Help me if you can, I’m feeling down.
And I do appreciate your being ’round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground…

The Beatles

I suffer from HAY fever. No, not that hay fever; I’m glad to say that has never troubled me. I’m talking about that HAY question, the conversation starter: How are you? At least it’s usually a conversation starter. Except that, in my case, it usually isn’t.

Sneeze in white hankie

When I hear that question, I break out coughing, sneezing and spluttering. No, not literally, but the anxiety-filled equivalent: panic. Spluttering inside and nothingness outside. Confidence in one thing only: this will not go well. And through it all, I force myself to continue.

“Fine, thanks. How are you?”

Answer.

Here’s where every other conversation slips seamlessly into something meaningful. In the current conversation, there’s a pause that lasts slightly too long until the other person moves away to talk to someone more fun, more interesting, more communicative. Clearly I’m boring and miserable, and I don’t want to talk.

Oh, but I do. It’s just that a topic for discussion with someone I hardly know doesn’t come to me. Yes, I could make it up. I could sit alone in my garden or at my computer and make up a conversation between two relative strangers. I could make the speakers hesitate if the plot demands it. I could make the words flow if I want them to. Because the speakers are puppets and I’m pulling the strings.

Who’s pulling my strings when I’m down there on the stage? Whoever it is, is slacking on the job, or letting the strings go slack.

I began this post thinking that it would end in a plea for help. Please tell me what to say to someone I hardly know to stop them before they glide away. But maybe I know what to say. I just have to be able to  rummage around the jumbled handbag of my mind and pull out the words I need at the right time. Or to put the words in the front pocket well in advance, so that they’re easy to find when I need them.

There, I’ve answered my own question. But don’t let that stop you from offering advice. It will still be appreciated.

Advertisements