Fitting in is hard to do, or is it?

A good laugh is hard to come by.  So is fitting in.

Well, for me it always has.

If you could go back about 10 years, I was sitting in the Dos Hermanos bar at the bottom of the Sears Tower after work from the crime lab on a Friday evening.  I was 28 years old and while I had many social contacts, both personal and work affiliated, I had always struggled with a distinct missing component in my temperamental makeup.  I could not easily laugh or fit into a group.

As I sat there in the bar, I was surrounded by about 6 of my colleagues, all whose company I enjoyed immensely.   Julie was one I had known the longest, as we’d begun our training together 4 years before – 18 months of grueling lectures, lab practical exams, mock trial preparations, and supervised casework.   After training, she had transferred to a different lab than the one I was to work at.   She had come in for some new training at my laboratory and as we were at the end of this training session, we decided to go out to celebrate.

As I sat there with Julie on my left, and Dan (my friend/mentor/father figure who worked with me in my lab) on my right, I listened to the jokes being cracked and the laughter generated by the camaraderie of my co-workers- turned- friends.   I distinctly felt separate from the jocularity and wondered what was wrong with me that laughter didn’t flow from me with ease that it did my friends.   Well, actually, I knew that something within me was broken, but I did not know how to fix it.

I’d been accused of being aloof and uptight a few times in my life.  But I insist that was not my doing.  Growing up in a home that rejected the very nature of who I am, caused me to distrust others with my vulnerabilities.  I accidentally closed off myself to people who had no reason to hurt me.

I didn’t want to be that way.  I sat there that night, staring at my margarita, feeling a weariness to my soul and feeling disconnected from the very people I cared about, simply because I could not join in.  My heart broke a little, and tears welled up in my eyes.

Julie, dear ebullient, wavy-blond-haired, blue-eyed, intelligent and wise-cracking Julie, noticed I was looking morose and said to me, “Casey are you crying?  You’re  supposed to be having fun”.   I don’t remember exactly what she said next (some smart-ass comment to be sure), but I think she hugged me (I’d like to think she did anyway) and I do remember breaking down in tears, then laughing so hard at the emotional well-spring that came out in me.  It was a very emotionally charged night.  I was grateful to be surrounded by people who at least tried to comfort me, even if they could not understand it.

****

I think about how I am now.  I still tend to be a little reserved, but I do find it a bit easier to be spontaneous and laugh.  But when something reaches deep inside me and pulls out a belly laugh, I know it’s something I can’t take for granted.  That’s something special right there.

The same goes true with people in my life.  I think that’s why it’s so hard right now to fight against the melancholy that threatens to swallow me up whole.

Five years ago, I had a full life.  I had friends.  Granted, most of them were my co-workers, but I LIKED my co-workers.  They happened to share a lot of responsibility, and personal history with me.  They cared about what was going on in my life.  They loved me, and I deeply loved them.  Maintaining the friendships are harder now that I no longer work with them, but I do get to see them at least once a year on Halloween (like I did last weekend).  And every year, the same promises are made – that we MUST get together more than 1x a year.  I think this year I’m going to hold them to that.

Now, I see people in short windows of time.  5-10 minutes at most when I go get my kids from school.  I feel so damn pathetic that it’s not enough for me.   And I feel guilty that I need so much and my husband, who does a  good job when he’s at home, can’t give me what I need for the 9 hours he’s gone to work.

I’m a social introvert (paradoxical, I know).  I need people, even though I sometimes get too much and get exhausted by them.   I was reminded of how nice it was to be a part of something social when I went to a NaNoWriMo writing event at the local bookstore last night.  I almost didn’t go, afraid I wouldn’t fit in.  I even called my husband on the way over there and told him I had no idea why I was going.  I fully expected to be disappointed.

I was really, pleasantly surprised when I walked in to the coffee shop inside the bookstore.  I had a nice little chat with the young male coffee barista, who made my Raspberry Mocha Kiss, and had a nice smile and wished me luck trying to find the writer’s group.

I did find the group, and I sat with 3 other women, one younger than me and two older than me.   As we sat together, working on our novels, I was feeling quite happy to feel a natural ease with these women.   They shared writing tips with me,  suggested I stop trying so hard to be perfect,  and seemed interested in my story and I was interested in theirs.  I was also pleased to get some feedback from one who was an English teacher who fully believed I had what it took to be a writer.  It was really kind of nice to hear that vote of confidence.

When two of the girls left, I sat with the third one who asked me what I did besides take care of my girls and write.  I had to think about it a moment.  Sometimes I forget that’s not all I’ve done in the past 5 years.

