I sit and stare at yet another Facebook event invite, and hem and haw over what to say as I hover between “yes,” and “maybe,” and settle on “maybe”… for now.
Parties and gatherings have always been a rather big source of stress and anxiety for me. As an introvert who struggles immensely with large gatherings and social situations, parties are way, way out of my comfort zone. Small talk makes me cringe, and I stumble and fumble over my words as if I’m just learning to talk for the first time. As if I don’t write with ease, able to find the perfect words on paper. To avoid it, I generally sit away from the crowd and wring my hands, further feeling like an outcast and wondering if people are looking at me and thinking I’m weird for not partaking in their conversations. For me, jumping into a conversation is as difficult as, say, lifting heavy weights or running a race. It is both physically and mentally draining for me.
For many, or for most, social situations and parties are fun and exciting. For me, they’re something to avoid at all costs, a “no” RSVP with a quick excuse, and then guilt and worry that they’ll stop inviting me. I want to be invited. I crave connection (I am a blogger, after all). I have a strong desire to fit in, to be part of your group, to not be left out… and yet.
Often, motherhood is overwhelming to me. A lot of that sense of overwhelm comes from all the NOISE NOISE NOISE (Grinch, anyone?). Caleb will be running and shrieking, with a show on in the background, and three toys bleeping and singing and I want to scream. I have mini panic attacks and stomp over, shutting off all the toys and muting the TV. Parties are just like this, but magnified – sensory overload. Combine that with the social anxiety and awkwardness and you have my perfect nightmare.
People who aren’t like me just don’t get it. They get mad that I’ve missed yet another birthday party. They think, “just get over it.” They think I don’t care (I do). They don’t understand the huge amount of effort it takes for me to talk myself into going, and then the larger amount of effort it takes to participate and pretend I’m not incredibly uncomfortable sitting around a room full of people who are engaged in conversation like it ain’t no thang. To me, it’s a THANG. It’s a thang, for sure.
I’ve always thought that there was something wrong with me, that I’m the one who is flawed, but maybe I’m not. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay that I want — no, NEED — my alone time. My quiet. My house. My bubble. Time to just be and sit in silence with my books and a lack of forced conversation. Mothering and working with the public all day, five days a week, is about all I can handle some days. By the end of most work days, I’ve reached that threshold of interaction I can handle before I’m ready to shut down.
So when you see me sitting at your party, alone in the corner, maybe scrolling my phone, maybe trying to fit in but not quite fitting… realize that this is me, trying. The fact that I’m there took a lot out of me, and I most likely did it for you – so I could be a good friend, a good relative, a good whatever I needed to be that day. Instead of wondering why I’m being “weird,” or anti-social, invite me, again. Invite me in. Invite me into your conversation. Ask me a question. Pull me over and out of my shell. Sometimes I just need a little pushing and pulling. And once you push and pull me enough, you’ll come to realize there is a huge personality underneath all that awkardness. In fact, those who know me well – a small and intimate group – often describe me as hilarious and witty. It may take a lot of effort to break down my walls, but I think it may be worth it.
To my friends and family, please don’t stop trying. Please don’t stop inviting me. I’ve found that I long to fit in, to be a part of whatever it is you’re doing or celebrating, it just takes me a little time and a lot of effort. Nearly always, I am glad that I decided to go when I do, it just takes a little coaxing on my end to get there.
But I AM getting there. One “yes” at a time.