A thousand words paint quite a picture

For my first post after launching the website, I wanted to share a little insight into how I process life. Love to hear how you process too in the comments. For me, a thousand words really do paint quite a picture. I’ll explain.

One Saturday I was in Walgreens to pickup a few things, and I saw a young mother pushing a shopping cart down the makeup aisle scanning the shelves while talking to her toddler. The little girl was in the cart and she was repeating everything her mother said, elaborating with great enthusiasm and wild hand gestures. Her ponytail was swinging, her lips were moving and her eyes were dancing.

It was amusing and brought a smile to my face, until it wasn’t and it didn’t.

I started to hurry my pace to the next aisle to escape the constant chatter, and it hit me. I had just traveled back in time to 1980. That toddler was me and that mother was my mother. As soon as I got to my car I called my mom to apologize and say thank you. Mothers of verbal processors deserve medals for endurance in listening and Emmys for their smiling and nodding even if they don’t catch every word.

I’ve been a verbal processor for as long as I can recall. This doesn’t mean I talk incessantly, but it does mean if I need to wrap my mind or heart around something the only way that’s happening is out loud.

The puzzle pieces of my thoughts snap into place as the words come out of my mouth. Put me in a room, tell me to gather my thoughts, and then tell me I can’t speak. Chances are I’ll make remarkably little progress. I’ll have the same blank stare no matter how much time passes.

What it looks like, sometimes

One winter I interviewed for a job in another city and was considering what I would do if I received an offer. My sister, who is one of my closest friends, was sprawled out on her couch earning an endurance medal in listening as her eyes and ears followed me around the room.

I was pacing, wearing a hole in the carpet as I talked through no less than 13 possible best case/worst case outcomes. I repeated these phrases over and over, “Best case scenario, this could happen…worst case scenario, that might happen...”

As I inhaled to begin rattling off yet another option, I suddenly realized from the dazed look settling over my sister’s face that I was wearing her out and pushing the limits of sane reasoning. Also, the heater was on high in the apartment, and I was sweating profusely. It was obviously time for a ridiculous comment and a laugh.

I pivoted mid-rattle and with auctioneer-like speed said something along these lines:

“Best case scenario, the offer comes in next week, I take it and get off to a great start with the new team in a month. Worst case scenario, I wear too many layers on my first day and end up in the ladies’ room furiously tucking paper towels in my blouse and armpits to absorb the perspiration. Then, as I tour my new work site, I unknowingly leave a trail of damp, fragrant paper towel bits behind me as I go!”

We laughed until we almost cried and may have experienced other leakages, having just consumed Route 44 Diet Cokes from Sonic. Cackling, re-living the moment and trying to one-up each other with ridiculous worst case scenarios became the challenge for the remainder of that weekend.

As exhausting as it may sound to those who are internal processors, working my way through those scenarios aloud helped me identify what I wouldn’t do, and ultimately, what I would do. The help my sister provided was not in solving the problem or giving direction, but in listening and asking a few helpful questions.

It doesn’t have to take two (people) to do this tango

Verbal processing doesn’t necessarily require another person. Talking through things by myself on long road trips works like a charm too because I’m confined and there are limited distractions. In fact, long drives often lead to moments where something clicks between head and heart, between thoughts, faith and emotions.

Sistine Chapel, source Lonely Planet Rome

Sistine Chapel, source Lonely Planet Rome

I wish I could say these moments were as picturesque and majestic as Michelangelo’s God and Adam reaching toward each other on the painted clouds in the Sistine Chapel. A more accurate depiction is Michelangelo’s God reaches out toward me, and I’m grasping for a cloud with one hand, the other thrashing about, body dangling toward the earth craning my neck heavenward to see God. All the while, I’m thinking out loud in halting sentences and rambling metaphors.

It’s like a verbal, Cirque du Soleil while I’m driving down Texas highways or headed to the midwest on I-35 to see family. I actually quite enjoy it, regardless of what truck drivers or future sirloin steaks in my peripheral may think.

God is the most faithful of listeners. He out-medals all the moms, all the sisters, brothers, friends and spouses. He can handle all of it – the questions, the ‘what-ifs’, the scenarios, the exasperation, the rabbit trails, the dreaming, the things we feel like we can’t say to others.

No matter how we process what’s happening in our lives, God hears and He will provide guidance. It may not be at the time of our choosing, or exactly what we want to hear, but He will speak.

And in His voice we find what we need. Reminders of who He is and who we are in Him.

Any other verbal processors out there? What’s your go-to method for thinking out loud? If you’re an internal processor, love to hear from you too. What do external processors need to know about how you think?


Catch up: If you missed the first post where I talk about why I started this blog, catch up here.

Up next: Coming up in the next post, I unpack one of my verbal processing road trips. The word bees might be in the title. Sounds fun, right?

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