Friday, 15 May 2015
Socialising For Introverts
When I left my husband he said to me "It's going to be weird seeing you in the local bars." I thought to myself, in the twenty five years you have known me, at which point did you get the idea that I was the bar type?
"I really don't think I will have any interest in going to bars," I said. "It's really not my style."
He reflected a moment and then amended his vision of my future. "I can imagine you ending up with a hippie from California, a potter or painter."
"Only if he becomes a Canadian citizen but we live in Santa Cruz," I added, deciding to play along."
I am not the type to seek a partner. I don't even seek friends. Everyone who ends up in my life has made the first move though I am not unfriendly. In fact I can be so friendly it is sometimes mistaken for flirting so I have to be careful. I have accidentally given hope to both men and women. As a non-seeking but very friendly socialiser things get a bit convoluted and perhaps make sense only to me. I love people. I talk to people whenever I go out. I feel connected to people, I feel a great love and warmth for them most of the time. But I can only do any extroverted socialising in very small doses. Once or twice a month is excessive for me and there has to be another benefit to it with socialising the side effect. In some ways having to spend a few hours amongst a group of the same people, talk and laugh and attempt to pay attention to everyone is so exhausting it is the price I sometimes have to pay in order to give myself a little dose of that connected feeling I do love. People, I love you but you exhaust me.
Or perhaps I exhaust myself by being a certain way among people. I am sure it could be argued thus, but I cannot change my essential nature without enduring another type of exhaustion. In the end it is always easiest to be one's true self. My true self is a faux extrovert at times. It very much depends on the people and the situation, but if I find even a small thread of connection between us, I will become more extroverted in a group. The connection is everything and my ex husband wasn't too far off the mark when he decided that I would feel connected to artist-hippie types. This isn't California but in some ways where I live is the California of Canada and yes, there are those artist-hippie types here. Some are original hippies and some are hippie-nouveau, artistic talents vary but generally one can find an enthusiastic, people-loving, accepting group of artist-hippies if one tries. Or, like me, one can fall into them. Drift past and get scooped up.
Last night I attended my second women only prose and poetry night. It was put together by different people and in a different venue from the last one, though still in a cafe. I must add here, that I have accidentally given the impression that our cafes are open at night all of the time. They aren't unless they are putting on special events and one of them does that every Thursday through Saturday. Otherwise the average cafe closes around five or six pm, with Starbucks as an exception, but Starbucks is not a cafe. So, I went to a cafe I had not previously known existed, in a part of Courtenay to which I never venture. It's an odd little area called Tin Town and meant to be charming and artsy but is a funny collection of dwellings above businesses and a few studios, an odd mixture that doesn't quite make up it's own little independent community, since it is usually the case that a grocery store in the neighbourhood is more useful than a pet groomer. The event, which will take place every second Thursday of the month and of which this was the premiere, was organised by a group of women who live in the neighbourhood and have a writer's group together. Some of them had attended the previous event as I had and had been dissatisfied with it. I wasn't sure what to expect when I set out, but I took with me a recently written short story (which will be published here at the end of the month) and a handful of coins from my little pig.
A ten minute drive later, I found myself in a small but charming cafe that was nearly empty. Sitting at a table on her own was a women I recognised as being the organiser and having attended the other event a few weeks ago. Just ahead of me, entering the cafe and completely unaware of my presence behind her, was a woman with a wheeled walker, moving very slowly and then coming to a stop completely, blocking the way fully into the cafe. She and the woman at the table greeted each other familiarly and began to chat as I stood there rather uncertain of where to go next or how to get there. I later realised, as their shared reading revealed, that they were partners who had recently marked their union with a pagan handfasting ceremony. Hippie-lesbians make up a large part of any artsy women's group around here and they generally wear the uniform of their group. (Expect to see, tie-dye, lagenlook, comfortable shoes, short hair, natural curls and big beads. No wonder I fit in!) Others they knew came in and joined them. They were a group and I sat alone, though cheerfully, I chatted with them whenever our eyes met. The woman organising the event recognised me from the other one and I turned out to be the only person from outside their social circle who attended this inaugural event. When one sticks out in a smallish group, one has to summon up a little faux extroversion.
I was very much not part of the group in some ways. I came alone, I shared fiction, I live in a neighbouring town, and yet I easily felt like I belonged. A few others drifted in, couples who came only to observe and listen and probably came mainly for the singer/songwriter who also performed that night. I was signed up to read first. This does not bother me at all and I will happily volunteer to go first. People are often amazed at the bravery of this but I will reveal my secret. If you go first you are not being compared with anyone. There is no difficult act to follow and if you are terrible you will just be forgotten as better presentations come after. There were about ten people in the room, a much smaller crowd than the other event, and I read my story without any violent shaking. I had an attentive audience and appreciative applause and comments afterwards and I was done. These were people who were eager to be supportive, to share in a safe place and to help others do the same. In that moment I loved them all.
The singer was having an experience similar to mine. She performed without a band, or second guitarist as the venue was small. Just her wonderful voice, talented guitar playing and heartfelt lyrics were what she brought that night and we loved her. She loved us back. On the road for some time now, she told us how wonderful it was to relax with this small group, be part of an event recognising women and making a safe space for their words. She read one of her favourite poems to us from a book she'd brought and then treated us to her music. More than once, she mentioned how in this room her heart felt so full. I suspect I will come to see these people regularly and perhaps move through the stages of acquaintance to casual friendship, though it must be a slow process. The singer, will likely never see any of us again, and yet I understand how she feels, how somehow she now carries a little bit of all of us with her into the future.