I endured and survived another social event that was supposed to be fun. Key words – supposed to be. It was an outdoor picnic for members of the theatre group. I have never enjoyed parties or picnics and it seems that people plan them endlessly, because I assume, most other people do actually enjoy them. I hate get-togethers where the main purpose is just to get together. That means I am expected to participate in my most hated activity of all time – small talk. Chit-chat. Meaningless words meant to pass the time. Ugh.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy wasting time – I do. And I do that often. Not by talking though.
It’s not that I don’t like and care for the people I must talk to – I do. A lot.
It’s just that I don’t know how to hide the pain, boredom, disappointment on my face when they say the exact thing I expected them to say. Like a script. Or handle all of the input, or feelings I get from them that don’t match what they say. I go into system overload so quickly.
I love working with these people, painting scenery while the talking goes on around me, but not so much to me. But without a brush in my hand, and no project to protect me, I must endure the following conversation over and over and over and over.
“Hellooooo!” the women squeal this an octave too high. or “Heeeyyyy” From the men, acting cool. Then “How’s your summer going?” or “Aren’t you glad it didn’t rain today?” then “Are you working this summer? What do you do again?” then “How old are your kids now?” then “Pretty soon we’ll be getting ready for school again, where does the time go?”
So then I ask the same questions back, because when I bring up topics interesting to me, or ask what they think about something, I see instant discomfort. Like when I throw out ideas for helping our organization continue even though the director is retiring – no one wants to hear it, and has already given up. My ideas are “impossible” and besides, we’re here to have fun today. So then I give up too, and listen to endless stories full of endless details I don’t even try to remember of camping, potty training, vacations, house remodeling, employment or unemployment. Every few words I look away and make sure my kids are still alive – at least I have young kids and have that excuse to look away and roll my eyes. Then get to put on a smile as I hear another story of where Fluffy likes to nap, and which type of sunscreen they like, or where they purchased shoes on sale. My mind starts whispering, “I don’t care” at first.But as time goes one, my minds is screaming, “I DON’T EFFING CARE, SHUT UP, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT, SHUT UP SHUT UP ALREADY!” And it’s not like I’m in danger of missing something, I already heard them tell this same story 3 times near me to other people.
No one is authentic in these situations. The friend with MS is in obvious pain, and yet plasters on a smile and asks everyone how they are doing. Her fatigue and sadness pierce me like an arrow. One Mom talks about how overprotective she can be while her 2 year old floats unattended in the pool with a life jacket suit. Another mom invites my girl over for a sleepover, never been to her house before ever and she wants to start with a sleepover. She has 6 kids she can barely manage, her tween girl is in tears from her mother’s harsh words – I don’t think she needs another overnight. Another complains of money issues and caring for elderly parents.
In just an hour, I an overwhelmed by everyone’s feelings, bombarded with life details, on edge from watching unsupervised children and generally quite uncomfortable. Make it to the food table and realize everything has been sitting out there too long, and it either cold when it should be hot, warm when it should be cold, and visited by multiple winged and many-legged creatures. All of my practice being mindful, and living in the moment actually makes these moments worse, so I allow my mind to wander away to interesting places instead of wondering why no one else cares the food is lousy and no one thought to cover it or insulate it.
Endure it for a few more hours, and try to round up kids before the mosquitoes make an appearance. Fail. Kids are sad – they are having the times of their lives. Sigh. I want them to enjoy this. I love seeing them have fun, and that is the only part of the event that I do enjoy. We must stay a while longer yet, they have to have one more smore.
Hubby says “Don’t worry, it won’t be that bad” before we go. It was that bad. It always is that bad. And then – wait for it – you knew it was coming – I feel guilty for not enjoying it, and so I stuff my feelings later at home by overeating and staying up too late with dumb TV to erase all the useless facts I acquired throughout the party. I managed not to get pulled down too far into guilt this time, and I think avoided a shame attack, but I’m very grumpy.
Feeling like Sheldon again. I don’t understand why they enjoy sitting around and talking about nothing, and then moving to a new group of person and talking about that same nothing all over again. I pick up bits of everyone’s conversation involuntarily and realize they all have approved, non-confrontational, pleasant stories they share with these not so close friends. I like talking when it is new ideas, or leads to new ideas.
I’d so much rather read a book or be teaching/learning/doing something. OK, I’d pretty much prefer to do anything except mingle at parties. Even washing dishes or going to the dentist is more enjoyable to me, at least those have a purpose and an achievable goal in sight.
So, I wonder. Do I have a social disorder or do they? Or am I just a bitch? Why can’t I find enjoyment in these parties and picnics that others plan and look forward to? Is there any way to make them more tolerable and still be polite? I like who I am now, and no longer have a desperate need to “fit in” but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings either. I’d be perfectly content to sit by myself and listen to the wind blow the leaves, and distant happy kid sounds. I don’t get bored or desire to escape or pluck out my eyeballs when alone, only when they start talking to me.
(If you suggest alcohol, yes, well, these family events typically do not have alcohol served, because that just wouldn’t be right. I had 2 shots of whiskey before I left home to even make it there and survive it at all. (Hubby drove) Tipsy helps me stay centered and not get overwhelmed – I think it actually dulls my hyperactive senses. )