I’ve been told by several people that I am a relatively calm, organised person and to a certain extent they are right. I try to remain calm and I certainly try to make my life easier by being organised. Unfortunately this means to any time I allow my inner panic to show, it’s not taken seriously. Truth is… I am not a calm person. I just internalise a lot, partly because I don’t like people asking me too many questions, partly because I feel the people around me have enough problems on their own, without me adding to them. Frankly, if people could hear my internal monologue (dialogue/full scale argument) at times, they’d be sure to back away…real fast. I like to blame the fact that I was born slap-bang in the heart of summer for my temper. Everything comes to boil faster when it’s hot.
It used not to bother me that people would assume I’m the accommodating one, the “mother” of any group I find myself in. I mean, I don’t mind taking care of people and I certainly enjoy the adrenalin rush of trying to coordinate multiple things at the same time. (Pre-performance and backstage work were the parts I enjoyed most when I was on my school’s theatre group.) Lately, however, I find my goodwill rapidly diminishing and what little patience I had is following swiftly. I’m so tired all the time. It’s not physical tiredness, it’s more of that soul-crashing sensation of knowing you can’t expect more from someone and yet hoping to be pleasantly surprised. And the worst part is that I know it’s all in my head.
I’ve always had trouble reading people in real life (not in stories, which is why I tend to prefer the company of a book). I make assumptions about motives and opinions and I struggle to combine my perception of a person (and the inevitable expectations that come along) with who they actually are, or at least who they perceive themselves to be. For a very long time I simply did not make the effort, after all what’s the point of getting to know people when you know for a fact that after a few years you will not see them again. (Schoolyard friendships, my left foot…) Sadly as I grew older I discovered that people can be as intriguing as books (and that came as quite the shock, let me tell you). I tried and still try to figure them out. The results are mixed at best. I’m stubborn though, so I hope eventually I’ll manage it.
So what do I do in the meantime? Especially on the days when the effort is just too much? I’ve tried different things, from long (loooooong) solitary walks to forcing myself to stay around people in a social setting and I think I may have managed to find a middle ground: I take whichever book I’m reading at the time, walk to town and sit in a cafe. That way I can be around people and get the human contact I need and at the same time I don’t actually have to pretend anything. I’ll just get a tea or a mocha or whatever tickles my fancy (which requires a mercifully small amount of words being spoken), sit back and read/people watch for a few hours. You should try it. It’s amazing how much it clears the head to take a step back and look at any given situation from the outside.
Oh the terror! Oh the stress!
Oh the indescribable tragedy!
There was a mishap in the invites,
Now the guests are early.
The food’s not done,
I am not dressed,
The place is still a mess!
I’m going to kill him,
He had ONE job,
Somehow he botched it.
Time to bring the bottles out,
Hope this will distract them.
Where did my other shoe go?
Is that the doorbell again?
Being a hostess is such fun.
Tiring and panicky, but fun.
It’s only once a year anyhow,
I can handle that!
Merry Christmas everyone!
When I was little my school used to drag us to church before Christmas (probably in the vain hope that we’d be enlightened and therefore more serious in class). The priest there had this annoying habit of preaching the exact same sermon Every. Freaking. Year. The subject? That X-mas is an entirely inappropriate word and we should use the full version when referring to Christmas. Never mind that most people I know only use X-mas as shorthand in shopping lists… I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately (what with vising the parents and so), so I’m going to write not for X-mas but for the inevitable, obnoxious, seasonal requirement of gracefully receiving kisses.
I don’t mind physical attention. I’m as cuddly as a cat in fact. But having to trade hugs and kisses (even the social, kiss-the-air kind) with people I only see once or twice a year and maybe I’m not even that fond of, then Huston, we have a problem. I understand behind the action, I accept it as a social obligation, but it still makes me want to crawl away and hit the alcohol. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, but come on! You wouldn’t hug someone on first meeting! Seeing someone only in the context of a Christmas dinner is a bit like that. Seven kinds of awkward.
