Stock Footage

I thought I’d check in on the resolutions. We’ve accumulated enough New Year to have broken one or two resolutions by now, right? Yeah, but it’s a practice. A practice. Not a performance. To refresh your memory I resolved to stop yammering on about three things in casual conversation:  the weather (as small talk or filler talk), being vegan (stop volunteering it), and a running commentary of my own (and everyone else’s) appearance.

From easiest to hardest: vegan, weather, appearance. Turns out the hardest thing to do (or be) is the easiest thing not to talk about. Or spoken properly, the most difficult thing about which not to talk, which sounds more tedious than saying it wrong(ly). Language is a strange addiction, y’all. So in that order …


I haven’t broken the vegan babble resolution yet. Not to worry, though. I’ve spoken enough about being vegan in the past year that people continue to seek me out to ask for advice or recipes or resources. A church lady ran me down on Sunday to ask me for help.  Turned out she didn’t need me after all. Tons of folks think vegan and gluten-free is the same thing. She needed gluten-free. But I was a nice person to ask because I’m never rude or militant or combative about being vegan. You’ll find out in the next section the same can’t be said for my weather-related responses.

But as for the resolution, I don’t consider this type of conversation the kind to be resisted. Inquiries are necessary to learning. I can still provide help, answers, guidance, whatever, without volunteering the fact that I’m vegan every ten seconds. The idea is to bring it up when it is practical to do so — meaning WAIT until it is practical — as opposed to strangling an opportunity from every conversation. So I’m rocking along; not trying to talk about veganism less, just trying to be less obnoxious about it.


I’m still nailing the no weather talk as well as I can remember. I don’t think I’ve broken this one yet. It does require effort though. Seriously, try to go a day or week without chit-chatting about the weather. Or more importantly, without responding to chit-chat about the weather. You realize how much of it is everyone stating the obvious to each other. It’s just meaningless blather which just takes up time and exchanges nothing of value. I call it an empty social ritual. Not that I’ve come up with an alternative yet.

Walk out of warm theatre into winter night, girl next to me remarks, “Oh, it’s so cold.” I smirked, tossed my scarf, talked about the racial slurs from the play instead. It was West Side Story.

Some dude after an afternoon rain shower passed, “Looks like we are going to get some sunshine.”  I pretended I didn’t hear him.

My coworker said, “Isn’t a beautiful day today?”  I answered, “I think every day a beautiful day every day.”

This is a hard habit to break; playing along, I mean. Weather-speak is deep conditioning. Feels like a reflex. The weather is a standard opener/filler for so many people here in Mercyburg and a lack of standard conditioned response is considered rude. Such as pretending not to hear. I’ll work on that but at least I didn’t cave, yes?


The most difficult resolution by far is the gratuitous discussion of appearance. I broke it January 2nd. Yep. Made an unnecessary comment about someone’s hair color. I’ve done better since then but it takes constant vigilance. I’m really funny. I won’t even lie. I’ve cultivated hella-funny when it comes to physical appearance. It is so hard to be this funny and not to pop off about gangly eyebrows or a toupee or some jackass walking into a suit-and-tie business office wearing flannel pajama pants and trench coat.

Behind closed doors it is no safer, especially when you watch a lot of British TV shows from the 1970s. The kind with low-budget porno lighting. Garish and gritty. Half the fun is making fun of horrid bangs and polyester, right?

But even off-screen I catch myself a dozen times a day ready to point out something completely unnecessary. In ten days I probably held back 100 unnecessary comments about my own appearance or someone else’s. In truth, it is usually someone else’s. All the elses’. I managed to find only one comment completely necessary.  “Hey, tie your shoe.”

So what’s the point of all this? Isn’t life hard enough without adding more work? Let’s call it conversational wellness. All wellness is work. The point is to transform my conversations into meaningful exchanges instead of stock footage. The first step is eliminating the stock footage. How would we fill the silence if we didn’t talk about the weather? Or our identity? Or what people are wearing, showing, neglecting, whatever? Maybe we don’t have to fill it. Silence can be meaningful. Maybe a little silence will spark something special instead. Maybe if I take out the filler I’ll think of something better to say.  Or maybe not; we’ll see.

— Mercy

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