NaBlogWriMo 4: Social Anexitee

(Yes, I know it is spelled wrong.)

I was chatting with a friend (via Facebook) about my propensity for standing in the corner by myself at our social gatherings. She wanted to know why I didn’t interact with the people around me more often.

“Not really my thing,” I wrote back. “Really, Lor is the rock star in the family,” I told her.

” I really don’t perceive that about you”, she said.

“No one becomes a writer because they love being ‘on stage'” was the only response I could think of.

“Touche,” she replied.

The Pathetic Life of the Rock and Roll Singer

The funny thing is, once upon a time, I was the “rock star” in the family. No, really. I was the lead vocalist (!) in a local cover band. For years we played the local bars and casinos. I soaked up comments about my “amazing” voice. Middle-aged women stuck twenty-dollar bills down my shirt and tried to kiss me. For most of a decade, I was a medium-sized fish in a very small pond. So…why the shift in my personality? What happened? Can my personality these days be blamed entirely on my broken brain?

Well, not really. See, here’s the secret – I’ve always suffered from social anxiety. Even when performing for dozens (and, in one notable case, thousands) of people. My wife and my former bandmates will happily regale you with tales of waiting for me to finish throwing up before every single gig for years. Once I was done puking, the show, as they say, could go on.

Even though I eventually got past my audience-fueled nauseau, I never really got any better. I had the coolest job in the world – fronting a rock and roll band. And I hated it. No, seriously. I didn’t hate the job itself, see. But, every night, I would find something to despise about our performance. My vocals were bad. The guitarist had flubbed a solo. The drummer was too loud. Our sound engineer had our PA set up all wrong.

I literally can’t remember a single performance where I came off stage and said: “Man, that was awesome!” I was still terrified of the audience and made sure I judged myself and my bandmates harshly before anyone else ever got a chance to.

It’s Quiet Here In The Corner

Today, I am really not much different. I am terrified that I am a horrible author. (What they call ‘Imposter’s Syndrome‘ in the writing business.) In social situations, I do my best to stay in the corner, to listen at least twice as much as I speak.  I am positive that I have nothing valuable to add to the conversation. After all, I know that no one is really interested in anything I have to say anyway.

I drive my friends and loved ones crazy. If you get a couple drinks in me, I suddenly become vivacious, witty, and humorous – I can be the life of the party. “Where,” my relations ask me, “are you hiding that person 99% of the time?”

In the corner. Over here. By the door. It’s quiet here in the corner.

I do my absolute best work one on one. For some reason, I am able to get past my neuroses when I am only dealing with a single person at a time. I find myself full of compassion, empathy, and insight.  I really feel like I am making a connection with the person I am speaking to.

Then you add a third person to the mix and it all goes to hell. I immediately retreat and try to listen to everyone else speak to one another. ‘Cause, you know, anxiety.

The Gamer’s Dilemma

So, why is this an issue worth addressing now, you might ask? After all, writing is a perfect outlet for someone like me, right? (And most of my fellow writers/introverts as well.) At the end of the day, I am really just telling myself stories, and writing them down. If I happen to share them with the world at large later, well, I don’t have to be there when they read them, right? (And you should have seen my melt-down when a good friend had me do a reading from Inheritance in front of maybe a dozen people. Hoo, boy.)

Here’s the problem: I happen to love other things beyond writing. And the main one is gaming.

Computer/console gaming is ok for me. Most of the time I simply remain in “Single Player Land.” No problem there, right?

But, as it happens, I am passionately interested in other kinds of gaming. Things like board games. Miniature-based games. Even Collectible Card Games. And those types of games require a very specific element…

Other people.

My brother (also an introvert) and I have begun discussing ways to jury-rig multiplayer games against one another. He lives a couple hundred miles away, so the logistics are challenging. Maybe leaving a game board set up somewhere 100% of the time then exchanging moves over the phone once a week. Or, possibly, doing miniatures-based games where we will take photos of the game boards and email them to one another, along with our “moves” for the turn.

All this to avoid doing something like heading down to our corner game stores and interacting with the groups of gamers already there. Or even (the horror) inviting other gamers into our homes to play, interacting with other human beings. Who might not like us or something.

The Pain Of Social Friction

Merriam-Webster defines “friction” quite simply as “the rubbing of one body against another.”

However, it then goes on to use the following example: “the friction of sandpaper on wood.”

So, really, friction isn’t about 2 bodies rubbing against one another. It is actually two bodies changing one another by their contact with one another. (Take a look at both the wood and the sandpaper after you’ve rubbed them together to get an idea what I am talking about.)

I think that social anxiety stems from a fear, not of coming into contact with other people, but a fear of being changed by our interactions with them.

What if these hypothetical gamers don’t like me? Will I be compelled to change who I am in order to be liked?

If I don’t change, does that mean that my interactions with other people are actually worthless? That I just glide across the surface of their lives, leaving no trace of myself and picking nothing up from them in return?

Heavy concepts to deal with just to manage to find some folks to play Warhammer or Munchkin with, right?

But they are important things to think about nonetheless. I personally can not interact with someone and be unchanged. And, am I willing to change, all in the name of a few hours of gaming?

