I wasn’t sure where to start this series. I bounced back and forth between an introduction post that would tell you about myself & all of my personal struggles or the situation that inspired me to start the series to begin with. Ultimately, I have decided to start with the story of what happened the day I decided to write about it since, well, that’s kind of where this journey of self-help starts. We can jump right in. Let me set the stage.
I’ve been overworked(by babies) & under paid (in sleep, that is). I am currently trying to get my 8 month old to sleep more through the night, all the while, also getting him used to sharing a room with his 2 year old sister. I’m tired, my allergies are overwhelmingly bad, & I haven’t had a moment to myself in what feels like an eternity. I decide to go get a pedicure when I leave work. A pedicure is one of those things that I would love to treat myself to more often, but I feel awkward walking into a building full of ladies & announcing that I want my toes done for some reason, so I normally pass. However, on this day, I felt like I needed something. So, I ‘sucked it up’ & chose the nail salon that I wanted to try.
“A pedicure is one of those things that I would love to treat myself to more often, but I feel awkward walking into a building full of ladies & announcing that I want my toes done for some reason, so I normally pass. However, on this day, I felt like I needed something. So, I ‘sucked it up’ & chose the nail salon that I wanted to try.”
I walk in, shyly tell the lady what I want when she asks, pick my polish as instructed, & then almost shamefully stand around not knowing what to do for what felt like a few minutes. Finally, I decide to sit in the waiting area, only to be looked at strange and instructed to move to the pedicure chair that is being prepared. This may not have even struck anyone there as unusual, but I still felt unbearably stupid. I am literally two minutes into the salon & I am already so overwhelmed with anxiety that I could bury my head in sand & hold out picking it up for another day.
Then, as I look over to my designated chair, I see a familiar, smiling face. I see someone that I was actually pretty good friends with in high school (over 10 years ago, mind you). We hung out on the weekends & slept at each other’s houses. Our friendship did not end on a sour note. We simply grew apart. This is a moment that would probably be relieving or a pleasant surprise to normal people. What was it to me? Scary, to say the least. So, I fake a huge smile & throw her a ‘Hey girl!” while hoping for the best.
Sometimes I feel like seeing old friends is harder than talking to strangers, because there is a certain level of ‘friendliness’ or conversation that is usually expected. I feel unable to live up to that on most occasions. I cringe when I see someone that I know in public. Not because I don’t want to talk to them, but I know that I will probably fail horribly at it. In these moments I want to be social, but I’m overcome with doubt. This was most definitely one of those instances. Here I am, sitting in a chair right next to a former friend & I am so nervous and stupefied that I stumble trying to place my items down & feel like I have to make some excuse for my awkwardness, so I mumble, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been getting much sleep.” All the while I am starting to sweat & my throat is getting dry, because I’m becoming increasingly nervous thinking about what on Earth I’m going to say and/or do in this next hour or so of sitting next to someone that I should probably have zero issues talking to.
And so it begins. She is the epitome of friendly. She smiles sweetly & asks how I have been. She did everything right when it came to seeing an old buddy. Be that as it may, I was there to muck it up, no matter how hard I tried to do the opposite. First came the “how are you?” which I followed with a “tired”. Why couldn’t I have simply said, “Good, and you?” you ask? I’m still wondering that myself. After about 2-3 painful minutes of small talk, I could tell she was waiting for me to do my part in the conversation. Here’s the problem with that: I have no idea how to do my part anymore. It’s so simple to tell people to just relax or to try asking questions, because people like to talk about themselves. The hard part is actually attempting to relax or think of questions to ask someone when you literally feel like you’re drowning inside of your own brain.
Here we sit, silently, in the nail salon, right next to each other. There is a long silence and some gazing out of the window. Then, like the friendly person she is, she gives it another go by asking me if I have recently spoken to some of our mutual high school friends. This is another unfruitful attempt at conversation, because, not only have I not seen these people in almost a decade, I don’t see much of anyone these days. I don’t even have a back-up plan when it comes to talking about other people that we know. There is more silence. I am desperate to think of something to say. I am desperate to think of anything to say, so she doesn’t think that I am uninterested in her conversation.
I finally come up with a thought and undoubtedly, I start to doubt myself. Things run through my head, such as, “why would you ask that? That’s stupid” or “she’s going to think you’re weird.” I have a good 5 minute argument with myself about how stupid and/or pointless what I want to say is before recognizing my self-destructive attitude & forcing myself to say what I was thinking. Because, how will I ever find out how the conversation could turn out if I don’t even have the courage to talk? Uncertainly, I ask, “so what do y’all do for the holidays? Do you try to go see all of your families in one day or do you split it up somehow?” Yes, that was a best I had. I went for it. It worked, until she finished telling me what they do for the holidays. Then I was lost again. Though, I did gain some helpful insight for working around multiple families during the holidays.
For the next 30 minutes or so there were numerous awkward (at least it felt that way on my part) silences & multiple brief phone checks, & window gazes. She attempts conversation a couple more times, like I feel most confident people would, before finally throwing in the towel. Eventually the nail tech is done with her pedicure & she stands up to leave. I decide to put myself out there again and tell her goodbye. She didn’t actually reply or follow with a “nice seeing you” or anything, but I can’t say that I blame her. I mean, was it actually nice seeing me or did I just help her to experience one of the most painfully awkward pedicures she has sat through in her entire life? I’ll never know for sure, but my gut tells me it’s the latter.
I leave this pedicure with a million thoughts circling my brain. I’m proud of myself for actually opening my mouth & saying something I wanted to say even though I was feeling doubtful. In spite of my efforts, I think the experience was an overall failure. On the way home I think of all the things that I could have said or done, if I could have thought to say or do them. I do this often. I consider how many times in my life this has happened & I’m curious as to how or if I can make it stop. I ponder on how many people out there actually understand how this feels or how many people would never guess that I struggle with this. Tears begin to weld up in my eyes. I wonder how many people have a negative opinion of me based on an awkward meeting they have had with me, that they expected to go differently. I wonder if I can fix this. I wonder if I will ever have more courage around people? I am perplex. I cry. What kind of crazy self-hate is this?
And then I start to wonder if talking about it openly would help. Here we are.