I wanted to stretch myself. I wanted to step outside of my tiny little comfort zone and bravely join a group of unknown women in a little house on a big ocean. The thought of it reminded me of movies I’ve seen: strangers thrust upon each other who arrive with problems, prickly personalities and different agendas but who, after a length of time, reach a state of conviviality (most of them) if not closeness and camaraderie. I pride myself on being myself and so I would take my self and expand with the insight and knowledge I would gain from this new group.
I realize now that myself comes with many defenses. I am like a packaged doll and its wardrobe…many exterior changes and some confusion about what to wear. I now admit that if I am ever myself, it is only with my closest friends and most accepting family.
After a few days with strangers I can see the long path ahead to selfdom. Who am I really? Am I the brash person I sometimes appeared to be? Do I keep much of myself to myself and throw out bits that may seem appropriate and don’t always come out that way? What impression am I giving when I give out pieces instead of the whole? I don’t really know. I know that at times I was so inarticulate that profanity filled the gaps. At times I understood what it must feel like to have Tourette Syndrome, to open my mouth with words unbidden and unwelcome. Just thinking and writing about this makes me reach for the chocolate chips.
We all know the dance. We sit quietly, observing, with a pleasant look of attention. We nod when appropriate, say “hmmm”, laugh politely and wait.
Or we become busy. We make a cup of tea, organize our area, or run in and out of the room for a jacket or a glass of water. We rummage in our purse, or work on a puzzle, once in a while looking up and acknowledging the conversation or inserting a comment…seeming involved but waiting.
And we sit in the midst of the group and begin a conversation with questions. We elicit responses and ask more questions. We are listening and watching and waiting.
The windows are expansive to the sea so we can spend time watching. We stand by the fireplace in an effort to warm up. We are all looking for the social clues to make us safe enough to share ourselves. We are not sure enough to know that who we are is acceptable.
I know who I want to be. I want to be the one woman in the group who didn’t seem to worry. She was happy with herself and all of those around her.
Let me be so easy. Let me nestle myself into a group and gaze around me, open and accepting to who and what is being offered. Let me laugh at myself when I don’t know the answers and enjoy the experiences of others. Let me talk about who I know, what I know and where I’ve been with pleasure and joy rather than a wish to impress and define myself. Let me listen with sympathy and empathy rather than judgment and lack of understanding to someone who has a different path than I.
I guess that isn’t myself. I aspire to that self.
I was there. I have re-read your letter 3 times. Once again I was in your skin. You have this great gift of writing in words what the rest of us are experiencing. Those 3 nights certainly gave us a lot of material to ponder. N.