leaned heavily on the mental crutches that my therapists had tried on me to help me with remembering sh!t, and it finally clicked.  I waitressed for twelve years.  The best/worst job I ever had - so thanks mom.  (I really mean that)  Ten years post-accident I went back to school for six semesters to get my degree in El. Education, and I graduated magna cum laude, with a 3.97 gpa.  I'm not saying all of this to brag.  I am saying this because even though I had enormous difficulty stringing together semi-intelligent thoughts in the beginning, I was able to come back and learn to effectively communicate again.

So back to poor writers.  Maybe some people just. can't. write.  Possibly.  What I think the real problem is is that people either don't care, or are too lazy to reread anything they write before they hit the 'send' button.  It is like they give no thought to the 'readibility' of their message, or the impression it might leave its wake.  In the homeschooling realm, impression is everything.  (Unless you truly don't care).  You will be judged more harshly than the rest of the world about the correct usage of to/too/two and there/their/they're.  Same goes with refusing to capitalize a single sentence or writing repeated run-ons (aka word vomit).  If your writing skills are poor - what about your kids'?

I work on my writing everyday.  Some days it flows, other days I have to do several rewrites, and still other days I don't even dare touch the keyboard.  Those are the days when my mind is tired and up to its old tricks.  I am not perfect.  My mom and my husband tip me off when they catch a typo here on the blog.  It is almost always a homophone... and that is a typo I catch others making in their posts and blogs - so it is nice to know I am not alone.  And lest you think that I gnash my teeth at every typo I come across - not so - only when it gets to be so bad that it interferes with the intended message.

We have a large homeschool group - almost 150 families.  We communicate via a Yahoo group.  When you send an email out to the group, all eyes will read it (that want to).  It irks me to no end when an unintelligble email goes out to the group.  Followed by two or three more, because the first one wasn't clear enough.  Time is precious - especially to our lot - and to waste it again and again, almost on a daily basis trying to decipher these messages wears me thin.  There are mulitple authors in question here, but one stands out.  This was the crux of my problem all year.  How do you delicately put - "Please leave the parent communication up to me because nobody can make sense of your word vomit emails?".  How do you say that sending out 4-5 semi-related emails in quick succession (on a regular basis)  is not the way to a win over a crowd?  How do you convey that the group does not need to be reminded 6 separate times that a field trip is coming up?  You can't.  I tried to be nice.  I tried to explain how frustrated some parents were becoming.  I tried to bring it up at mediation and was immediately shot down.  That pissed me off.  When parents can't trust the information that is coming to them - there is a problem.   And this is not my perception alone.  This is not me being a nit-picky bitch.  When you've got the parents complaining - there is a problem!

Obviously I've stopped the delicate approach.  The message is falling on deaf ears anyway, so I give up.  But today, as I close this series, I brought my most problematic issue (communication) to the table, because it was the one that caused the most grief and it will be the one that will continue to cause issues - I can already tell.

The world should be kind to each other.  Given my stream of posts in the past few weeks, I'm sure you can tell that I am not in a very kind-hearted mood as of late.  That is what happens when you stuff, and stuff, and stuff, and stuff and stuff the frustration down.  The summer heat and the wildfire smoke have only added to the misery.  I know I have singled an individual out and made a point of airing my frustrations - but you haven't walked in my shoes for the last year, so please don't judge.  Stuffing down strong emotions does quite a number on my psyche, and it takes a while to decompress and come down from that elevated level of irritation that I have been operating on for quite some time.  I went through the same thing the first year we started homeschooling.

I'm feeling like I've rounded the corner.  Decisions and changes have been made, I've finally had a chance to delve deep into my emotions and discuss - ad nauseum - personal stuff - and I worked in a political rant (yesterday) as well.  Now all that's left to attack is religion.  ha!  Okay - so here's one for you:  If Pat Robertson even dares to say on television that the Colorado Wildfires of late are a direct message from God that he is displeased with the blasphemous heathens who live here, I will personally punch him in the face.  I don't think I can communicate any more clearly than that.

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