When you realize things are feeling better
I was sitting on the back porch this morning, around 10 am. There’s no morning sun back there so it’s not usually hot by then, but it was the scorcher they predicted for L.A. today. I wasn’t outside really – half in, half out, like usual – my butt on the cold kitchen floor and my feet on the warm wood outside.
I thought I was alone out there. I usually am that time of day. But I glanced to my left and saw that my neighbor’s boyfriend was sitting on their back porch, too, immersed in something I couldn’t see but imagined was a newspaper even though I know it was probably his phone.
I felt the panic I usually do when I realize there is the possibility I will have to talk to a neighbor.
He didn’t see me see him, so I looked away, took a sip of my tea, and buried my nose back in my notebook.
Then I saw the neighbor to my right step onto her back porch. She too immersed herself in something I couldn’t see but what sounded like watering plants. Again, she didn’t see me see her and, in fact, I moved my head a few inches to the right to be sure there was no chance of making eye contact.
So far this doesn’t sound much like “feeling better,” but I’m getting to that. Now, in fact.
For an instant, it felt good.
There we all were, out on our back porches, doing our own thing. Together, but not.
High off this realization, I even went so far as to look back to my left where my neighbor’s boyfriend was sitting, knowing full-well the risk I was taking. And there it was, the risk realized: Our eyes met.
He waved and I waved back.
“How are you,” he asked.
“Good, and you?” I replied.
“Just taking in the weather,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, “it’s like a different climate back here compared to the front.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said.
“Have you been out front today?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “and I turned right around and came back inside.”
There may have been one more exchange, and I kind of hope there was because that sounds like a weird way to wrap up our conversation. But the thing of it is, it didn’t feel weird at all. Whatever happened in that blur of a conversation wrap-up, it felt right. We may have shared a laugh, come to think of it.
Depending on how closely you follow the blog, you may know I normally go out of my way to avoid the neighbors. My social anxiety just won’t let me get to know them better.
That makes today’s experience, brief as it was, feel like a triumph. One, because I didn’t run away. And two, because I didn’t feel like I had to fake my way through it; I just felt like myself.
I’m reminded of a video clip I saw yesterday on Oprah’s SuperSoul.tv. She was talking to Father Richard Rohr about getting to the essence of your true self:
“The true self can’t be offended,” he said. “There’s nothing to offend.”
Not that there was anything offensive about the conversation with my neighbor I just described. But the reason I usually avoid such things is my fear of the offensive. I’m usually on it, I mean. Thinking I need to protect myself from pretty much everyone, as they could hurt me at any and every turn.
I hope I can keep that in mind for a big social event I have scheduled for August. As I write in Odd Woman Out at the BlogHer Conference:
“I want to go. And I want to have gone. I just wish I could skip the in-between – actually being there.”
If you have trouble with social anxiety, I hope the positive affirmation I wind up with at the end of that piece is a helpful one. It has been for me. And, in fact, it’s what inspired Row With the Flow of the River, a guided meditation I recorded yesterday and my longest one yet, coming in at a full 9 minutes.
That pretty much catches things up.
As always, thanks for reading and please reach out any time you want to share a thought, ask a question, or just say hello.
Let’s have a good week,