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. 

21 comments:

  1. You and I sound so much alike on the socializing aspect. I think of myself as a lazy socializer but I don't mean to kick myself for it. It's just what I'm comfortable with. I admire you for reaching out to public events and going alone. You trust yourself and I'm not sure I could feel comfortable going out to something like that, and reading my private things. It's inspiring to hear about what you're up to! I think I will accept that happy hour invite from the people here at work. Somethings we need to push ourselves. ;)

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  2. That sounds like a lovely intimate evening, and I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed it. Friendship is a funny thing - you can't force it, it has to happen naturally, but neither does it develop without some effort. I quite often feel that I don't especially want to go to certain social events (I'm tired, would rather not bother, etc etc) but I pretty much always have a great time when I make the effort and do it. And being with friends, or like-minded people who might just become friends, is good for the soul. So is an evening of huge belly laughs, if you can arrange one of those! xxx

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  3. I'm glad that this second time out was better and you felt welcome. You describe my own introvert/extrovert situation well. Socializing, while I may have a fantastic time while something is going on, leaves me feeling exhausted, usually happy too, but tired. It's wonderful that you're able to share your work with a supportive crowd.

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  4. I can so relate to what you say here, Shawna. I'm not a group person... as in "at all". Even when I created my own groups in the past, I didn't feel like I belong, as in "this is my crowd". And I have no expectations and don't seek for friends or partners for that matter. I'm not passive, I do make moves, but I don't force it. Best things in life happen naturally, without force. We just need to stay open.

    I'm happy to learn that you read your story and experienced love and acceptance. In a way, blogging is that safe space for me, and I would like the writer's link-up to become such a safe writer's group, where people feel appreciated and loved, and as you say love back. I believe it is possible with mature people, old souls, as you are.

    Love it when you share your cozy home photos! xxxxxx

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  5. Would you believe me if I told you that I am 100 percent like you? People exhaust me to the extend I need to recharge at least a week. A week of staring at the tv or a book, eating crap and living in complete silence. The best thing about this is the boyfriend is the same, yay! I do love people, but sometimes I can't stand the sight of them for too long, maybe there's something wrong with me, don't care,
    Whoa, this event sounds so hipster my hipster alarm is going off craaazy! :D I can imagine it as you described it so perfectly, I love the way you write, you suck me into the atmosphere. Good tip of going first btw, although it's still scary and I'm bowing to your bravery Shawna!

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    1. No, I would believe that you are 90% like me because ten percent of you wears fluffy sweaters and watches tv. ;-) Yeah, I totally get loving people and not being able to stand people sometimes too. I won't insult you though by calling you normal. xo

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  6. Forgot to mention, I think that what you are doing is inspiring and it really makes me reconsider going out of my comfort zone more often. You are my mentor!

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    1. If you were here I would take you along with me to hang out with the hipsters and impress them with your fluffy sweater and horsey bag. If you had some writing to share (and btw I love your writing on your blog-your sarcasm cracks me up) I would read it for you-and not take the credit either cause I'm a good friend. xo

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  7. that sounds wonderful! i´m glad you "stumbled" in that circle - how gorgeous to have such a place to share your art.
    socializing exhausts me to - mostly. but sometimes, with very few "special" people it gives me energy. reloads my battery. but this events are sparse as this special people are.....
    so usually i need a whole day cocooned in our property, with the phone unplugged, after a social event.
    i wish you much more of such exiting experiences!! have fun!
    xxxxxx

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  8. I think it gets harder to make friends as you get older … you really have to put yourself out there … and sometimes it just doesn't seem worth the bother. It sounds like you are doing very well at stepping out of your comfort zone though … and I think the best friendships are the ones that evolve gradually … without forcing it.
    xx

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  9. I can understand very well to be around people costs a lot of energy.
    We are autistic people, for us this seems normal. Nevertheless, we love people and long for contacts from time to time. Find friendship - this is my dream for a lifetime! But I'm too strange. In our small town people are very civil and orderly, spit at me for my hippie outfit. And I can never leave this place, no car, no bus to places where there are such events. Often this isolation is involuntarily for us.
    I'm happy for you to have better options. And read your own text. I would have liked to have been there.

    I know well the situation: sitting alone at a table, all other know each other and are a group. I am a stranger and always will be. Even if they are kind to me. Otherwise I've never experienced it.

    Have a nice new week

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    1. Mascha I am so sad that your little town can't accept you. You would fit in well here, I am sure and not feel that you are strange. Friendship is a complicated thing and true friends are not easy to find. I have had many friendships come and go, and a very small number that have lasted. They also tend to change over the years. I hope you can some day find a friend in your small town. xoxo

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    2. Maschenka, I soooo wish you to find a really good friend or two and build a long meaningful friendships! Those people who spit on you are blind, their soul is deeply sleeping...

      I can relate to a lot of what you've said, I'm also an odd bird in the neighborhood, though sometimes I come across as an outgoing person, but I think I'm both. The oddness about me is that I'm only interested in real, deep connections - not in a small talk, and it's been this way as long as I remember.

      I suspect many people feel this way on this planet, but not many believe that such connections are possible. Sometimes, it's hard to believe for me too. But I know it's possible - anything is possible that we can imagine.

      Much love to you. xxxx

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    3. I agree with both of you. I live in a culture where there are many "surface" relationships without too much depth. I am a very friendly person with hardly any friends?! Maybe I am too quick to dismiss people if I don't feel that immediate connection? Like you Natalia I am not interested in the small talk.

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  10. I can understand how you feel about socialising. I summon up lots of extra energy to try and appear more interesting and sociable! I think I tried a little too hard on a recent blogger meet!!!
    You are SO right about going first! SUCH a better place to go.xx

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  11. I feel the same way about people...I think that insomnia I sometimes get is just my way my mind asks time for it self....even when I was a kid I had this need for solitary time.when I was nine or ten I remember telling my friends not to call me during a certai hour because one hour a day I used to write my diary and watch some show on animal plant.
    wonderful description of that writer event, so lovely you went there.

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  12. Seems there are many of us in the same boat. I will put my hand up too!
    I often wish I was happy being alone at home, but I do have a desire for people interactions...hence the blog. But lately I'm missing "real" people. Only so much energy...what to do?
    Really glad your energy is holding out for these outings. Well done!
    Am researching jewellery ideas...!

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  13. I'm glad you had a good time and had fun.
    We don't get much time for socialising. My work is my life. I chat to everyone who visits my pitch and occasionally friendships result.My blog has definitely made making friends easier, many people know all about me before we've met. This Saturday I've been invited to the 60th birthday party of a man who reads my blog - how fab is that? xxx

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  14. Sounds like a wonderful evening! I can completely relate to feeling a bit of a fraud when I put on my extrovert's hat - often when I meet people for the first time I feel they are getting completely the wrong impression of me, who is this bubbly outgoing person that comes out of me on special occasions?! So that as we get to know each other better I am bound to disappoint with my naturally introverted ways! It's wonderful that you have a community with which you feel a kinship, if not necessarily same-ness on every level.I have never heard of handfasting, please tell me it doesn't involve the deprivation of food!

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    1. Absolutely yes, to all of that. I have the same sort of experience and concern. My true friends know that I am almost never ever going to phone them or arrange for us to do something. It is much better to have standing arrangements. I am loyal, punctual, and organised enough to show up for those!
      Handfasting is really hand-fastening. The hands of the betrothed are bound together for the ceremony. I am pretty sure pagans like food. xo

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    2. Ah hand fastening, not fasting- makes more sense, I must have food on the brain! I do worry people think I'm anti-social (newer friends, older ones know just to pester me to meet up).

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