Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Interpersonal skills are not my friend.

Imagine with me for a minute that a person exists with a tremendous natural gift for music which has been honed through years of practice, education, and experience. This person has a fair amount of talent, and her friends often comment that she is able to find the most unusual, but beautiful, harmonies for even unexpected melodies. Over the years, she has educated herself in all things musical, both with self-education found in her hours of practice and listening to the beautiful music of others, as well as a smattering of formal lessons and education along the way. She finds the beauty in almost every song she hears, no matter how unusual it may be, and her mind is constantly filled with some song or another-- replaying something beautiful or haunting that she's recently heard, or imagining up some melody of her own to keep her company.

She loves to have time to play or sing, but is still enough of a technician to easily read almost all of the sheets of music placed before her. In a symphony setting, playing off the same sheet of music with a group of friends equally committed to technical integrity, and with similar appreciation for musical beauty, she shines as a musician, combining both skill and artistry, enjoying the experience, leaving the concert full of energy, awe, and joy. Playing on her own, she is even more able to be lost in the experience, transformed by it, grown through it. With a small group of close friends, she's even able to improvise, lose sight of the technical details and just make music, play, share in the common experience of joy through music, no sheet music required.

But taken out of her comfort zone, placed into a group of people she is only now getting to know, things are more difficult. Attempting to get lost in the free-flow of playing together, she's never quite sure what she's supposed to be doing, not having the benefit of a few years of jamming with each other to draw upon. She knows she can fall back on using the sheet music and technical know-how as her cheat sheet, but then she's so busy following along that she misses out on much of the passion and beauty of the music, and leaves more mentally exhausted than emotionally refreshed. And it sucks, because she knows she's really damn good at music-- technically and casually-- and should be better than this.

And she knows that she can read people like a sheet of music, and craves social outlets, and loves experiencing that connection, no matter how momentary, or realizing that someone else is playing along with you, joining you in the joy of it all, and that the few of you are lost together, for the moment, in each others' company, and it is wonderful. It's wonderful, that is, when you know who you're playing with, and there's a comfort level there that precludes any need to censor or fear, and you can just put away the technical notes penciled into the margins of the sheet music, and Play. Be. Live. Love.

But for whatever reason, playing with the new crowd, she can't seem to get her footing to feel safe enough to put that stupid sheet music away, quit trying to figure out where things are going, and stop herself from over-analyzing every comment, every glance, every omission, for clues as to where things really stand (since most people, if we'll admit it, aren't often very transparent or straightforward about our intentions or opinions). It's exhausting.

Maybe I will become a hermit. Maybe I'll allow myself to slowly start turning into one of those crazy old cat ladies who lives in the house with the darkened windows, about whom all the neighbor kids tell ghost stories, and whose friendly "hello" to the kids as they pass by is enough to send them scattering in fear because she's just so damned WEIRD. Maybe I'll wear the same creepy gold lamé sweatsuit every day, with matching sequined slippers, and sip appletinis on my front porch all day long, every day, stopping only occasionally to cat-call the lawn guys. Maybe I'll just hang out with my husband, and do the best I can with my kids, and accept that in spite of my intense craving for friendship, that I am just destined to be a recluse.

Or maybe, if I'm lucky, things will get better. I just want some normal damn friends. Friends who are in similar places in their lives. Friends I don't have to keep secret. Friends who tell me what's going on so I don't have to intuit. Friends who treat each other with integrity and kindness.


Susanne said...

I totally feel you. I am often out of place here with my various groups of friends.
I'm too moderate or too left or too relaxed or too watchful etc. etc. etc.

:( its very difficult to have people around that you WANT to like and you can accept everything about them...but you have to hide a significant portion of who you are so that you don't make them uncomfortable.

The Thinking Southerner said...

Susanne, I totally wish you lived closer. Hell, it might be worth the drive to F-ville to hang out every now and then. Seriously, you are exactly the kind of friend I would love to have nearby.

I was thinking today that if things don't line up for me to get into grad school next fall, back around grad students, on a college campus, yada yada yada (I'm sure you understand the higher education love affair), I'm really going to lose my mind. I have two friends I've made since I've moved here who really fit the bill of someone I could call a close friend. One lives a good drive away, and for a variety of reasons, the friendship carries some complications and strings. The other is 34 weeks preggo and not feeling the "let's go do stuff together" vibe. I also hang out some with some younger folks from work, but there's too much drama for that to be what I'm really needing right now. I'm getting my fill of action, silliness, and fun, but missing out on my hardcore connection and shared interests quota just because of the age difference and being in different places in life, KWIM?

Something's gotta give.

Susanne said...

completely understand. I get...itchy being around 'younger' people too long. Most of the time they have too much energy not enough direction/focus. And I never do well trying to dig deeper friendships with people in different places in their lives.
And then there are those at the same place but not willing to disagree/discuss 'things' and I like doing that wahhhhh :D

I do get the higher ed love affair. I toy with the idea of a doctorate some day...not sure when that some day would be, or a second masters would be good. I like learning. And of course it'll be good for me years and years later. :)

I'm not looking forward to the 34 week mark. I've already decided I won't be going to the pumpkin patch (we normally go around the time when I'll be 38 weeks along...not happening) but I just can't NOT do the kid things. Just can't...so I will do them, get stressed and have an achy back later :D

SwedeLife said...

Lovely writing.

I just ventured out of my created comfort zone of close people, and now am limited to people comfortable speaking english. And you can't any less direct than the english- most of the english speakers here are just that- brits-and it seems their culture is to only say 1/9 of what is going on in the room at any given moment, so I'm finding them puzzling.

My people at home were cultivated from the homebirth community. I was being the midwfe and seeing people who would really like each other come in one after anotehr but never cross paths, so I started connecting them. I was doing it with the hope to building the community of mothers that I wanted to live in too!

I started doing new moon circles after bedtime with a group of moms I knew. 8pm, whatever night the moon was new, talking in sacred circle with no little people interupting until whatever hour, until we were done. We grew to know each other's stories, support each other's visions, and it became so magical and deep. It was a lovely way to turn baby freinds/maybe friends into lifelong keepers. It is hard to make new freinds with out the day to day exposure, and down time, we get in class in school.

I taught free aquanatal water classes when I was a midwife so me and the mamas swam together 2-3 times a week- it was social and gave that repeated exposure needed to feel comfortable and able to connect to people. There are 'pods' of moms all over my old town that became freinds in AquaNatal. It was the repeated exposre that gave people a chance to find someone from their own 'tribe'.

The only way I know to make friends in my adult life is to deliver their babies! You get to vet your freinds pretty well, seeing them and their partner all through pregnancy, :) then being in their home....but the repeated exposure through aquanatal, baby groups, and then for those I really thought I could like, the moon circle were how I exploited my midwife position to make life long friends.

Maybe it could work for you too!