In this unexpected life of mine there are many things that I have lost. Things that are too hard for me to think of or to write about, things that I never even had to begin with and then there’s small talk.
Well, that sounds like a fairly frivolous thing to be worrying about losing, given the enormity of other loses that I could be focusing on. But bear with me on this one.
Small talk was a learned art for me, I’ve always been rather fond of a good (preferably wine-fuelled) D and M. But spend enough time in your 20’s single, out at bars or working in sales and it’s a skill you pick up quickly for fear of being stuck at home a-la Bridget Jones singing in your pyjamas and missing out on a decent commission boosted wage.
I had a quick look at wikiHow to see how I was faring with my small talk and had just about decided that this entire blog post was based on a misunderstanding. According to their step by step guide my small talk is actually top notch. Right up until;‘You probably shouldn’t reveal your thoughts on the meaning of life, lost love or death…’
I remember the first time I ventured out by myself after H’s accident for dinner with a few friends. Let’s just say I barely made it through one conversation where I word vomited the horror of 4 months in the children’s hospital before quickly realising that this was too much too soon and hightailed it home.
Flash forward to a more recent event when I headed out to a friend’s engagement party. J stayed at home as H was sick and I was pretty excited about being out with sequins on my top and cab fare in my clutch. But I stumbled. I stumbled on every social encounter. I gripped my warming champagne and wracked my brain for something to say as the snippets of conversations floated in front of me. TV shows, music, books, anything. I came up with nothing. And then I started talking to a woman who was trying to process some tough medical news that affected a close family member. And we ended up chatting for most of the evening. This was a conversation that I felt I could contribute to.
When your daily life entails running between doctors and therapists, your evening viewing is TEDx talks on social inclusion and the books next to your bed are The Brain That Changes Itself and The Power of Now, it’s no huge surprise that your small talk game has suffered (and that you are probably well overdue for some trashy TV and magazine viewing).
So why do I care? Surely I have bigger things to worry about than making small talk with people I hardly know? Perhaps. But I also understand the pivotal role that small talk plays in connecting and re-connecting us. It is the social foreplay that allows us to test the waters of future friendships and reignite friendships past. And in my often times lonely therapy-mum life, friendship is not something I’m willing to pass up on.
I have a phenomenal group of women that I am connected with who also have children with disabilities. We get each other. There is no small talk prerequisite when we first meet. We launch straight into the nitty gritty of seizure management and MRI results. And I have my old friends who (hopefully!) accept me small-talk-lacking-warts and all.
But in the not too distant future H is going to start school and, if my plans for full inclusion work out, I am going to be surrounded by mums and dads who don’t get me. We’re not going to be instantly connected through the shared shock of a life-less-travelled and, according to wikiHow, it’s probably best that I don’t share with them my thoughts on neuroplasticity or keeping an eye out for signs of PTSD.
So if I want to get any shifts in the school canteen or, more importantly, get invited around for play dates, I better start brushing up on my small talk.
Hi, my name’s Michaela, I love your shoes. Where did you get them from?