Reason #539 Why I Try to Avoid Interacting with People

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an introvert/socially anxious/awkward/shy/a hermit and generally dislike other people and all the things that go along with interacting with them.

I put this all aside last weekend when I decided that hubby and I should go to the movies to celebrate our 15 year date-iversary. Since we’re movie snobs, we only go to the AMC Dine-In theater with the recliners and full menu of food and alcoholic drinks. Apparently everyone else in the tri-state area had the same idea and all of the movies that I wanted to see were either sold out or only had single seats left. I then did something even more out of character and bought tickets to The Wolf of Wall Street at the theater we had never been to before, in a city we weren’t familiar with. Cue the anxiety.

The seats weren’t the big fancy recliners, and there was no table on a swinging arm, but the menu was the same and the chairs were comfy enough. The seats were grouped in fours, so being extremely anti-social and borderline rude, I bought two seats in the middle of a group of four. I figured the chances of anyone buying the two single seats on the ends was slim to none so we would get to watch the movie in semi-privacy.

We got there, settled into our seats and buzzed our waitress. She didn’t even greet us or tell us her name. In fact, she said no words to us at all when she arrived. She just stood there looking at us with her pen to her little waitress pad, as if we had disturbed her from something much more pressing than our need for fried food and sugary drinks.

Just as the previews were starting a young couple walked over and was looking at the seat numbers. The guy then asked us if we would move over so that they could sit together. I grumbled and gave him a bit of the stink-eye while hubby and I briefly consulted each other about whether or not we would move for them, and then we picked up our stuff and shifted to the left. Now, I know that it was not nice of me to buy those particular seats, but I also find it somewhat unacceptable that they bought the end seats knowing that they would just ask whomever was sitting in the middle to move. Then the guy had the nerve to say to us, “It’s not like one seat makes that much of a difference anyway.” Well, no, I suppose it doesn’t, but when there is reserved seating and someone pays for specific seats, then yes it does make a difference. Especially when that someone is me and now I have to sit next to you, Douchey Guy with a Ginormous Phone and Therefore Ginormous and Unbelievably Bright Screen. He felt the need to pull it out every few minutes for the next three hours to check who knows what, gallantly turning it away from his girlfriend’s face right into my eyes.

Towards the end of the movie, our waitress brought the bills over. I paid with my credit card, Douchey Guy paid with cash. They got their receipt, we got nothing. A few minutes later the waitress came back and told DG that he paid with cash. He acknowledged this. She told him that she mistakenly gave him a credit card and asked where it was. He feigned ignorance and my blood started to boil because I knew immediately that he had my credit card. She explained to him in the simplest of terms that if he paid with cash then he would not receive a credit card in return, and just as she was about to start drawing him pictures to illustrate this point, he pulled my credit card out of his pocket and gave it back to her.

Now, I wasn’t upset at the waitress. Things happen. People make mistakes. BUT. How could someone knowingly take a credit card that doesn’t belong to them and put it away in their pocket?! There is no reason for this, other than he was going to steal it, right? The only reasons we didn’t say anything to him were (1) he seemed high as a freakin’ kite and was also at least a little drunk, so there was a good chance he didn’t have a clue what was going on, and (2) have you watched the news? People are unstable and I didn’t want to end up a headline.

I got my card back and all is right in my world, but I think I’ve learned my lesson and will not be venturing out again in the near future.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Except it doesn’t feel like Christmas. At all. And it’s not for lack of trying, let me assure you. Our halls are decked, our stockings are hung, and we trimmed the heck out of our tree last night.

I used to be that completely over-the-top Christmas person, thanks in no small part to my mother and her infectious Christmas spirit. In high school, I would wear my red and white striped knee high socks with my uniform, wrap garland around my bun, and if my nails weren’t airbrushed with Christmas trees, then they were at least painted alternating red and green. With sparkles. My room was decorated with a miniature tree, garland was wrapped around my banister, and carols blasted from my stereo as soon as they started playing on the radio stations.

It wasn’t really the presents that made me excited (although they certainly didn’t hurt either), but it was the overall feeling of Christmas and the holiday season that got me going. The pretty sparkling lights, the happy music, the build-up to a day of food and fun with the family. What’s not to like?

Then my mom died.

I didn’t put up a tree that year or decorate at all. Hubby went to the store and bought pretty much the entire Christmas department at Target to try and cheer me up, but I made him put it all away because I couldn’t bear to look at it. We had Christmas morning at my dad’s like normal, except that we kept having to take breaks to bawl our eyes out or blow our noses.

