Monday, April 23, 2012

"Thank you!" (part 1)

Oh, and by the way, what am I thanking you for again?

The title and first line sound way more Mean Girls than intended. Let me explain.

Actually, before I explain, let me pre-explain that I have some social anxieties. Oh, and by "some" I mean a lot. This exacerbates any already awkward social circumstance into a VERY awkward situation (at least inside my own head and body - my friends and colleagues claim that I come off "as cool as a cucumber," but inside I am absolutely gut-wrenching, armpit-sweat-drenching terrified).

When posed with meeting new people, especially new people that are not total strangers - so for example, friends of friends, extended family members (my own or others'), distant colleagues, etc. - I turn petrified. It is not even logical how inexplicably scared I am of meeting people and being around large (or sometimes smaller is way worse) groups of people.  For example, let's use this past weekend.

My lady's great Aunt was having her 100th birthday celebration - pretty incredible, right? As a result, there was a weekend full of celebrations for all the family that came into town. Now, this was her great Aunt, so it was not the family that I have spent the last four years getting to know and slowly but surely getting comfortable around. This was a whole different carton of milk that was untouched and unopened - there was only one of her dad's brothers coming who I had ever met before. On Friday night there was gathering at one of her grandson's houses which I did not attend... Not because I didn't want to be supportive and celebrate this momentous occasion, but because I was terrified to:
1) go to a stranger's house;
2) be put in the social situation of being introduced to likely 20-30+ people I had never met;
3) be the "lady friend" of my partner in this particular extended family setting;
4) have to "mingle" with everyone with no real agenda for an undecided amount of time ("mingling" and no end time really frighten me);
5) it is difficult to list out everything that contributes to this feeling of petrification, but I'll try to describe the feeling:
This is my MS Paint interpretation
of how I feel/felt. If only I knew
where the priceless picture
of me on the gondola is.
Imagine riding up a gondola in the stunning Canadian Rockies with your best friend's family as a 16 year old while it is heavily snowing. You have never skied down a mountain, or really even a large hill before. The one time you tried skiing down a (very) small hill you took a traumatic fall and have never skied again since. 10 years later, you as you ride the gondola to a destination you cannot even see from your seat, you turn a corner and can no longer see the parking lot or bottom of the mountain... you only see massive, jagged, and only partially snow-covered mountain peaks around you and the ground is thousands of feet below. You realize you are going to have to get down the mountain somehow, and likely down one of those massive and death-inviting slopes you are facing. 

That, my friend, is how I feel leading up to situation where I will be meeting new people, mingling with new people, or in charge of successfully leading a group of people.


I sound like a real box of cracker jacks at this point, don't I? Well, I want to be fair and be sure to communicate that I am fully aware of the fact that this makes me a little crazy and my thinking is totally illogical. None of the four reasons above were anything that would have actually been all that bad and I would have survived and probably really enjoyed myself. I always end up having a great time and nothing is ever as bad or as scary and uncomfortable as I think it will be. That never seems to make up for the sick-to-my-stomach feeling I get before going into a situation like that, however. Time and time (and time) again I still get the same anxiety. You see, I care way to much about how I am perceived externally and making the right decisions about what I say and do (it doesn't take a head doctor to figure that out, but he sure does help).

You know, talking through this makes me very confident in my initial decision to turn down the job where I would have been facilitating groups of people every single night, full-time (I'm sure it also helps that I know also have secured another job, but still). Dodged a bullet there, eh?

I think this might be a great place for some sort of explanation of the title of this post. However, I have already gone on for quite sometime about this whole social anxiety issue.I think this post might be better used to explain why I am hell bent on having a "small" wedding. I mean, I think the moral of this becomes quite clear when you think about everything I have just described... if I have anyone at my wedding that I am not totally comfortable around and have met at least once, if not several times before, I will be a mess.

Now, you might say, "but you just said that once the anticipation stage is over and you are in-the-moment your are fine and enjoy yourself!" True. However, maybe I need to explain what me being the "petrification stage" is like for those around me, most namely, my lady and love of my life...

In general, I am really difficult to live with. I am very OCD and have to have a lot of things perfect. I have been known to break down if someone fails to use a coaster (only to her, never to company - I know I am crazy and would never project that onto a guest, I get that it is illogical and unnecessary). So, in this "petrification stage" the volume on this behavior gets amplified by about a hundred bazillion (or more). Since usually I am in this stage in the car, as we drive to wherever this experience is going to take place, I start picking at her there... "Blinker, much?"     "Why did you turn this way?"         "I can't believe you didn't check your blind spot, obviously you want us to get hit."      "Why did you turn the radio down, don't you like that song? It's my favorite."       "Do we really need to drive this slow?"     "Looking for a ticket? ...Well, I just don't get why else you would go 15 mph over the speed limit." (Some of these did, indeed, come out of my mouth on the way to the birthday dinner on Saturday evening)

"I'm the Bride that's why *******!"
... I think you get the point. Those are just the quick examples. It's unbearable, and that's just the surface. To my credit, there is usually a point where I realize I am being absolutely ridiculous and may even be able to force a laugh, but not always. Sometimes that doesn't happen until post-event when the anxiety has finally exited my body (or a nice glass of wine or beer never hurts) and I can reflect and see how immensely ludicrous I get.

Three cheers for therapy, right friends?

So, again, moral here is that no one wants me to be like that the days and hours leading up to my wedding. That means no distant third cousins or long lost grade-school friends. Combine this post with the "our wedding shall be small" post and you likely have all the rationale necessary for the size and contents of my guest list (and if not, my lady's picture here can provide the remaining rationale).

Moral or no moral,  I still have shed absolutely no light on the "thank you" title and initial rude-sounding commentary above, given this huge tangent on why I want I small guest list due to anxiety. What a cliff-hanger!

I'll explain another day. It too, is related to both getting married and social anxiety, as you may have been able to piece together (ooh, foreshadowing).

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