I was able to talk with her about the year and a half I took trying to research and help my daughter with selective mutism.  I actually marveled at the comfort I felt talking to her about it.   Being shy herself in new situations, she could relate to my daughter’s discomfort in social settings.  It’s been a very long time since I had someone seem to care and seemed fully interested in what I had to say, and I could feel comfortable sharing our story with.  And as I was telling my story, I actually felt a little proud of what I had helped my daughter work through.  Sometimes I am amazed at the things I’ve accomplished.  And I am definitely amazed at my little girl and what she’s accomplished (and the other girls for different reasons).

The conversation flowed smoothly all 3 hours we were there and it felt as if I’d been completely accepted as “one of them”.  I realized as I left that night that I knew what it was like to be in a place that felt like I belonged and I wasn’t an outsider looking in.

I had gone home very happy.  Feeling for the first time a community with others who actually shared my passion for writing.  It wasn’t strange or bizarre or a “waste of time”.  It was something they felt just as compelled to do.  And it was lovely to fit in so well.

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14 Responses to Fitting in is hard to do, or is it?

  1. el burro says:

    I read your post and wondered about the changes that you’ve gone through in the last 5 years that have brought you to where you are now.

    I wondered how much that sense of finally feeling like you might fit in somewhere comes from knowing who you are.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Thanks, el burro

      Hmmm…the transformation from simply being the biological vessel of my kids to full-blown mother/nurturer was a task unto itself that had to happen. I also had to resolve my need to achieve and re-defining what that looks like too.

      Finally, after 5 years of accepting my deep need to write openly and express my own sometimes troubled thoughts has been a great blessing to me. It has a way of drawing people forward to share their stories with me and that gives me confidence that what I think and feel contributes something positive to another.

      It’s been a wonderful feeling to have words of acceptance for the things I share.

      Knowing who I am certainly does help. Without my internet friends/supporters, I would not have the confidence to believe I am worthy of anyone’s time, especially, since those whom I do run into IRL, don’t seem to want to get past a very superficial place with me.

      In that respect, the internet friends have restored a missing piece of me – that piece which tells me I have value and that people do appreciate my company, even if it’s only in a virtual sense.

      Having that transfer to real life has been extremely unsuccessful – well until last night. Up until then, when everybody seemed to measure you by what you have and what you do, you begin to feel like the Little Drummer Boy – having nothing to offer but your music (well, words) – you realize it’s not good enough. Nobody seemed to make time to want a repeat performance.

      Or, what’s worse…you share your blog with people you do know in real life, yet it doesn’t seem to encourage them to want to ask you for that cup of coffee you’ve been dying to have with someone other than yourself over the past 5 years.

      I think about 4 or 5 people know about my blog. Not one of them comment, or call me up to ask me about anything I’ve written, or ask me to spend time with them. Well, one or two have made reference to my blog, but they still don’t seem to realize I’m hoping that they’d go out with me when I ask them to. I don’t hold it against, them…but at the same time, I’m fully aware of it.

      That did not do anything to make me feel worthy of someone’s friendship these past 5 years.

      But the writer friends…they more than understand the need to express themselves. They don’t simply allow themselves to write because they must, they give themselves permission to ENJOY the process of writing.

      Their writing isn’t just therapeutic, but it’s actually serving to bring them happiness. Writing for them isn’t a guilty pleasure, but something that brings them fulfillment.

      So, yeah…knowing who I am had to happen first, but finding there’s a space for me to be exactly who I am makes me so thrilled to have found a niche.

  2. Leah says:

    “I’m a social introvert (paradoxical, I know). I need people, even though I sometimes get too much and get exhausted by them.”

    It’s not paradoxical, it’s just an example of how people mostly aren’t 100% ‘either-or’ on many characteristics, despite the way some simpleminded people try to loudly insist that there are no shades of grey. 🙂

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Leah, I do believe some individuals do understand the qualities co-exist. Some of my readers will know exactly what I mean, and some won’t. I try to identify areas that appear to contradict themselves at first blush.

      I personally welcome shades of grey, and prefer to avoid absolutes if at all possible. Having said that now, there’s probably areas right on this blog that belies that statement.

      I reserve the right to be inconsistent. 😉

      Actually, I do try my best to be consistent though heaven knows what goes through my minds sometimes when I write. Sometimes I’ve written something that I swear sounds that was written by someone else (my alter-ego, perhaps?)

  3. doctorjohnsmith says:

    1. Those promises (“I’ll come and visit you”) are now completely meaningless to me, and it’s a shame really, because I would love to live in a world where those kinds of promises are honored. But each time I hear someone promise me they’ll keep in touch or come and visit, I gently remind them that I won’t hold my breath. Cumulative disappointment does that to you, unfortunately.

