Friday, November 12, 2010

"My first language was shy"*

Day 11: Something you never get compliments on

I'm a little confused about this topic - I wonder if it's supposed to be something that I am so bad at that nobody would ever compliment me on it (in which case, it would be a gigantically long list), or something that I think I am good at but don't feel I get enough credit for.

I'm going to take the less-easy route here, and go with my second option.

I feel like I do not get enough credit - or hardly ever get complimented on - my ability to get past my natural shyness and actually say words.

If you say you are a blogger, people automatically think that means you're not shy: You're putting yourself - or your words, or your product - out for the public to see, so shyness must not apply. Certainly a blogger cannot be timid. But, oh, how timid I really feel, and oh, how much the term "shy" applies to me.

I have, in point of fact, been told that I am not actually shy - although why other people should think they're a better judge of how I feel about interacting with outsiders than I do, I can't imagine. If I talk about my anxiety level in dealing with groups of people, or the fact that if I were going to a party I would prepare little conversations in my head so that I could have something to say if someone dared to talk to me, it has always been received with surprise: "But you're not shy!" they say "You talk to everybody/ You're always doing something/ You always give your opinion on anything we're talking about!"

Right - That's partially true. I do go out of my way to do those things, to make myself open my mouth, but my natural inclination? The reason I always find a task to do or a specific person to latch on to? Is because otherwise I would be almost frozen with fear that nobody would even notice I am there. Or because I would be so scared that I would be stuck on the periphery of whatever is going on and that someone might notice me. And they might ask me a question to which I have no answer.

Here, on my (mostly) anonymous own blog page, words come pretty easily to me: I say what I want to say, hold back very little, and only occasionally find myself worried about the reaction to what I say might be. Even so, I have to consciously make the decision to get over an almost stupefying fear every time I sit here and open up that post screen.

That I am able to do so is - I think - mostly because of the very small audience I actually have. My considerate and loyal readers are awesome, no doubt. But, let's not fool ourselves, there are so few of you that I can not be intimidated by what your reaction will be to what I type. If we disagree, there will be no attacking mob - you and I will figure it out, I doubt there will be any marching off in huffs. In the rare instances that there have been commenters who really disagreed with what I was saying (like one comment on a long ago post about disability rights where I mentioned that having pets was essentially you telling me that I was not welcome at your house, and the pet owning-commenter vehemently disagreed that this was rude or inconsiderate in anyway), it has stuck in my mind and I have considered it again and again.

Here in our own tiny world, I also tend to forget that what I say isn't really a secret between us, but something that ANYBODY can see: I absolutely have to forget this when I am writing (did not even want to type the words right now), or else I would immediately be forced (by my fear of ... IDK being seen, or not being seen or something!) to shut down the site. When, for example, the comic book world suddenly started to come peeking in on what I had written about Oracle, I was both flattered and horribly frightened... You mean people can SEE ME???

It made me really consider what the hell I was doing, putting all my thoughts out here for all the world to read like that. Someone might think I was ... wrong. Or stupid. Or they might... gasp.. get clued in on the fact that I don't know everything in the entire world! This could be disastrous!!!

But I swallowed back my anxiety, and I took some time (ok, a lot longer than I would have liked, but I ain't perfect) to realize that putting myself out here in public like this is not going to be the end of the world - I have been doing it for five years now, and some people actually like the real me, so isn't it worth it to take the chance and keep clickety clacking all these little words and posts out?

In real life, my shyness/social anxiety/ awkwardness is even worse: There are no first drafts! There's no walking away if you've made an error (like forgetting somebody's name)! There's no "I will just read this, and then click away if I am uncomfortable or if people are being rude or if it is overwhelming"!

In other words, the real world, with all it's reality, is horrible for shy people.
Or, at the very least, for this shy person.

And it's not just because I am so physically different than everybody else in the room, because I know that I was shy even before I got sick, but it's so much worse now, because I can not melt into the background in a chair that makes as much noise as a team of horses, or when I have to ask extra questions about what we're eating (so that it doesn't make me sick) or when I have to excuse myself from the room because your perfume is making me nauseous: None of those things enable me to be discreet and low-key! And now people are looking at me, and Holy Crap that girl is totally going to talk to me, why isn't there a corner I can hide in!

I sometimes think that getting sick (or having a disability) and being shy are just not compatible, because there's so much extra work you have to do if you have a disability. So much more attention that you don't have a choice about receiving.

But, it's also one of the things that helps me overcome my shyness - finding the disability blogosphere is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done, and one of the places I feel most comfortable, and most willing to participate in group experiences (blog carnivals - who would have ever imagined?) And presenting my thesis on disability and children's literature in front of a group of my peers (gah!) led me to leading teacher's workshops about disability in classrooms and helped me to feel like I knew what I was talking about and that I had a valid perspective that deserved to be listened to.

But the shyness is still there, the anxiety is ever present anytime I leave the house or open up a blank page. (I think the only time I am not shy is with kids: Hello, Kindergarten teacher much?) I fill up silences with words, in the hopes that other people won't notice I'm so uncomfortable I want to run away. I do battle with the verbal bullies of my family at gatherings, baiting them and then stepping away, because I know they're full of hot air, and that if people are paying attention to them, then they are not paying attention to me. I seek out the rooms where the kids are playing, and designate myself as in charge. I find a corner and park myself in it, and then hope against hope that somebody will care enough to wander over, and that, when they do, I'll be able to participate without showing the bashfulness that might overtake me at anytime.

So it may be that my shyness hiding skills are so advanced that people don't notice them (I'm a shyness ninja!), but that's something I don't get a lot of compliments on, beating back that almost constant inclination to just sit and not say a word, because what if that makes somebody look at me, holy crap! and actually put myself - in words or in physical space - out there.

And it's damn hard, I'll tell you that.

*Al Pacino

Day 01 Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 Something you hope you never have to do.

Day 07 Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

Day 11 Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

1 comment:

Dawn said...

You know, I really, really, really do get it.

Sometimes the realization that if I go to a conference with other bloggers that they can SEE me and can read things I have written, or maybe HAVE read things I have written or worse even maybe try to approach me with KNOWLEDGE about my blog(s) and tell me they are "fans"...

Ack. It is enough to send me to live in a cave. Or at least re-consider turning down that last Ativan script.

I've called it being the extroverted introvert. But it comes at a terribly high cost at times. The exhaustion afterwards can be almost not worth it.