My mom used to start preparing for Christmas months in advance. So when she died in mid-November, she had already bought several of our presents. The rest were delivered over the next few weeks, which was incredibly disconcerting to us to be receiving packages from her after she was gone. We put the unopened parcels in the dining room and finally opened them on Christmas morning. There was a package of tea for me, an Ireland shot glass for we’re-not-sure-who, and a charm bracelet full of Irish symbols for me. It was both traumatizing and comforting to be able to open presents from her even though she wasn’t there. We thought that was the end of it.

The following year, a package was delivered to the house addressed to her. It was two Irish ornaments: one for her and one for me, that she had bought in advance. We got two more last year. Also last year, my dad gave me a bunch of her Lenox decorations, one of which was a gingerbread house that we had never seen before. I opened it up and it’s personalized with my and hubby’s names on it. It was a gift she never got to give us. I imagine she was waiting until we bought a house, so it was fitting that we discovered it on our first Christmas in our house.

I don’t want to become the Grinch. I am desperately clinging onto whatever little Christmas spirit I can muster, for myself and for her. I know she would be devastated to see me so sad and struggling to find joy.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for days, and I just read a post over at Robin’s Chicks that completely sums up what I am feeling in much better words than I could formulate. It made me realize that I’m not alone in my feelings and that it’s not just the motherless (fatherless, sisterless, etc.) that struggle through the holidays.

Stressful Saturday

When I get stressed out, it usually manifests itself in at least one of three ways:

1. Hunger
We went to Trader Joe’s last night to pick up “a few” things. That turned into $103.00 worth of meatballs, frozen meals, cookies, wine, and… wait for it… COOKIE & COCOA SWIRL. My friend Cyndi has been raving about Cookie Butter for weeks, so I checked it out while I was there. There is a sign on the shelf advising there is a 5 jar maximum per customer in order to allow everyone to enjoy it. Wow. I was thisclose to buying some, but then I saw the jar next to it which taunted me with claims of cookies AND chocolate together in one harmonious jar of wonderful. How could I pass that up? So, this happened:

photo2

 

The jar tells me to put it on pancakes or waffles or sandwiches, but that sucker is getting eaten with a spoon straight out of the jar. It’s seriously GOOD, you guys. Go get some.

Despite the fact that I’ve been eating as much of whatever I want, whenever I want, I weighed in this week for the first time in about a month and I have only gained one pound. I’m back to tracking every single bite using MFP and I’m trying to get on the elliptical as much as possible. My big problem at the moment is eating things that I can’t track–like General Tso’s Shrimp from our local Chinese food place, or the veggie club sandwich from Houlihan’s. I need to stick to things that have labels.

2. Rage
Well, I feel like this post alone sums up my ragey issues lately.

3. Physical Pain
It’s the slow season at work. This means that my day is spent mostly doing a lot of data entry and system updates, which requires pretty much the exact same movements ALL. DAY. LONG. Ctrl+V, click, save. And repeat. Not only are my eyes suffering from staring at the computer screen all day, but I’ve felt it in my back and shoulders as well. Couple that with my mom’s recent anniversary, the upcoming holidays, and my general cheery disposition (please note the sarcasm), and I end up with frozen muscles in my back, neck, and shoulders. I woke up at 4:30 this morning unable to turn my head or move any part of my body really, without intense burning pain. I somehow hobbled downstairs to the couch and managed to turn the heating pad on and I waited for the pain to subside. It didn’t. I dozed on and off for the next several hours, wincing and on the verge of tears any time I needed to shift my position. I woke up hubby and had him massage my shoulder, but that didn’t help. I sat with the heating pad again for a few hours, took a hot shower, downed some Tylenol, and even worked out thinking that maybe the blood flow and movement would relax my muscles. I ended up having to drive to the pharmacy for the big guns:

photo

 

On a brighter note, one of my Christmas gifts arrived yesterday. I didn’t want to open it, but hubby made me just to make sure everything was OK with it. I may have squealed in delight when I saw it:

photo3

A signed first-edition copy of Someone Else’s Love Story by my favorite author. I don’t know why I didn’t start buying these earlier, but I’ll definitely be buying all of her books this way from now on!

 

Quieting the Inner Critic

So, I’ve slowly allowed myself to entertain the idea of pursuing a career in writing. I still don’t know how exactly I am going to do this, but I’m trying. When I started this blog several years ago, it was because I wanted to write. I thought this was the easiest way to try it. If no one read it, oh well. If someone left me a nasty comment, I could delete it.

