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.