    2. As for what you experienced with your fellow writers, that’s also what I’m trying to do. Hook up with new people and forego the emotional entanglement. I try and have fun in the moment, and then I turn the page. If I see them again, great. If I don’t, I try to develop a life of my own so that I won’t miss them too much. Cumulative disappointment does that to you, unfortunately.

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Well…Dr. John,

      Hmmmm….”hook up” meaning casual sex, or has that been broadened to all friendships these days (I don’t want to misinterpret). While I’ve had plenty of sex in my day, casual sex wasn’t an option.

      I (somehow) used to elicit emotional entanglements from my relationships (friends/romantic partners). A friend once told me it was because I had a charismatic personality that puts everyone at ease.

      Now apparently my charm has worn off. Well…no, that’s not quite true. I haven’t changed….other people have.

      The thing is, I HAD been able to have decent friendships with people that let me . That’s what kills me now. From about 18 until about 34 (16 years!), I’ve had meaningful contact with people in real life. When I quit my job and had my third, it seems as if “out of sight/out of mind” was the way it was going to go. My old friends who knew and love me are too far away, and the new friends don’t know what to make of me. Or what they do know about me doesn’t interest them. Or both. Or they had children and now they don’t have time (understandable, but still sucks).

      That whole “develop a life of my own” did serve me well too when I knew what I should do with my time. Now it’s limited by my indecision, my boredom with what I’ve been doing, and having to develop a life around young kids. I’ll be better able to do that next year when I’ll have 6 hours to myself to actually do something/go somewhere, before having to pick up kids again.

      I get a whopping 1.5 hours three days a week ALL to myself right now during the day, and a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night. So much for developing outside interests, ya know?

      ****

      Anyway, thanks for letting me talk.

      If any of you are in the Chicago area…I would ABSOLUTELY love to show you around the city. There’s so many neat places to visit in and around there.

      • doctorjohnsmith says:

        I meant “hooking up” in the broadest sense possible, as in casual acquaintances. Hanging out with people who share a common interest. Things like that.

        I’ve only been to O’Hare… I’ll have to truly visit Chicago one day 🙂

      • raisingsmartgirls says:

        Yes, you must. I’ve got so many warm memories of sharing it with my old friends (when I had some). I love sharing my city with new friends.

  4. Krissy says:

    It is getting to the point where I am so bitter about people not caring about me that I am shunning people to start with. It’s not healthy, but I have to wonder if it is a little more healthy than allowing myself to be stomped on by the people who don’t give a shit.

    People kind of suck.

  5. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Yes, Krissy…I get understand that feeling. I go through those bitter moments too.

    Then I blog, and get some nice comments, and think, hey…at least SOMEBODY doesn’t think I’m invisible.

    I do say have to say I don’t get stomped on too much lately (the last two times have been when I came to my girls’ defenses).

    The sad thing about this is that I have 3 sisters and a mother within 20 minutes of me. Even they don’t have time for me anymore (though with what they are capable of when they are mad at me, it’s just as well they don’t come around much). I am enjoying my Tuesday dates with Grandma when I go and visit her. She seems to enjoy having me over. We are both lonely, so it works out well.

    But yeah, there are times just in the past month where I thought I was starting to turn into an eccentric old lady (I’m not old, I’m only 39).

    I try to banish bitter thoughts because feeling bitter only would serve to make me a bitchy person and the world has enough of those types of people.

  6. Melody says:

    I have been reading your blog for quite some time, but don’t tend to comment since I read my blogs on my phone and the forms don’t want to cooperate. I live about 45 minutes from the city (NW Indiana). Maybe we could have coffee sometime. I’m a mom as well with 7 kids currently though birth, fostering, and adoption. I really enjoy your blog!

  7. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Melody, Thanks for reading and for offering to go for a cup of coffee with me.

    I’ll send you an email and we can set something up.

    🙂

  8. Jen says:

    “social introvert”. Yes. I feel the same way most of the time. 🙂

    I really related to your saying you felt a disconnect with those people around you. I feel that off and on even now. I wonder if the problem is with me — do I feel too deeply? Do I care too much? Am I wrapped up in something they care nothing for? Are my passions too eccentric for them? Blah blah blah…

    I do not feel that disconnect with my sisters (with whom I have wonderful loving relationships) or with my husband and daughter.

    I have a hard time keeping good girlfriends; there is always that sense of disconnect. Am I sharing too much? Do I not share enough? Do I not gossip? Do I expect too much? blah blah blah…

    I am not making light of this. I am merely posting what is in my brain.

  9. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Thank you for your thoughts Jen.

    I know the feelings you speak of. I sometimes wonder the same thing. I am not sure how to resolve it. I enjoy my internet friendships, and blogging a lot, and it does help. I find some interesting people this way. I wish there were a way to make my internet friends closer though.

    My passions are just…different. Not terribly eccentric, but not typical either.

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