The thing about myself that causes me the most grief, anxiety and fear is my introversion. Or maybe it’s more. Maybe even worse than my introversion is my constant attempt to hide it. I may even fool you. After all, I’ve spent much of my life pretending to blend in with the effortlessly extroverted masses. (I’d bet some of them are introverts behind closed doors, too.)
And here’s the kicker: I love life. I get excited. I dance. I want to be heard. I have (big) opinions. I want to have a conversation with you.
But the world makes me tired, so glossed and sheened it is in the veneer of superficial glamour and connection.
So many conversations are trite, trivial, meaningless and forced. And they hurt my heart. And I go home and obsess over them. I wonder what I could have said differently, to make a real connection or a better, truer impression.
And now I’m a mom, and like all moms, I must be ON much of the time. I have to force myself into things I’d rather not partake in, wander places I wouldn’t go on my own, talk to people whose kids are arbitrarily playing with mine on the jungle gym as I marvel at the 4 year old’s uncanny ability to make instant friends.
Recently I forayed off of Facebook. I deleted the app to make it harder for myself to get lost in the newsfeed timesuck while my kids destroyed the house around me and all of my projects collected proverbial dust. And at first, the freedom felt wonderful. (I did indeed write, like, 75 pages of a rough draft in a month, which is ridiculous for distractible me.) But recently I realized how disconnected I actually felt, which spawned a further realization: that I was never REALLY connected at all.
Social media is a great illusion. Knowing everyone’s business at all hours of the day becomes addictive, I think, because it fuels our very basic human need to feel in communion with others. As long as we like a handful of posts or leave a brief comment here and there, we can trick ourselves into feeling we’re in communication with our long list of virtual friends, most of whom we haven’t actually seen (or exchanged phone numbers with) in decades.
Facebook and Instagram are cool. But our reliance on them as connective tools leave much to be desired. They’re like the wine at the end of a bad day; using them brings a high, and maybe a bit of a hangover when we realize we never actually accomplished what we set out to do.
But there ARE things—book clubs, parties, classes, whatever—that actual humans get together to do. Things that, in theory, sound fun. Things that, in actuality, I don’t usually make an effort with. I have two reasons:
- Scheduling anything around small children when you are the responsible parent 85% of the time is HARD.
- Groups overwhelm me.
There, I admitted it. I LOVE being with people one-on-one. And I LOVE EVEN MORE when I get to know a group of high-vibe people who make me feel safe in their presence, and whose collective spirit mine can contribute to. I love concerts where we’re all lost in the music and not lost in a conversation about stuff we don’t care about anyway. I love when I’ve really gotten to know a kindred soul and can just BE with them. I love deep meandering talks about obscure bands, books, the cosmos (and I am usually good at sniffing out the weird souls. Hi! I love you).
I tried to do an MLM business and it seriously wrecked my soul. Going shopping with other humans is my worst nightmare. I get anxiety and headaches in groups of people I don’t know, and my plastered-on smile literally hurts my face. And I might look like a huge brat, either in writing about this or in my daily life when I avoid situations that pull my trigger, but trust me—I’m not. I’m not a brat. I am more compassionate, interested, and invested than I know how to let on.
So, yeah, I watch my kids navigate social situations, and what I see amazes me. The non-judginess. The real concern. The unsolicited advice. The truth telling. When they don’t feel like playing anymore, they back away or move on—no hurt feelings, no explanations. They are organic. They are in communion. The way I must have been, once; the way we all must have been.
And what’s so glorious is that, underneath the artifice and the polished pictures and the salesy get-togethers and the instant gratification of a swipe right or a double tap, we are all still four years old—loving hard, without condition; seeing everyone as a new friend; stopping when we’ve had enough, playing when our spirit is jubilant.
But we have lost our ability to forge meaningful relationships. We simply don’t know how to get there from where we are. As adults, our lives are so full of responsibility and commitments, we scarcely have time to add more relationships to the mix (or so we tell ourselves). We’ve been hurt. We have trust issues. We’re afraid we don’t compare. There are so many variables.
My relationship with my best friend is so dynamic and true and effortless. I am so lucky to have a friendship like that one. It formed when we were twelve. As kids, we were open and receptive and the only two vegetarians in seventh grade. I’d like to think I am still as open, as receptive. (I am definitely still as vegetarian.) But it’s harder. I’m set in my ways. I don’t know how to pretend. I would rather have dental work than small talk. And yet I know the small talk leads to the big talk, so I try. I still try.
My social inspiration is my niece Claire. She is four and the friendliest human in the universe. At soccer practice, she could barely focus on her own team because of another team playing behind us. “Aunt Lindsey!” she yelled, taut with uncontainable glee, “there are so many friends for me to meet!”
And who said we’re the ones teaching the lessons?