Questions to Get to Know Someone

I often have a hard time getting to know people. I’ve noticed that I tend to be very passive in my relationships with others. I am not great at coming up with good, open-ended questions to ask, nor am I forthcoming with my own personal information. For these reasons, I get along best with people who are very outgoing. The people that know me best are the ones that ask me a lot of questions. The people I know best are those that talk freely and openly about themselves, their likes/dislikes, their hopes and desires, their values, etc. Unless someone offers that information to me, I basically never find out. And if I’m not asked something directly, I don’t volunteer it.

I haven’t given this aspect of my social life much thought. However, now that I am dating someone who is extremely similar to me in values as well as behavior, I find myself in a strange spot. I desperately want to those conversations where you really get a good sense of who someone is at their core, but I don’t know how to initiate such conversations. Part of me is extremely frustrated by this. I want to pout or pull away from the relationship all together. But I’m tired of only doing what’s easy in a relationship. I think it’s time for me to be mature and put in the work. Besides it could be fun to learn how to get someone to open up as well as learn how to express my genuine self without waiting for others to pull it out of me.

So here is a list of questions I’ve been coming up with that will help me to discover the things I really want to know about someone:

  • How would you describe yourself to someone who’s never met you?
  • How do you think a friend would describe you to someone else?
  • How would you like for the world to see you/who do you aspire to be?
  • What about yourself (qualities, accomplishments, etc.) are you most proud of?
  • What are 5 values that are important to you?
  • What are 5 memories that you cherish?
  • In what ways do you think you have grown and changed since childhood/high school?
  • When you are upset how do you like to be comforted?
  • Who are three people (famous or otherwise) that you admire? Why?
  • What is one of your biggest regrets?
  • What is one experience in your childhood/youth that you believe impacted who you are as a person? How did it change you?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What qualities do you enjoy most in friends/partners?
  • What does your inner voice sound like? What are some common phrases you say to yourself?

These are just a few of the questions that I’d eventually like to ask my boyfriend so that I can get a better sense of who he really is. I may end up just giving him the full list one day and maybe we can both answer the questions for one another. Even if it feels gross and artificial at first, I want to make an effort to step outside of my comfort zone in my relationships this year. I’ve always been a curious person, but I’ve never had the confidence or skill to allow that curiosity to guide me when it comes to people. My natural inquisitive nature is stifled by my social anxiety. I know with practice, though, I will overcome that and hopefully discover even more things that will bring me closer to the people in my life.

6 Polite Ways to End a Conversation | Southern Living

Christmas Shopping Anxiety

I just returned home from yet another bout of Christmas shopping after my yoga class. It seems like I do this every year, but never learn my lesson. I start my Christmas shopping early to make sure that I don’t have to rush around at the last minute. I make a list, I get all the items on said list, but then, I continue to buy things randomly for the rest of the weeks leading up to Christmas. It has become something like a compulsion. I can’t stop myself. I am in a continuous state of oscillation between feeling like I didn’t get everyone enough stuff and feeling like I got them too much stuff.

For the majority of the year, I am the cheapest person you’ll ever meet. I very rarely buy any one item that’s more than $10. I spend the vast majority of my money on groceries every week. I don’t go out to restaurants or movies or shows. I don’t buy myself clothes or jewelry. Hell I even procrastinate going to the dentist because I don’t want to pay my new copay. I pretty much solely shop in the clearance section of any store. I honestly can’t remember the time I bought something for myself at full price. Yet when Christmas comes around I become blind to the amount of money I am spending.

The money thing is more just something I find intriguing. I’m not worried about the money. I have plenty to spend and I much prefer spending money on other people than myself. The bigger problem is my fear of what other people will think about how much I’ve spent on them. You see, I like to at least get something little for everyone in my life. I want to get my two closest friends at work gifts even though I didn’t pick either of them for our secret Santa, I want to get my boyfriend’s parents something, I want to get my friend’s husband something, my sister’s boyfriend and his daughter something, etc. I never think much of doing so, until I realize that they may feel bad for not getting me anything, or feel like they are expected to get me a gift the following year.

