Sunday, August 25, 2019

You Talkin' To Me?

That is the line we all know from the movie Taxi Driver. Robert De Niro’s character, Travis Bickel, confronts himself in the mirror as he prepares for urban combat and refuses to allow himself to be intimidated by himself. It’s a classic scene and a classic line in a classic, albeit overrated, my opinion. (I still say 'Means Streets' was a better movie).

I’m not yet as whacked out as Travis Bickel, but I must admit that I do talk to myself. I talk to myself out loud. Not talking out loud is just thinking. Talking to oneself is thinking out loud. So I talk to myself, sometimes loudly. My dogs are used to it and pay no attention. They know when I’m talking to them or talking on the phone or just talking to myself. They ignore me until I say their names or use dog talk. You dog owners know what I mean by dog talk, so don’t even pretend it’s not a thing.

I often talk to myself while I’m driving. It’s a safe space. These days if someone sees you alone in a vehicle talking, they assume you’re just having a hands free cell phone conversation. So I am driving alone talking about weight gain and its effect on the ankles, knees and hips. I’ve put a few pounds back on since my big weight loss a few years ago. Not all of it, but enough to notice. So I am talking about the consequences of this weight gain and what to do about it or even if I should do something about it.

All of a sudden I hear my wife’s voice on my cell phone and it’s not a happy, teasing “are you talking to yourself” voice. It’s an inquisitive, almost jealous “WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO? WHO’S WITH YOU?” voice. Ten or fifteen minutes earlier my wife had called me and apparently somehow we had stayed connected. She had stopped to buy gas or something and when she gets back in her car she hears me talking to “someone”. Why would I be talking to someone about gaining weight, modifying workout routines, cutting back on the beer or the merits of wide comfortable shoes?

I assured my wife that I was just talking to myself:

“You know that’s just something I do.”

“Not talking like that. It sounds to me like you’re talking to someone.”

“Nope, just me.”

“Well, that’s just weird. I believe you. But you’re weird.”


I guess the good news is that I wasn’t talking about something that would have been really embarrassing. The subject matter was pretty harmless. But I do need to be more careful and check my phone before I start talking to myself (or anyone else for that matter.)

The fact is that studies have shown that talking to yourself, more specifically talking OUTLOUD to yourself, is not a bad thing. Highly intelligent people (who are not otherwise crazy) talk to themselves. Children talk to themselves as part of the learning process. Talking out loud can help you solve problems and even find things you’ve lost.

As an only child, I grew up talking to myself. After my mother started working, I was a “latch key” kid who was often home alone. So I talked to myself. When I write, I talk to myself. Not out loud, but it’s not much different. Over the years I have argued with myself, confessed my sins and made resolutions. I have debated myself, taking both sides; therefore I can say with certainty that I have never lost a debate.

Truck drivers, traveling salesmen and long distance runners all talk to themselves. The lonely and the brave talk to themselves. So do the lonely and the crazy. The brave talk to themselves to find courage or at least a reason for bravery. The crazy talk to themselves because no one else will talk to them or theirs is the only voice they can hear.

Sometimes when I am alone and talking out loud, I am talking to God. Maybe it’s not prayer. Sometimes it’s more like brain-storming or trying to find the answers, perhaps a clue at least. During the most difficult times of my life, self-talk always leads me to God-talk. And often it’s been the other way around.

“You talkin’ to me?” is the line everyone remembers from that movie. But I also remember one of the lines that follows “You talkin’ to me?”…… “Well, I’m the only one here.”

I guess that’s at the core of my “self talk”. No one knows me better than me. My wife would argue that she knows me better than I know myself and I’ll let her believe that. But, the person who does not strive to know themselves can never find themselves. Part of my journey to knowing myself involves talking to myself….and to God. I’m sure his answers are better than mine, but sometimes it feels like “I’m the only one here.” So I talk to myself…OUTLOUD. I just need to make sure that no one else is listening.

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