I never realized how much time I spent gossiping until I tried to stop. I’m not a mean-spirited person in the least. The opposite really — I go out of my way to be nice to people. But man, I can kiki (that’s what the drag queens call it) up a storm. As a friend of mine said, “It’s your bread and butter.” But I’m starting to realize that all that butter is clogging my mental arteries and draining my energy.
Last week, I started a program to get my yoga teacher certification. I’ve been practicing since I was 17 and decided it was time to take my knowledge to a higher level. In our first session, the instructors suggested a number of things for the students to strive for, for the duration of our four-month training: daily meditation, contemplating vegetarianism, making a commitment not to lie (even white lies) and doing away with all gossip. Daily meditation I can do, vegetarianism I can’t, not lying … that’s a whole other essay.
I don’t gossip that much, was my knee-jerk reaction, that should be easy.
As soon as I thought it, my mind was flooded with an endless montage of me gossiping. Sitting around at a bar with a group of friends talking shit for hours. Entire drinks sessions or dinners spent talking about an author who was delusional about her talent, a friend whose marriage was so obviously on the rocks, a guy who needed therapy to deal with his latent sexuality but would never get it. Damn! I have entire friendships based on gossip. I panicked at the realization: I’m a HUGE gossip! Even worse: I have to give it up for four months?!
You may think, as I have for all these years, that gossip is a harmless way to vent or blow off steam. In the week that I’ve been trying to abstain from it, here’s the insight I’ve had: gossip is insidious. Overarchingly, because it allows you to deflect from yourself and your own problems. You’re essentially stepping on someone’s back to lift yourself up, even if it’s not mean-spirited. Talking shit about someone else with someone else scratches two itches at once: It provides a bonding experience AND makes you feel better about your own issues. But it’s deceptive, because there’s nothing real about that bond and once the high of hating on someone wears off, you’ve still got your own shit to deal with. All you’ve effectively done is waste your time and energy. A gossip session is like binging on junk food. The Doritos seem like a good idea at the time, but once you’ve eaten the entire bag, you feel like you want to hurl. Words have their own energy to them choosing to indulge in negative ones leave you with bad vibes clinging to you.
Thinking about it on a deeper level, I’m starting to get that the bigger challenge than swearing off gossip — for me at least — is to find more useful ways to blow off steam, relieve stress and recharge my battery. In the midst of a stressful day, reaching for the Doritos — or finding something to talk shit about — is the easy way. It’s not truly nourishing though.
You know how when you spend time with some people, you walk away feeling exciting and energized and with others, you leave them and all you want to do is take a bunch of Advil and sit in a dark room? I want to strive to be and be around the former.
In the week that I’ve been trying to abstain from gossip, I’ve been both successful and unsuccessful. I’ve refrained — for the most part — from starting any kiki sessions. When I’ve found myself slipping into that old familiar song – Did you see that picture on her Instagram feed? – I’ve tried to stop myself and replace the negative words with something more positive. Did you see that picture on her Instagram feed? It has 49 likes! Or to just shut my mouth and say nothing at all like my momma taught me. More challenging has been refraining from gossip when provoked. It’s really hard to remain silent when someone comes to you specifically to gossip. A few times this week, friends have come to me to talk smack and I’ve responded: “I would say something if I weren’t on a gossip cleanse” or “I will listen, but not speak.” Honestly, it’s been awkward to turn them down. I miss being able to spout off a witty zinger and keep the kiki rolling. So much for self-improvement. In some cases it has made friends weary of me or defensive — they’ve felt they had to justify the dirty sport. Others have responded more positively and our convos have taken a more uplifting spin — from talking about how lame that IG photo is, to talking about our goals for the fall. Which turns out to be far more energizing in the scheme of things. One week down, 11 to go.