Just like riding a bike.

I sat on this very absorbent couch – my feet barely on the ground and this stranger across from me asked incredibly personal questions. We spoke unencumbered and without pretense because she is bound to me through weekly billing cycles and confidentiality. I immediately trust her understanding of our contractual obligations. Like a friendship should feel, but, with more paperwork and legal binding. Safer.

My shoulders are generally up. My arms are generally crossed, but, after 5 minutes I give up and surrender myself deeper into the flesh eating couch. I consider moving in.

I think we could talk forever, but, then she hits me with the series of social questions and I clench my hands. I explain that I’m a terrible friend. I explain that reaching out is hard. Trust is hard. Being friendly is not hard, though. I generally and truly love people. She nods. I look to the right. She keeps looking at the space that moments ago held my gaze.

This is apparently hard for lots of people.

Somehow, that’s not reassuring, but, she is at least reassuring.

And when we start to dip toes into that sea, I suddenly worry about the inevitable undertow and the imaginary sharks. There isn’t enough time. I can count on 2 hands the people I trust and 4 of them came out of my body. One gave me the people that came out of my body. That leaves 5…it sounds like a lot. It doesn’t feel like a lot. Most of them are so far away.

I start to gesticulate wildly – overcompensating verbally for my social failings. She smiles. I realize she may be waiting for a break in my monologue to speak.

I stop short. I look at the clock. I look at her. I say, “I’m not good at this.”

She says, “Ok.”

She says, “Do you want to be?”

I say, “I don’t know.”

She says, “Ok.”

The truth is, if not for my kids, I’d be fairly content living a life with minimal adult interaction. I like people just fine. They are incredibly fun to watch. It’s just that…well, I like them most from a safe distance.

I’ve had more than enough experience to know that it doesn’t always end well.

But, that doesn’t mean that I should opt-out of trying. Except I have. And I’m getting ok with that.

The brain like its deep, well-traveled paths. Having to re-learn sounds difficult. Being vulnerable anywhere other than on paper sounds impossible.

Today I leaned down to help my newly turned 4-year-old with some sneakers. She’s a big kid now. She wants laces to commemorate her transition. She sat on my lap with her still small head nestled into the space between my neck and chin. I held up her foot and rested it on my knee.

“You grab the laces and you bring them all the way up. You put one under the other and pull them apart. It makes the beginning of your bow! We’re ready to tie!”

She said, “I can’t do this. It is too hard!”

I said, “You just have to practice. You practice until it doesn’t seem so hard after all.”

She looked at my warily.

Trust me, baby. I understand.





Comments

  1. I’ve been on that same couch! Anyway, reaching out in any form is a good first step. Even if you’re having to pay the person. Also, your writing is a way of reaching out too. You have more friends than you realize. Just look at how many people comment on your posts. They hang on your every word. They look up to you. You must be doing something right.

  2. I so relate to this. I have been putting off the phone call to make an appointment to sit on that very couch and for some reason, I keep talking myself out of it. I tell myself I’ve made it this long/far without it but that’s not really something to be proud of. Thank you for being so honest and open when it’s definitely not an easy feat.

  3. This is a very personal post, and I appreciate your bravery in publishing it. I’m thankful for the internet, which gives me your words and allows people like us to communicate comfortably. Like you, most of the people I trust completely are far away. That makes me sad when I allow myself to think about it.

  4. I talked to a parent of my son’s friend the other day. She was so friendly and easy-going, but nevertheless it stressed me out so much I came home and cried. I would much rather watch other people talk from a distance too, but I’m trying. I hope it does get easier, for both of us. Good for you, for finding someone to help you find the way xoxo

  5. Well, you pretty much wrote down what’s in my head. Again. I can count more people in my “circle of trust,” but it’s only because I have more kids ;) It’s not even that I mind not interacting with others. In fact, I rather enjoy my circle. Why look elsewhere? My husband is always trying to get me to be more social, and I’m always like, why? I’ve had enough social interaction in my young and stupid years to last 3 lifetimes. It’s time to keep it close, keep it real, keep it real close. But if branching out, reaching out, is on your to-do list, then good for you for taking the steps! Keep us posted :)

  6. Oh this is me, so me. My safety zone is deep within the walls of my house under the pile of kids on my lap. It’s so hard to leave it. I’ve made myself do it more and more this year and I’m not very good at it yet but someday right?
    And love you and your bravery!!!

  7. stacey sheehan says:

    We are twins. <3

  8. I’ve sat on a very similar couch and the same words left my mouth “I’m not very good at this”. So hard to be open and vulnerable. Thank you for doing both by sharing this.

  9. I can identify wholeheartedly. Your words could have come out of my mouth if only I was as eloquent as you. I honestly thought I was the only person in the world who felt this way. How has it taken me over 40 years to discover that there are other people in my shoes? I’ve been berating myself on the inside, convinced I was some sort of freak. On the outside, though, I try my best to be “normal” or at least do what I have to do so that my kids don’t end up damaged. I talk with the teachers and coaches, set up the play dates with the other moms, chat with other parents at birthday parties and soccer games. I don’t want my kids to suffer or be left out of all the fun because they have a mother who is scared of interacting with people. I’ve done a fairly good job of faking it. I doubt anyone I know has any idea the stress I feel every time I have to pick up the phone or go to an event at my kids’ school. All I really want to do is hide! Thank you for your honesty and for being so real. If someone as cool as you is anything like me, then maybe I’m not such a freak after all. Maybe…

  10. Go on ya, sweetheart. You done good. Soon enough you’ll get good enough to stop worrying that your shoes will fall off if you cry on the couch. Keep making bows; it gets easier.

  11. Your words are poetry, even when you’re talking about something hard. You are so brave – braver than I. Maybe someday I will sit where you do.

  12. Another hermit here, a happy hermit too! Is it so wrong to be contented in the company of my husband, child and just a select few friends?

    I’ve tried to be more social, tried the baby groups and the clubs. Pure torture for me, but still, I try to go out and do these things for my boy in the hope that he is a better ‘friend maker’ that I am or ever was.

  13. Very touching comparison. I used to be really shy. It took several years for me to come out of my shell, but I still have a hard time trusting people and I don’t have a lot of friends. As long as you have a few solid friends, I think liking to be alone is just fine.

  14. Michelle says:

    You made my day! I like people, I’m friendly, but honestly I prefer being home in my comfys hanging out with my kids and husband. I have trust issues I know it. I’m not a good friend, and for me to make a phone call is pure torture! But, I’m starting to be ok with the fact that I can be home for days and not mind. That there ARE others like me!!!!
    Truly, thank you for sharing your most vulnerable moments. Your making a lot of woman feel OK about themselves!!!!! You kick ass.

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