Maybe I’m being hyper-sensitive because I’m visiting the family for the holidays and after a semester of Skype talks it takes some getting used to. Never mind all-nighters in the library, this is emotionally exhausting. Part of me is glad to be out of England and not having to care about keeping together a house and a degree at the same time. Another part of me is half-way done with her escape plan. If you have a large family you know the feeling. It’s not what’s spoken that’s the problem. It’s the unspoken expectations…
….This turned pretty gloomy for a Christmas Eve post. I hope you have more fun than I do this festive season.
Visitations are a seasonal requirement,
Inevitable like a runny nose before a cold.
Sounds like not much excitement,
In fact it is a most awkward tradition to uphold.
The crux of the matter is you can’t avoid it.
Or else you might just not get to
Realising that you missed your family a bit.
So don’t be a Grinch, they also missed you.
And it’s neither the scent of my favourite candle nor a flesh-consuming virus. Actually I’m not quite sure WHAT it is. So, like the good scholar I pretend to be upon occasion, I will try to write myself to a conclusion.
Therefore, first things first! What are the symptoms? So far they include an even shorter temper that usual, exhaustion, tension in my back, all-around bad mood and insane chocolate cravings. And before you ask it, no, I am not pregnant. I am however very tired of feeling like I’ve boarded the proverbial roller coaster and forgot to get off. And besides…. hold on… Oh, damn! Yup, I know what the issues is here. Ladies and gentlemen I have managed to make exactly the same, soul-sucking mistake for the second time exactly ten years after my first monumental stupidity. I have forced myself to be social. No, I am neither a hermit nor an absolute misanthrope. I have simply always found the company of the written word much less stressful and infinitely more attractive. What happened ten years ago was that I changed schools just as I was beginning to go through puberty. Yeah, you know what they say: Never make life-altering decisions whilst under the influence of mind-altering substances. Never mind if these are secreted by your own brain. So in her unquestionable wisdom 12-year-old me decided that a new school (tabula rasa and all) called for a new attitude towards humanity in general. (And it is at this point that every single little voice that ever rented space in my head felt the need for a collective facepalm.) But I tried. Like, earnestly tried to be more social, to navigate that horrifying setting that is middle school. The end result can be summed up in a few poignant words: I don’t want to remember 95% of those four years. I’m not exaggerating or being over-dramatic. That couple of years when I was eleven and twelve especially I would happily ignore in any flashback-inducing activity. Mercifully I realised what I was doing to myself and went back to my semi-lone wolf ways. And gods, I loved it!
And then uni came. And with it came tabula rasa round two. (On a side note, wouldn’t that be a wicked title for a crime film?) Only this time around I thought I knew better. For nearly three years I was fairly convinced (some might say deluded) that in terms of social obligations I did not exceed my -admittedly- limited skills. Yeah, this pretty much sums it up. The truly obnoxious thing about bad habits is that they sneak up on you just when you thought you’d escaped them. And this is how I find myself now, saddled with way too many social obligations which I am unable to drop because…well… I hate it when people say that’ll do something and then drop out the last second. Honestly, a large part of this unloading has had to do with background stressing over other things (about which I will be probably ranting at some point in the near future…) but it has also got me thinking. It’s not like I’ve been forced into any of the situations I find myself in. I was aware of what I was doing when I signed up for all these different groups and societies and what have you. I don’t even have the puberty excuse anymore or that of inexperience either.
So what is it? I am self-aware enough to know that being around people for more than a few hours (or days, depending how comfortable with/close to them I am) is just not good. I try to be optimistic about life in general but I know what will happen if I exceed my social interaction limits. It’s not pretty and it might even been damaging in the long term. I’d rather avoid becoming the neurotic one at any given setting. There’s more than enough drama queens to go around without me adding to the GSA (Global Stupidity Average). Maybe part of me is still that hopeful 12-year-old that wants to believe things will be different next time. And who knows, maybe they will be. Unfortunately this is here and now and things are not different yet. So, I suppose, until little-me’s wish comes true, I’ll just have to do what I do best: grit my teeth and bear it with what little social grace and understanding I have.