As difficult as it sounds, as worthy as it is
There are many people searching for this answer. Isolation is raising every day, and we don’t get enough reminders of how a very social animal the human being is.
I spent most of my life convinced I was the weird one in the group. Sometimes I was even told so. Then I began to think the problem was more significant, and I didn’t know how to relate with people. It was true in a sense, for I spent too much time worrying about what my interlocutor wanted me to be than wondering about what they were honestly thinking about. Many people do it as a protective mechanism. Which is fair, or at least, it’s inevitable for those who grew up in unsafe environments. But it comes a time when all of that, the past and the fears, don’t matter any more because it is your present that is really bothering you. You may realise you are surrounded by ugly-hearted people, or maybe, you fleed those and you find yourself in solitude, or evermore, you have been left alone. What is clear, you reach a moment in your life in which you want, or perhaps you need, to meet good people and build satisfactory relationships.
I am an introvert and I am damm good at meeting new people. I dread it, I suffer, but I am really charming. I usually go to some sort of event that interests me to ensure I meet people with who I can conversate about subjects I like. That way I also know they will find whatever I want to discuss interesting.
The beginning is always awkward. As I said, I am an introvert, so small talk is like a ticking boom in my hands, I can say something inappropriate anytime. But, knowing the topic at hand, I can easily slide down a conversation, maybe a few rough turns on the way, but usually people like getting there: to the main theme of the event.
I have about four hours of social battery. For the first two, the engine works nicely. I engage in making questions and answering with eloquence. The third is when the little orange light turns on, and you can tell there is rust in the gears. I begin to dissociate and lose track of the conversation. The last hour is hell. I often think it is hell for everybody there, but recently I discovered it is only for me. The rest is sitting there, talking to each other and observing how a ghost is floating on the corner couch.
And that is where the difficulty of creating new relationships begins. I get home feeling embarrassed for acting like a scarecrow on a windless day and I dwell on it until my chest starts burning. I emergency-meditate or curl up into a cacoon and put some plugs in my ears so I only hear the self-hatred and no other noise.
Because the difficulty of social life is not the first meeting, not even chitchat. The difficulty is turning up again and dealing with the (most of the time unexistent) embarrassment. It is challenging to bargain with our mental demons into having time off. They don’t want to leave us alone for too long.
Mental demons, they are jerks, but they saved our butts more times than we can count. They told us how to act, literally act, so we could please our parents, teachers or any other threatening adults, and survive throughout our childhood. The thing is, they just got too old and clumsy. Unfortunately, we cannot get totally rid of them, we can give them reduced time lapses so they think they are still useful to us, but we cannot allow them to run the show anymore. They are obsolete. If it wasn’t because they are tattooed on our lungs, we wouldn’t keep them so close to our hearts.
We agree we cannot let them go otherwise we would need a transplant, and I have seen actual transplants… It is not nice. So we are going to go with it and face the truth, we have to go out a second, a third and fourth time, and take them with us as though we have to take care of an irritating younger cousin for an evening. Don’t think about the great endeavour of creating admiration, you are already creating intimacy because you are showing yourself vulnerable. It is only this way we can begin to understand we can feel heavy, tired and uncomfortable, and still be there. Eventually, those moments in which you feel like shit but not judged, only observed in your own mess, become soothing like a warm foamy bath.
Sometimes we lie to ourselves thinking we have contact with others through the virtual world, but if there is no skin there is no contact. If there are no eyes there is contact. If we cannot potentially sense the heart and feromones of the other, there is no real contact. That is why it was so awful when hugging was forbidden during the pandemic, and I am saying that being one of those people who avoid hugging at all costs. Yeah, I was glad at first. But you know what, I am again lying to myself, because I actually like hugs, I am simply scared that I will be pinched again, or my hair will get pulled again, or whatever evil thing someone did to me in the past.
Every time I get a hug, a sincere one, my heart gets warm and I feel not loved, but deserving to be loved, which is the belief, I reckon, that maintains our self-esteem at good levels. Every time we refuse a well-intentioned hug from a safe person, or we do as though we don’t ever hug because we are tough people, we are telling ourselves we aren’t worth it.
Sure there are people who enjoy solitude. In point of fact, I do. Many people rather have their personal space well defined, and we should all respect that. We all like when people respect our boundaries. For that matter, it is that breach of limits that leads most of us to this juncture, to keep our distance from everybody, for we had no means to distinguish who was the nice and who the prick. But more often than not, the physical contact that has the healing potential I am talking about only gets offered, it never gets delivered without prior acknowledgement, because real love is thrown at the wind and catch eagerly by those who feel themselves worthy of it.
This is the way. One evening, you put your demons in a handbag, go out, meet someone that is comfortable with you being lame and awkward, be lame and awkward as long as you can, offer them a hug if you feel fancy, deliver that hug if it is welcome, and go back home to a warm bath of feelings waiting for you to be processed. You do that enough single evenings, and you have yourself a satisfactory social relationship.
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