It seems like no matter which way I go, more gifts or less, I feel like I am going to make people uncomfortable. I think my anxiety/autism has a lot to do with my difficulties during the holidays. I’m an extremely affectionate person. Yet I honestly doubt most people in my life know that about me. Normally, I am too self-conscious or afraid of being vulnerable to express it. Christmas is the one time of year that I have a socially acceptable way to show the people in my life how much they mean to me. I spend a lot of time and thought on the gifts I get, trying to make sure it’s something the person will like and actually use. I write vomit inducing, heartfelt Christmas cards. I get much more excited to give to others on Christmas than to receive anything myself. Honestly, I don’t care about the latter part at all.

However, being the socially awkward person that I am, I have no way to gauge what is enough and what is too much. I don’t know how to find the balance between expressing my love and going so over the top that the other person feels guilty. I just hope that the people in my life understand that it is truly a joy for me to have an opportunity to give them tokens of my affection. It doesn’t matter to me if they didn’t get me as many things or spend as much money or even get me anything at all. In my mind these gifts have already been reciprocated in kind by their presence in my life the rest of the year.

7 Reasons To Start Your Holiday Shopping Early - Romantic Homes

Using Curiosity to Combat Fear

Social anxiety disorder: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

I’ve struggled with social anxiety for the majority of my life. The only time I can remember interacting with other people without hesitation or fear was when I was a very young child. It used to be so easy to go up to another child that I didn’t know at all and become friends with them in a matter of minutes. I miss those simpler times. The longer I’ve lived, the harder it has become for me to make new friends.

The last few years as a social worker have really inspired me to try harder when interacting with others. I see the way that my coworkers are so easily able to make meaningful connections to the clients we meet everyday. I’ve tried my best to mirror their social behaviors and improve my own ability to connect, but it always feels somewhat gross and fake. It’s impossible to make a real connection with another person when you are wearing a mask. Even when they don’t know you, there is a different energy that I think we are all able to pick up on whether we consciously realize it or not.

I used to make excuses to myself about why it wasn’t even worth my time to put in the effort to bond with new people. I had convinced myself that the vast majority of people just aren’t worth getting to know. Everyone is an idiot with nothing interesting to say. At least that’s what I used to believe. However, after meeting so many shockingly amazing people in the last few years, that conviction has all but eroded. Now I am happy to say that I truly believe their are still wonderful people out there for me to meet. The issue now is, how do I learn to put myself out there and keep my heart open to that possibility each time I meet someone new?

One thing I have been trying to work on is focusing on curiosity instead of fear. One of the most anxiety provoking parts of my job each day is sitting with the child while my coworkers discuss the next steps with the parent. I am always extremely nervous any time I am alone with someone I’m not close to, let alone a child that has just disclosed horrific abuse of some kind. Even though my time one of one with the children has always ended up going well, often resulting in a swell of admiration and tenderness toward them, I still can’t manage to placate my fears for each new case.

I’ve noticed that when I am faced with these types of situations, my initial instinct is to shut down. All I want to do is run out the clock or avoid the encounter entirely. I also struggle to avoid prattling on about myself instead of getting to know the person I’m talking to. I guess I find it easier to talk about myself because it’s always easier to talk about what you know. And what do we know better than ourselves and our own experiences? I think this is also a subconscious attempt to control the conversation and avoid being taken off guard. When asking questions, you can never predict where the conversation may lead. One of the hallmarks of social anxiety is attempting to plan out a conversation before it happens. Obviously this never works. It just makes you less able to immerse yourself in the natural flow of conversation.