I just entered week three of an online creative writing course and so far it’s going… OK. It’s got me writing, so I suppose it’s a success so far. I’m having a lot of trouble silencing my inner critic, though. I’m hyper-critical of myself (although I suppose we’re all like that) and although I have ideas, I have a hard time putting them down on paper (keyboard?) even if I’m the only one reading them. Each lesson has a writing exercise that we can either keep private or share with the group — the group of 100+ people, I might add — and then there is an assignment that we’re supposed to post for everyone to read.

I find myself reading through the entire lesson first and thinking ALL day about how I can make my exercises “perfect,” even though I know I won’t post them for anyone to read. Then I go over the assignment in my head until it’s “perfect” before I let anyone read my work. Then I compulsively reload the page a million times to see if I’ve received any comments. I check back constantly to see if anyone has given me any feedback. I automatically assume that my post will be at the bottom of the page because everyone else is better and has elicited more praise for their writing. I compare my work to theirs, chastising myself for writing what I did and not doing a better job. I find myself getting jealous of people I don’t even know, wishing I could write like them.

I do this with my blog as well (and pretty much everything else in my life…). I so desperately want this, to be a successful writer, but I can’t stop tearing myself down about it either. I have an idea for a novel, but I can’t bring myself to write down more than a couple scribbles in a notebook because what if it’s not any good? What if no one likes it? What if I write it and no one wants to publish it? I don’t know how to silence my inner critic and give myself the freedom to JUST WRITE without worrying what people will think or post in response. I know that writing is hard work and that most authors spend years upon years trying to get published. Logically, I understand this. Emotionally, I am struggling between wanting to try and not wanting to get hurt.

What It’s Like Being an Introvert

I’ve been called a lot of things over the years: quiet, shy, reserved, socially awkward, rude, a bitch, weird, anxious, anti-social. I’ve heard the cliche, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for!” so many times that I may actually punch the next person who says it to me right in the face. I get “You’re so quiet!” and “Why don’t you talk?” so much that it shouldn’t even bother me anymore. But it does.

I’ve been The Quiet Girl pretty much my entire life. I remember it really starting around age 7, which is when my family moved to the US from Canada. I don’t know if that’s what sparked my extreme self-consciousness, or if I was just destined to be this way, but that is the only event I can pinpoint that may have had something to do with it.

I’ve always preferred reading and being by myself to being around a lot of people. People make me anxious. I can handle one-on-one situations pretty well, but as soon as there are more people added to the mix I clam up and want to melt through the floor to escape. This poses a huge problem for me at work since I’m sometimes singled out in meetings. I react exactly the same way I have all my life: I turn beet red, I start to shake, my eye twitches, and I forget how to put sentences together. Sometimes I’ll even have a full-fledged panic attack, complete with pounding heart, ringing in my ears, and nervous sweat. I’m just the picture of professionalism.

One of my biggest fears in terms of social situations is speaking on the phone in front of other people. Even at home, I prefer to talk on the phone in private instead of in front of my husband, and I love and trust him. Talking on the phone at work is a HUGE source of anxiety for me. Every time the phone rings I say a quiet prayer begging God that the call is not for me. It’s one thing to just have to have a normal conversation, but Heaven forbid it be an angry client who is demanding answers or solutions to a problem. I hate to admit this, but there have been numerous times I’ve just NOT SAID ANYTHING in response to a client’s question hoping that they will get frustrated with me and hang up. And when I have to call people in other countries who don’t speak English as a first language? I will sometimes pretend that no one answered the phone or that they hung up on me, just so that I can send an email instead. I often “forget” to call people back, or I wait until everyone else is at lunch so I can make the call in semi-privacy. Today I had to call some clients and apologize for a mistake with their hotel. I purposely waited until a time that I thought they would be out to dinner just so that I could say I “tried” to reach them but couldn’t. Life would be so much easier if everyone would just communicate in writing instead of speaking.

People often misconstrue my quietness for rudeness. In reality, I just don’t want to make a fool out of myself so I keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. It also takes me time to process social situations, so I often won’t have an answer or an opinion until much later, after I’ve had time to think about the conversation. People have told me I’m stuck up or conceited, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not talking to you, not because I think I’m better than you, but because I sometimes think YOU’RE better than ME.

Honestly, I just find it exhausting having to be around people. It takes so much energy to socialize and try to appear somewhat normal. Small talk is excruciating for me.

I’m clearly in the wrong profession because I am definitely not a people person. However, finding a job that requires very little interaction with others and pays a decent amount of money is surprisingly hard to come by. I’ve begun submitting my résumé for more computer-focused positions and I’m thinking about taking an online writing class. I can’t think of a better situation than to be able to stay home and write all day AND get paid for it. The only thing better would be to read all day and get paid to write about books. How do I make this happen?