So I’ve become much more willing to be aware of more things that bother me and have been lovingly welcoming them to go ahead and bother me while I observe curiously. So I continue to explore what makes me feel insecure, lonely, and not connected with you. … Yes, I’m kind of referring to you, the reader of this blog, whoever, you are. Because even if you’re not directly there in front of me now, if you were, there would be some part of me that would feel uncomfortable being in your presence, especially if I felt like I could not hold up my part of a conversation to fill awkward silences.
Last week I blogged about loneliness but more specifically for me, I wrote about the times I might have difficulty connecting with others in any social setting. I first challenged myself to sense my loneliness or lack of loneliness in the presence of a local social gathering. When I started to feel I was pushing myself to act “social” I was able to pause myself and go back home to be by myself. And then I felt a loneliness being by myself. In both instances, I felt a loneliness or that inability to feel as connected as I would like to feel with others, whoever they are. Eventually, I spent a few hours by myself hiking thru a small forest and found a deep state of connectedness … as much as I could want for one day.
Today I woke up somewhat early and spent a couple of hours doing yard work. I showered up. Then I thought what I might try to do next. I felt that loneliness or separated feeling again. I initially felt a desire to pretend I wasn’t feeling lonely and made a “legitimate sounding” excuse to myself (particular to my inner critic) that I have a lot of work to do to catch up on unreimbursed medical expenses for the past year. It’s kind of like the excuse I might make in a social gathering when I start to get terrified because I’m feeling awkward. Instead of being able to settle in my body … I say “well nice talking to you … I really have to get going … I’ve got to get back to some work … or I have another engagement that I’m late for … blah blah blah — BUT the truth of it, if I could speak, would be:
Please, can you help me to believe that I’m actually very popular and someone special and as far from awkward as I fear that I am? Please notice the concrete evidence of this based on my very believable excuses I am making to you that I’ve got places to go and things to do … So anyway … I have to get going even though I really don’t have to get going
… even though inside maybe I miss you, I am currently overwhelmed with my inner critic that’s more concerned with me not looking awkward and unlikeable … I’m also starting to realize I’m probably ignoring and not loving myself very much, so I guess I’m missing myself … Please forgive me if I leave so abruptly.
All of these thoughts happened within a fraction of a second, woven into a usually inexplicable bad feeling. But today I felt a question rise. And that question was:
Here we are on another Sunday. Why not try again? Why not just show up, no pressure, no demands?
I think about the social fears I have … but rather than approach it with a willful “just face your fear … just do it!” I decided to change the language to softer questions of:
Can I dare try just experiencing a bit more of the discomfort of social awkwardness?
Can I also not have preconceived thoughts about how overcoming social awkwardness should look like?
Can I just show up once again at this weekly social gathering and if need be — go ahead and feel awkward again. And if the discomfort seems too much it’s OK to just abruptly leave.
At the gathering, there was a guest speaker. What I noticed is that as I sat in the audience listening to a guest speaker talk … I had no self-imposed demand that I act all “Mr. Social” with others.
And after maybe 40 minutes of sitting in the audience of having no demand on myself, I was very much expecting to leave once the talk was over. But then I was surprised to feel a desire well up inside of me to just walk up to a few people and just say “hello.” I felt the urge to shake a hand or even give a hug. I noticed there was something about me that was much more at ease. I had no agenda but was just following that innocent, curious urge to just walk to people and say “hello” in as friendly of energy as possible.
So I did do just that and walk up to few people and just said “Hello.” Sometimes after the “Hello,” there was silence, but it was not so awkward. In fact, the silence was about as awkward as being silent in the presence of a dog or cat or being silent in a forest of trees.
I held no energy of trying to pretend to be “social.” Instead, I held the energy of:
I’m so grateful to be in your presence and I might have something to say but I might not. And if I have nothing to say and maybe at the moment, you have nothing to say we can be silent.
But in that silence truly we are still feeling something … and when we feel …
… surprisingly one of us starts talking once again. I start to feel this sense of much of me doesn’t care at all very much about the material value of our conversation … it’s more I want to feel your humanness, your ordinary mundane things, your loved ones, your domestic adventures, your hopes, your dreams and even your precious awkwardness. Your awkwardness is a precious gift of your uniqueness and I welcome it with enthusiasm like a tattered delicate book with rice paper pages that if I carefully open will reveal such exquisite rich stories of love, life, and hope. And because I can invite your awkwardness I can invite my own awkwardness. And because I can invite my own awkwardness it is no longer awkward. And rather ironically the outcome is there is actually very little awkward silence … as a matter of fact there is very little silence.
In the very act of being willing to sit in awkward silence, the awkwardness went away and the silence went away. Not because it needed to or had to. Not because being awkward or silent in a social setting is bad or weird. It went away because the judgment that it is awkward went away. I shifted my perspective away from judging it as bad and trying to fix it or overcome it. I instead softened my words and used “uncomfortable” instead of “awkward” and embraced it as a natural part of my being.
And so I found myself observing myself and liking myself feeling more comfortable. I found myself marveling at how I somehow spontaneously became more socially comfortable.
I found myself so fascinated by the story you were telling me about yourself, your life, your brother, father, sister, mother, and others. When I say you … yes, I’m referring to you the reader of this blog. Today you might not have been the one physically with me but if you were I would have loved to hear and feel the story come thru your words, facial expression and body language. You are so way more interesting than any movie I’ve seen or any story I’ve ever read because you are alive, living and breathing right here and right now. You are beautiful.