I’m working on letting go of my need to control the situation and open myself up to discovering what/who is in front of me. I would consider myself a very curious person. I am always wondering about the way others think and see the world, what interests them and why, what their goals are, etc. However, my fear easily overpowers that natural curiosity under the pressure of meeting new people, especially in a work setting. It’s always been hard for me to toe the line between authenticity and professionalism. But I’m hoping if I can keep guiding my attention back to that curiosity inside of me, eventually it will become easier to overcome my fear so that I may learn more about the person I’m talking to.

I want to practice shifting my focus from myself, my fears, worries, what this person may be thinking about me, etc. I’d rather focus on the other person and finding out who they are. I’m sure that with enough experience I can teach myself that there is nothing to fear. Sure, maybe it will be an uncomfortable conversation, but it may also be a lovely, enjoyable interaction. Based on anecdotal evidence, I’d have to say the latter is even more likely. Either way, I am going to keep trying. This world is filled with so many fascinating people with minds as mysterious and unique as my own. I can’t wait to meet them. That is going to be my mantra from now on when we have a new family coming in: I can’t wait to meet them! I wonder who they will be.

A Look at Social Anxiety Disorder | Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health

Two Faced

I haven’t heard this term used as much as I did when I was in high school, so in case you haven’t heard it before, I’ll explain what it means. Someone who is “two-faced” acts differently depending on who they’re around, more or less. This is usually seen as more than the normal differences we all show depending on the context we’re in. It has a negative connotation. You are friendly to someone, then talk badly about them behind their back.

For me this never made much sense. I would rather someone who didn’t like me, still be nice to me in general. They’re free to say whatever they want when I’m not around. Doesn’t hurt me if I can’t hear it. It always seemed more considerate to me to air your grievances out of earshot. Why hurt someone unnecessarily when you’re venting? We all need to complain about one another now and then, even when we generally get along.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this morning. I went to my company’s other office earlier to help out. As usual, once I’m back in my office, I regret the things I said there. It’s not that it was anything particularly harsh or cruel. I just have some small points of irritation with a coworker at my office. Don’t get me wrong, I love this man. He’s incredible and I even think of him as a father figure sometimes. His small bothersome qualities are far outweighed by his amazing ones. However, it’s still nice to vent sometimes to people who understand. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I still feel guilty. I’m horrified to think that he would find out about and feel hurt by anything that I may have said. That certainly was never my intention.

Another aspect to this is my tendency to people please. If other people are complaining about someone, I’m apt to join in with whatever my issues with that person are. However, I would rarely ever care enough about these things to address them with the actual person. I hate confrontation, and I will happily go along with the way someone likes to do things even if I find it tedious or tiresome. I’m too afraid to do anything besides agree with whoever I’m speaking with at the time.

This people-pleasing, anxiety ridden nature of mine is usually my excuse when faced with these types of situations. Yet I worry that’s just a copout. I can’t just cry, “anxiety” whenever I do things that aren’t socially acceptable. Am I just trying to avoid being held accountable for my actions? Is this the way other “two-faced” people feel on the inside? Or do they actually have malicious intentions? Does it even matter when all others see are the actions we take? Then again, maybe I’m just over analyzing as usual.

ArtStation - Two Faced, Deniz Aygün

Vegans & Parties

This weekend I went to two different summer parties with the people I work with. One was with my coworkers from the Child Advocacy Center and one was with my yoga studio friends. It used to be a bigger deal to go out to restaurants and parties and other social events when I was first finding me vegan footing. Now I don’t really give it a second thought. I’m used to either ordering a garden salad or bringing my own party favors when I go out. What I did find interesting was the distinctly different experiences I had at these two parties this weekend.

Since I began working at my new job, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how accepting and considerate of my veganism my coworkers have been. Despite the popular trope that vegans “love to tell you they’re vegan” I actually usually keep it hidden from new people I meet for as long as I can. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or anything. Talking about it just usually ends up turning into an invitation for all the age old vegan questions. “Where do you get your protein? What do you eat? Can you eat eggs? Do you eat fish?” Etc. etc. It’s quite exhausting. I quickly got tired of dispelling common myths and teaching everyone I met about my diet. But when my friends at work found out, they didn’t seem shocked and horrified like most people. They were great. They were respectful and a lot of them even told me how great it was that I was vegan.

