Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Clarifying My Thoughts on Human Interaction - Perhaps I'm Less Awful Than I Sometimes Seem

In describing my thoughts recently, before going to a writers' workshop, I may have seemed unfriendly. Part of what I said was exaggeration. I did not sit under a chair or table at the workshop I attended on Saturday. (But I don't frown upon anyone who did; that's a personal choice.) And I didn't mean to suggest that there weren't a lot of lovely people at that workshop.  Every person who was in that room has a story, fears, hopes, accomplishments and a unique take on the world. It would be interesting to hear them all. What I mean when I am going to a workshop and want to be left alone and that, in an ideal world, I would be invisible, is that I'm tired and, while I have the energy to sit in a room and take in information, I don't have the energy required to socialize with the people there. Socializing requires effort on my part. It's worth the effort but sometimes I don't have the necessary energy to expend.

For me, there are two broad categories of social interaction. There is the interaction with people whom I don't know well, if at all, and that with people with whom I have established a connection and can really connect. Each presents its owns challenges. Both can be very life-enriching.

Talking with people I don't know requires me to dance around in unfamiliar territory as I try to uncover the person with whom I am conversing and see if I can connect with them. I guess that is how we initially interact with many people in our lives, however close to them we later become. We only interact with some people for a few moments but those times can be meaningful. I remember chance encounters with people and brief discussions that have touched me. I recall speaking with an elderly gentleman at a bus stop downtown when I I was very worried about something (although he didn't know of my concerns) and ind words at the gym when the words of another person had hurt me. I hope that there are people who have been helped by my words whether they remember them or me or the occasion or not. And while these interactions show there can always be merit in connecting with people, it doesn't change fact that sometimes I have the energy available for interaction and sometimes I don't. And because invisibility is not an option and cruelly ignoring people when afforded the opportunity to speak with them is not what I want to do, I can feel at times reluctant to be near new people at all.

The other communication setting in which I engage is with people I know reasonably well and with whom I feel comfortable. I love conversation with one or a few friends. When in a setting with people daring to offer bits of themselves, their souls, as they attempt to connect with me and with others, I feel fully alive. While I love writing and love connecting with people words in various ways, I treasure the time I have spent with people in conversation over the years. The conversations of true connection that I value most, however, also require energy for me. Wherever we are and whomever we sit across from or stand near or try to comfort on a couch, there are distractions - in our heads, in our coffee shops in our workplaces and coming from all our electronic devices. To focus on one person and their words, their feelings behind them is, in my opinion, essential to true relationship. It requires effort and we cannot be passive to engage in it properly.

So, if I say things that suggest that I hate interacting with people and perhaps even hate most other people, I am not explaining things well at all. Conversation always requires some effort on my part. Sometimes I don't feel up to the challenge of expending it. Some days I feel like shutting off and not trying to engage or connect with others. I hope that's ok and I never mean to offend anyone. I need to simply be with and pay attention to my thoughts sometimes. Perhaps we all do.