If You Keep Your Mouth Shut the Flies Won’t Get In

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by Heather Murphy

I am a child with no boundaries. It’s best to start that way; with the complete truth just out there, in your face, right off, bang. Because that is the crux of it. It is the result of something it would take hundreds of pages to elaborate upon—and maybe I will do so one day—it certainly does bear examination, but I can only bite off little pieces at a time.

Speaking of biting off pieces, this is about that remarkable muscle which hides in the mouth. The tongue. Sometimes mine seems to operate independently without my true consent, and like a dog unwittingly leading a bear back into camp, incite a ruckus.

Let me tell you how my complete lack of boundaries with people is getting me into trouble in the here and now. But let me also make a disclaimer about how I will be doing so using metaphor, possibly impersonal, universal examples, hypothetical situational psychology, (I just made that up, doesn’t it sound good?) and other totally anonymous tools to get my point across. I have to show some restraint to reach the grace I am ultimately seeking or my words will brew me more trouble, after I’ve already had my fill.

Words have such magic, such power. They can do whatever they want with you, really. They can change your mood and your feelings—just like that. Once they are on the page or out of your mouth, they go out into the world and have their own life. Regardless of your intentions. You totally get that part, right? Regardless of your intentions? It’s like the Venus/Mars thing, where that author talks about how you say one thing but it passes through a filter like thingy in the brain and comes out as something else for the person, something you may not have intended, unfortunately.

But back to the point of no boundaries. I let people in too far, because I’m hopeful, and I don’t set proper boundaries for either of us. It’s sad for me, because it’s already in there, in me, and I don’t know how to un-do parts of me now that I don’t like, I’m already in my forties, though a lot of work in alanon has helped. I realize that what I have to do is just make the adjustments based on what I know about the other person who is disappointing me or pissing me off once I have gotten sort of close to them. I have to realize that it is something in them, and about them that I have reached as an obstacle because this is just how they operate, and it’s for a complex variety of reasons. Not because of some special grotesque and unacceptable fault of my own, but because this is how they roll, baby. Then, I don’t have to take it so fucking personally, I can cultivate some kind of logical neutrality that will ultimately defuse the situation.

So, hang on, are you into this astrology crap? Because sometimes, I swear, there are just certain people—regardless of how beautiful and amazing they might be, who rub you the wrong ass way. Do you have that? Why is that? All the components can be there, everything you need for some juicy material, something you could sink your teeth into…a friendship, a lover, a project, an idea, fantasies, but then…there is just this bad chemistry. Emotions run like roller coaster cars in opposite directions, wool grabs on sandpaper, oil floats atop water, blue and red don’t go…and some people just don’t mix.

Even when I want them to.

I could go off on a tangent about the strange and wondrous dynamic of meeting people and feeling the opposite—feeling instant camaraderie and familiarity, the fun idea you knew them in a prior life, all that good stuff. But this is not about that. This is the dark stuff, the people who are opaque to you, who are like a furnished room with no lights on. The people who tilt their heads to the side quizzically when the others are nodding. Because they don’t get you. And I told you, it’s nothing personal. Even when you like them and they can’t like you back.

But how are you going to handle them? If you’re like me–stupid, you’ll get miffed and run your mouth. The boundaries you’ve set for yourself—out the window. See where that gets you. There’s a big laugh out loud. Because no one of value wants to hear you running your mouth, or making drama, or any of that Jerry Springer shit. If they do, run and hide—find new friends, quickly.

Everywhere you go, you will run into these people. These people you might rub the wrong way. You say potato, and they will say you said, tomato. You will see the glass half full and they will see smudges on the glass. You will read something to them that you have written and they will look at you with pity or anxiety, with puzzlement, perhaps, or even outrage. Since you have no boundaries, you will take this badly and ruminate over it, like a squirrel with a nut, until you have decided you are unfit for human consumption and should live under ground with moles, or in another country where you don’t speak the language.

But wait. You don’t have to. Just because some people don’t get you at all and even think you’re an asshole doesn’t mean you don’t have amazing insights and talents. It just means your signal isn’t getting through to them because of wiring issues. No biggie. Let it be impersonal, please. It’s just like those chemistry experiments in high school. When you mix certain things together, nothing happens. You just sit there, staring, with your protective eye-wear, next to the beaker, but nothing happens. Or, there is this huge explosion. And it leaves a big mess.

I warned you it would be all hypothetical and anonymous and universal, didn’t I? This blathering around the bush. But, I’ve been miffed and pissed and misunderstood and misinterpreted and looked at funny. But because I am a former card-carrying Buddhist who’s been around the block a few times and just wants some freakin’ peace, I am taking the high road. I am thinking of my difficult situation as being an opportunity for growth. I am remembering that certain people will just not get me, and that’s okay, and I don’t have to take it personally or badly when things go awry, and unleash the tongue monster, I just have to find some grace in myself to get through it without looking like an asshole. And I don’t have to name names or point out times he has disappointed me, or she has misinterpreted me, or he has failed to respond to my sound logic, I just have to remind myself to get through it without blowing it, Jerry Springer style.

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Published by

Heather Murphy

A (mostly fiction) writer living in Southern Oregon.

4 thoughts on “If You Keep Your Mouth Shut the Flies Won’t Get In”

  1. I can relate totally. What always pissed me off more than people not getting me (very common for me) are the ones that think they do, but aren’t even close.

  2. I am actually coming from the other angle on this. When there are people out there, who you can’t help but see on a regular basis, and you tolerate/like them on a very general level, but you don’t really agree to anything they say. So I keep my mouth shut, don’t get into arguments and be friendly. But then they sprout their opinions- and you may need to rebuff them at times (think school P&C for example), but still be friendly and avoid conflict. But where do you draw the line? And then they annoy me. And while I keep quiet about it, because going off the bend never helps – it’s hard. And it BUGS me. And it keeps me awake at night because it annoys me how STUPID some people are. And while I’m glad I’ve kept my mouth shut – because these are arguments that you will never win – sometimes I wish I had the balls to actually say what’s on my mind. How do you brush it off? How can I stop it from taking up my thoughts? Because keeping my mouth shut just means I keep thinking of what I should have/would have loved to have said. I really struggle to let some things go!

    1. As I said in the post–I usually run my mouth. I enjoy confronting people, I just don’t want it to produce too much fallout, so I have learned to do it in a way that is without aggression; a non Jerry-Springer-like way. I feel badly about myself when I blow it, but pleased with myself when I assertively confront someone. I’ve also learned to use discretion in whom I choose to confront. I can sense when there is NO point in doing so, when to do so would be an exercise in bullying, or maybe an ego trip, instead of valuable communication.

      thanks for your input! I hear you.

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