At my work party, I came with a bag of food to eat and share, assuming I wouldn’t have much available there. It was a fondue party after all. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. There were two giants vegan dishes (pasta salad & a quinoa dish) as well as hummus. All were labeled very clearly too! It honestly nearly brought tears to my eyes. I had never felt so respected and well taken care of at a party before. (Plus I made chocolate chip cookies that everyone ate up immediately, not even noticing they were vegan.)

Now I must have gotten a little cocky after that party on Saturday. I didn’t really expect my veganism to even come up at the annual studio picnic I went to yesterday. I’ve known these people for years now and I thought we’d gotten past the question and answer stage. Unfortunately it was immediately brought up when I offered tabouli to everyone. To be fair I guess that’s not an ideal dish to offer since not many people even know what it is. I only know because I’m Greek and my grandmother used to make it, not because I’m vegan. Anyway, I digress, it seemed like quite a bit of my time there was just spend explaining veganism and nutrition to everyone. I got all the classics. “Where do you get your protein?” That one always kills me. I also had people acting upset that the impossible burger wasn’t “healthy.” Well yea, neither is a regular burger. It’s a junk food replacement, not a health food. Someone even told me, “It’s great being vegan works for your body. I don’t think it would work for my body.” What the hell does that even mean? Haven’t heard that excuse before.

I was so disappointed that my fellow yogis were the ones that made me spend my time at this party lecturing and justifying my lifestyle. They all seemed to be much more defensive than my work friends. It’s interesting to observe the way different people react to my veganism. It says a lot about a person. What I’ve seemed to notice is that the more in line with vegan principles someone already is, the more threatened they seem to be by me. Not always, but a lot. Ahimsa or non-harming is one of the main principles of a yogic lifestyle. Of course that can be interpreted different ways by different people, but obviously veganism is the way I interpret it. I think veganism is quite threatening to some people. They hear you saying you’re better than them even when you’re not. They feel attacked and become hostile towards you. It’s a visceral reaction brought on by the cognitive dissonance within their own minds. They see the value in veganism and know that it aligns with their beliefs, yet they aren’t ready to give up their current habits. The discomfort that creates is then a problem that the vegan catalyst is blamed for subconsciously.

Whatever you opinions of veganism are, I just want to point out that it’s not polite to put a vegan on the spot with endless questions, especially at a party. I went there to have fun, not to answer questions that are quite frankly boring and irritating to me at this point. I used to think that it was a great opportunity to educate people and even though I didn’t really enjoy doing so, I tried my best to answer everything adequately. After being vegan for nearly a decade now and hearing the same questions from the same people again and again, I see it a bit differently. I don’t think most people really care what your answers are. They are just asking questions to make conversation. If they truly had any interest in the answers to those questions, they could have just googled it and gotten a much more comprehensive and helpful explanation.

One of the questions I always get is: “what do you miss most?” They are expecting it to be a “food.” But honestly I miss fitting in better, being able to blend into the crowd. The social ostracizing it the hardest part. It’s practically the only difficulty that still has stayed with me after all these years as a vegan.

24 garden party ideas to transform your backyard for celebrations | Real  Homes

People Pleasing

Stop People Pleasing! A People Pleaser Self-Love Intervention

Whether I like someone or not, it’s really important that they like me. I have an overwhelming desire to be liked by anyone and everyone I encounter. Even if I hate someone, I will be devastated if they hate me back. I really have no idea why I care. For the most part, I don’t like people anyway. Why does it matter so much to me whether or not I’m liked? Perhaps it has something to do with anxiety and my fear of confrontation. It does seem safer to be friends with everyone in that regard.

