I'd like to decisively reclaim something that actor Clint Eastwood took from us all. As you might wincingly recall, during the 2012 Republican Convention Eastwood spent his precious time in the national political spotlight having an imaginary conversation with President Obama, addressing an empty chair to his left. The only good thing about this bizarre spectacle is that it may have actually sent votes to Obama and away from Mitt Romney, a good thing to appreciate on this Inauguration Day 2013. But let me get back to my point, although I did really enjoy making that one. The imaginary conversation is something that can have great benefits to us all, and I would like to state my case for babbling aloud to yourself.

I like to check in with myself on a regular basis -- you know, just seeing that all systems are running well and heading toward blissful stasis, and that there's nothing rattling around in there that's bugging me. This includes any unresolved or conflicted emotional issues. I'm a big, big fan of effective venting of concerns or needs -- tamping down, repressing, withdrawing, or ignoring is not for me. Far too Catholic, and causes disease; noooo, thank you. But venting has its problems as well. Yelling and screaming, passive-aggressive neglect or poking, blow-out blind drunkenness, over-confession -- all of these generally just add to your problems, not relieve them. Being able to discuss your feelings directly with whomever is involved is ideal, certainly, but it's sometimes just not possible. There can be too much distance to cross, whether physical or emotional, at least at that moment. There can be too much distance to cross, period, if you need to talk with someone who has died or your god or gods.

So every so often, I actually do speak a conversation I wish I could have but cannot, with no one else except maybe the dog to hear it. One-sided, though; I don't speak or even think any possible responses. Doing this venting exercise within my head is not as satisfying, nor is writing it down. Speaking aloud organizes the thoughts in a totally different way: silent speech can tend to veer or disappear and dissolve the value, while writing tends to be more careful, constructed, and erasable. When you speak your thoughts aloud, they tend to come more from the heart and are less censored; they provide a better vent, if at times a bit more inelegant or choppy.

Sometimes I am angry; I lift my head to the sky and rail against whatever injustice is pressing on my brain. Sometimes -- most times -- I speak barely above a whisper, just loud enough to hear myself, trying not to wake anyone late at night. Sometimes I am overwhelmed and cry while I keep trying to keep the words flowing out; sometimes I smile to myself, having completed my little task, knowing it must look very strange (to the dog, anyway), but feeling better than I did before.

I don't think this is an uncommon thing to do, but I also think that there are many of you that have not once held an imaginary conversation, too self-conscious to speak when there is no one there to hear you. Again, it's not a substitute for a genuine one-on-one with the person you should talk to, but life is complex and we aren't always able to do things as they should be done. In the meantime, self-speech can relieve some of the conflict and pressure you may feel, help you to put words to amorphous feelings, and perhaps settle in a better emotional place. Just saying how you feel is so powerful...even with only the dog to hear, in whispers.