So far, probably not. But I think the question is relevant for any interactions at all – whether at Tuesday night Canasta or around the Thanksgiving table. What are we willing to give up in order to socially interact? And what are we willing to accept in return?

We, as humans, are supposedly social above all else.

So why are there those of us, like me, who fear that social interchange more than we fear to be alone?

It bears some thinking about.

I’ll have to consider it right after I figure out how to play Settlers of Catan solo.

Catch you all tomorrow,

  • Jeremy

You Had One Job….

So, from the “distracted by real life and NaNoWriMo” file:

I forgot to press the Publish button.

No, really. It’s not like this is the first time this has happened, either.

So, for all those that were hovering around your Inbox on Monday, waiting for an update notice that never came, my sincere apologies.

This turned out to be a serendipitous mistake.  Yesterday  I was invited to write a guest blog post on the very subject I thought I had published on Monday. So, there is that. A repurposed blog post is still a valid one, right? (I will blast the link  out to social media as soon as the guest post is published.)

Also, in the “distractions” file: I found out that the seller we went through to sell Inheritance online was a clunker. Several hundred copies of the book were abandoned in shopping carts when potential buyers couldn’t complete their transactions.  I attempted to fix the damage, but then Providence intervened: my novel finally got published to ebook format on Amazon. And immediately started selling copies – top 500 in pretty much any subject involving the word “Vampire”.  Feel free to head to Amazon and pick up a copy for the handheld device of your choice. Heck, buy two copies. It’s only $5, after all.

And, we’ve had some changes in our household. We’ll bring you up to date on that for our pre-Thanksgiving episode on Monday. When I will NOT forget to press the “Publish” button. Honest. I’ll have Lor stand behind me with a baseball bat and everything.

Darn time change. And NaNoWriMo. Or maybe Real Life. And…

Excuses and Excuses,

Jeremy

 

The Valentine’s Day Hangover

The misery of those kept out of valentines day

Welcome to the day after Valentine’s Day. For many of us, it was a time to talk about hearts and flowers, right? To analyze “true love”, open up about feelings, and to share our innermost selves with the person closest to us.

Except, of course, things don’t always work out that way.

The Side We Never See

I could have written a long and truthful article yesterday talking about my relationship with Lor. But anyone who follows Misdirected already knows that we have a loving and successful relationship.

But, what about my friend that wants nothing more than a family, and can’t seem to create one due to societal pressure to be someone she is not?

What about the woman I know whose husband just left her a few months after her bariatric surgery, not able to deal with the concept of a transformed, confident woman in his life?

Was there any place on Valentine’s Day for the man I know who went through dramatic weight loss hoping to find a soulmate, only to discover that, on the inside, he is still a “fat man”? Unwilling or unable to believe that anyone could ever find him attractive, let alone love him?

Valentine’s Day (or V-Day, as we call it around here) can be the most miserable of all holidays.

Under Pressure

There may be no greater discomfort than being surrounded by friends, family and co-workers, all celebrating Valentine’s Day. There are flowers on desks. New expensive jewelry being displayed. Casual mentions of the romantic dinners taking place later that night. All of which leaves the single person to ask: what is wrong with me? Why am I somehow on the wrong side of this societal wall?

It applies a different pressure to those in troubled relationships. Why, they ask themselves, does everyone else seem so happy? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I make my love life work?

Our culture demands that a person be in love, and have a happy relationship. No provision is made for those who are alone, no exceptions allowed for those going through difficult times.

This despite the fact that half our marriages end in divorce.

The 50% Rule

What the heck does this have to do with obesity, you might be asking?

My observation is two-fold. First, we are expected to be young, slim, and beautiful as a society. Despite the fact that better than 50% of us are suffering from some form of obesity.

Secondly, obesity is, in and of itself, a stressor on relationships. Destructive lifestyle habits, poor self-esteem, and a sense of personal helplessness do not make for strong interpersonal relationships.

But, maybe worst of all is the sense that no one around us understands. The world expects us to be skinny. We are failing. The world expects us to be happily in love. We fail at that as well.

The world, it seems, is rejecting us at every turn. We do not possess the ability to meet society’s expectations for our body-image or our relationships. What the heck can we do?

Breaking the Contract

We need to learn to break up our unhealthy relationship. Our relationship with popular culture, that is.

Being obese is hard. Making a relationship work is hard. Doing both at the same time may seem to be impossible. The last thing we need on top of all that effort is to be allowing ourselves to worry about what everyone else thinks. Learning to love yourself first is the key to success in both successful relationships and body transformation.

Tell me, does paging through Cosmopolitan make you love yourself more? Maybe it is time to put the magazine down.

Does watching the television commercial telling you that the only way to demonstrate your love is a ring costing several thousand dollars make you feel secure? If not, change the channel.

You might have had a lovely Valentine’s Day yesterday, filled with love and flowers and romantic gestures. Good for you!

You might have spent the day yesterday in uneasy silence with your partner or spent it by yourself. Good for you, too!

We are all worthy of love. And the most important love is the love we need to have for ourselves. Indeed, all other love flows from that relationship.

My fondest wish for you today is that you learn to love yourself. Look in a mirror today and say “I deserve love.”

Keep on practicing until you mean it.

Much Love,

Jeremy