Today I’d rather talk about the problem with people pleasing in general rather than my own pathology. People pleasers like me try to become whoever they believe the other person would like them to be. Sounds simple enough. But how can any of us really know what someone else wants? We may spend years cramming ourselves into a false persona when the person we are doing it for would have preferred who we really are. Or maybe they secretly find us extremely annoying, but mask their true feelings out of politeness. No matter how hard you try or how “good” you become at winning people over, you can never really be sure of what someone else wants. Knowing this, your best bet is always to just be yourself. You’ll never be able to make everyone happy. But if you remain true to who you are, at the end of the day you’ll at least have your integrity.

Otherwise what happens when you are in a room full of people? Whose needs do you cater to? You may find that the person you are with friend X is someone that friend Y would utterly despise. Then what are you supposed to do? I suppose in that situation I choose the persona that fits more closely with who I really am. Any backlash from the other party is buffered by knowing that I have the friend I prefer there to have my back. Yet you always run the risk of being found out as “fake.”

That term always interests me. What does it really mean to be fake? I always hold true to my main beliefs no matter who I’m talking to. We all have slightly different versions of ourselves that we present for different situations or occasions. At what point does it become fake though? We all have to be a little fake in order to conform to societies standards.

The biggest issue my people pleasing has caused me is when it comes to my work. Social work is not a great field for people pleasers like me. No matter how atrocious the parents or clients I deal with are, I desperately want them to like me. I once brought cigarettes to an old man I worked with while he was in the hospital, because I was afraid he’d be mad at me if I didn’t. I really struggled the other day not to agree with this mom who was outraged that she got in legal trouble for giving her 10 year old daughter a tattoo! These types of situations are incredibly hard for me to navigate.

As someone who is probably on the autistic spectrum, I learn most of my interpersonal skills from direct observation. I think the only reason I’m as good at blending in as I am is because I watched so much TV growing up. It may not be the best reference for real life situations, but it does give you a good idea of how to talk to people in a wide variety of scenarios. I am always eager to observe someone else in a situation that I would have no idea how to respond to. Luckily I’ve gotten the chance to watch our therapist at the office for the last few years and learn from her. I would love to be a fly on the wall of her therapy sessions and meetings with the parents so that I could absorb even more.

At the end of the day, however, no one is going to be liked by everyone. No matter how good of a communicator you are. Eventually we all have to accept that we just aren’t going to get along with some people. Rather than continuing to practice the best ways to be liked and accepted by others, I’d like to spend some time finding out how to like and accept myself. Maybe ultimately that is what makes a people pleaser, someone who needs external reassurance in order to feel okay with themselves. Unfortunately any positive feedback rings hollow when you’re simply playing a role.

About people-pleasers and how to stop being one – Miss Lovage

Relearning Vulnerability

I’ve always struggled with letting my guard down around people. There are very few people in my life that are given the chance to see the real me. I’m only able to open up on this blog because none of the people I know if real life even know it exists. I suppose even if they did though, it would be easier to tell them these things behind the veil of words and screens than upfront and personal. For as long as I can remember, there has always been this small voice deep in my heart that tells me I must hide myself away. It warns me that I mustn’t reveal my true, full self to anyone. That no one would be able to accept, let alone love, the real me.

There have only been a couple of people in my life that I felt really saw me and chose to love me anyway. There is nothing more precious to me than the relationship I have with these people. They are my world. I am humbled by their love. Most days I don’t feel worthy of it. They have seen all the ugliest parts of me throughout the years and yet they are still willing to stand by my side, to be there for me. It seems impossible, but it’s true. And there is nothing that they could do that would change my powerful love for them. I’m sure they feel the same, although my mind doesn’t want to believe it.

