Why do I keep trying to steal center stage?

by Susan G Holland . . (A bit of self-involved introspection)

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.”

from the book of James Chapter 3 NIV


Question for my therapist: “Why do I think that if someone tells me a story, I should always return the favor? In spades??”

I suspect it’s because I want to enter in and be part of the main cast of characters in the life drama. First-child-itis. Spoiled little thing.

The first time I found myself slack-jawed with the embarrassment of it all was when I heard one of those tapes of myself at Christmas Morning Gift Opening Time. We turned it on after the holidays back in “the olden days” when we had those reel-to-reel tape recorders to hear ourselves being happy at Christmas.

I had to comment on exactly every living thing that happened to any of the people and even to the pets around the Christmas Tree. There was a play-by-play accounting of every move on that tape — by that annoying voice. Could that be ME sounding like that????

My presence as a sort of “Anchor” in this newsworthy event was not only terribly unnecessary, but definitely a huge drone in the family gathering. The paper! The name tags! The gift! The reaction of the recipient. Every single one warranted a comment from me. And the annoying giggle that went with it all! Ugh!

That was back when I was the mother of a small herd of young children. I guess I thought I needed to show them how to act at Christmas and how to feel about their gifts. Happy happy happy.

Now I am entering my eighth decade and I’m still at it.


My therapist suggests that I am overly concerned about the well-being and happiness of other people and think I can change it for them. That other people might not have a good time if I don’t emcee it all.

I am learning, but very slowly, about becoming an “active listener”.

Instead of creating in my head my response to someone who is sharing something with me, I must simply turn off that chatter in my head and that impulse to jump onto the other person’s stage and simply listen to what is being said. One story at a time is enough!

Did I mention that I interrupt? Yes, I do that. I taught my kids not to, but I do it myself all the time. TO MY MIDDLE-AGE ADULT KIDS! In front of my grandchildren!

Must be something I learned early on. Must be something that rewarded me handsomely at some stage of my early development. Must be some vanity about words, or something.

Well, my hearing’s going now. I really cannot hear the s’s and the t’s. People have to spell it. Loud. Even then I can’t hear what they are spelling! I lip read, actually. And hearing aids drive me nutty. ADHD, probably. And impatience with learning how to stand them. (could impatience be my problem?)

So what to do when normal conversation is such a pain for me and for the respectfully patient loved-ones who bear with me, their old mother and grandmother?

Here’s the kind of thing I do instead of having normal conversations.

I interrupt over the internet!

On the screen, I can read the s’s and the t’s perfectly well, and also I can go over in my mind freely what I am going to say back — no one knows I am doing that — and they don’t “feel” interrupted because they can’t read what I am typing until they decide to look at it.

But still, my knee-jerk silly comments come into the chat room just the way they always have, I notice. And not only that, but at rather public times when my dear fellow chatters are sometimes justifiably abashed and embarrassed. And I don’t get to see their body language, so I go right on making smarty-pants remarks while they cringe, and ultimately, I hope, they delete my comments. Do they have to delete their whole stream of conversation to get rid of my chatter? Groan. They might have liked to keep that conversation except for the blah blah from me.

Here’s what I am trying to do.

Hold my tongue.

That’s what.

Think before responding.

Think about what that person has just said and why he or she might have said it. For heaven’s sake, Susan, let them finish their line before trying to upstage them and steal the audience!

Hoping my victims will forgive me.

I am comforted by the fact that you will not be compelled to listen to all this that I have just said and can just skip by it and I’ll never know it.

Sincerely ….Susan Holland