Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Cautious Dancer

I am shy and withdrawn.

I am gregarious and outgoing.

I walk up to complete strangers and compliment them on their hair, chat about children and the weather, laugh and smile and talk about fun things.

At parties, I hide in the corner and hope no one will notice me (except maybe one good friend who will hide and chat with me).

I speak my mind.

I hold my tongue.

I am very direct when I think something needs be addressed.

I try to be tactful.

I am a very private person, but I don't like to keep secrets.

My life is a complicated dance, but one where few understand the steps.  I've only recently begun to work out for myself what they are.  Here's what usually happens when I'm trying to make friends:

I meet someone.  He or she is awesome and fun, probably loves books, might be passionate about book-to-movie transitions.  He goes for miles-long walks late at night.  She dresses up in funny clothes and leaves cookies on the doorsteps of friends.  I think to myself, I like this person, and I want to spend lots of time with him or her.

And then there's the Information Blurt:  I say something that makes the other person profoundly uncomfortable, and suddenly they are gone and I am kicking myself for saying too much again.  The funny thing is, it's often nice things that make them so uncomfortable.  Maybe it's because when I give compliments, I do so seriously.  Oh, I can give flippant (though sincere) compliments about clothes and hair, but when I really like an aspect of someone's personality, I like to make sure they know.  What if they've never been told how special they are?  What if no one has ever recognized their kindness to children?

I like things to be logical.  I like things to be orderly and precise.  Those who know me will find this hilarious, since my house is a Clutter Zone and organization is not my forte.  I think it's because I have too much stuff.  I would love to have a set number of possessions, everything numbered and accounted for; a place for everything, and everything in its place.  I don't like needing to find places for new things.

The point is, with any relationship I like to have clearly defined lines.  I am 37% invested in our friendship.  I will invite you to barbeques that you probably won't attend, maybe go see a movie if I ever have the time, and send you a Christmas card if I have your address, but don't expect me to call.  How invested are you in this friendship?

I would honestly love it if relationships worked this way.  I don't want to invest my time and heart in people who aren't equally invested in me.  Unfortunately, most people would probably find it offensive if I stated my 10% interest factor and asked for theirs.  Instead, I blurt and retreat--sometimes literally.  I try to state exactly what my feelings are ("You are a great friend, and I want to hang out with you every day and read books and giggle at strange things, and by the way you're gorgeous and I love your hair") and then emotionally retreat to prepare myself for the inevitable creeped-out running away.

It's the Dance of Friendship, done cautiously and heedlessly, leaping forward with abandon before sidestepping to avoid the knives of rejection.  My hand is stretched out, but tentatively and awkwardly, so if it's rejected I can pretend I only had it out for balance.  Sometimes the other person will reach out and take my hand and we'll take a few cautious steps together.  I usually remain cautious, even while dancing; only with a very few do I lose myself in the steps.

It feels like most would rather run.

Sometimes I spew information and then immediately regret it.  No, this person is too precious to risk losing.  Shut up, shut up, shut UP!  That's when I fall all over myself apologizing.  Sometimes I am forgiven; sometimes not.  The dance begins again, with greater trepidation.

So now here I am, reaching out while panicking inside.  Will you accept me, with all my quirks and oddities?  Will you accept sincerity while understanding that my aloofness is my armor?  Can you accept that I will blunder again and again, make horrible mistakes and try to amend them, and then blunder again?  Are you willing to lift me up when I'm feeling wretched about my behavior, put a cup of tea in my hand, and tell me to try again?  Are you willing to let me do the same for you?

Will you dance with me?