Secrets separate. Secrets create space. I’ve noticed throughout my life that the more secrets I keep from people, the lonelier I feel. Sometimes it feels like I am playing a character when I interact with others. But the longer I play that character, the more certain I feel that my true self would be unacceptable to show. I even fear people seeing through my facade. I have always been so brutal towards myself. Always telling myself I am not enough, that my many flaws disqualify me from love. But life and love aren’t so black and white.

There are few things in life as beautiful and meaningful as bearing your soul to someone and receiving in return their unwavering, unflinching love. The mere concept is almost enough to bring me to tears. Yet at the same time, there is nothing more painful than bearing your soul and having it rejected. Few things are able to cut so deep, to leave such jagged scars. Such is the duality of life. We must always take big risks if we hope to have the chance for big rewards. I know I’ve once again reached that fork in the road where I must choose to take that risk.

Even though I have decided to trade vulnerability for intimacy, I’m honestly not sure how anymore. It has become second nature for me to cut and edit myself to be more pleasing to others, especially those I admire and respect. The idea of “being myself” seems utterly foreign to me now. I’ve isolated myself to black and white. The shade of grey that is truly me got lost somewhere along the way. I suppose that uncertainty is all part of relearning how to be vulnerable. I don’t have to be sure. I’ve just got to be honest and try my best.

Photo by Alan Cabello on Pexels.com

The Advocate and the Architect

If you’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test, I would highly recommend it. Although I’ve only been able to take the knock-off version that they have available for free online, it’s still definitely worth checking out. It’s almost terrifying how accurate and detailed the results are. I’ll often ask people if they know what their type is just so that I can read about them and come to understand them a bit better. I finally remembered to do this the other day with my new vegan guy.

I was delighted to see that he had already heard about this and knew his type. Most people I ask have never taken the test or even heard about it. He is an INFJ and I am an INTJ. Looks like we must be pretty similar right? Actually that one little letter apparently makes a lot of difference. I suppose it would, given that they F stands for feeling, while the T stands for thinking. On the bright side we do seem to compliment one another. Although I wasn’t able to sense it myself right away, it does seem like he will be able to help facilitate the emotional side of our connection.

INFJs are called the Advocates. Kind of ironic given that’s actually my job title. They are very sensitive, emotionally aware people. Advocates are always looking out for the best interests and feelings of others. Unfortunately this can often lead them to place their own feelings and needs in the background. I was delighted to read that INFJs are generally very committed to their romantic partners and are looking for serious, long-term relationships. Knowing that has greatly helped to remove any lingering doubt about his intentions.

After reading through the details of an INFJ, I decided to reread my own page to refresh my memory. I was immediately amazed and embarrassed. I had forgotten how incredibly accurate this personality type description was for me. I almost regretted bringing it up. Knowing he would read about me, I felt so exposed. I was horrified at what he might think about me. Especially when it came to the “relationships” section of the webpage. While INFJs were lauded for their affinity for emotional intimacy and commitment to their partners, the INTJ’s corresponding page was not so flattering.

A lot of the things I was considering autistic traits, may actually just be traits of my personality type. One of the things that continued to be emphasized was INTJ’s disregard and cluelessness towards social conventions. We don’t like small talk at all, don’t even really know how to have small talk. We aren’t very in tune with our emotions or the emotions of others. We can even offend or hurt someone without realizing it. In my opinion, the relationship section particularly was almost scathing. Paragraph after paragraph explained just how inept INTJs tend to be when it comes to romance and intimacy. We feel awkward and confused by dating, unable to tap into our emotional selves, preferring to look at the world in an utterly rational and analytical fashion. One particular line that struck me what when it said that INTJs often wonder if dating and social interaction are even worth the trouble. I’ve definitely found myself wondering that on more than one occasion.

Even after reading all about my humiliating shortcomings, my vegan guy still came over and hung out with me yesterday. I felt much more relaxed with him this time. We had a lovely cozy day in, just talking and watching movies. He brought me more flowers like a true gentleman. I showed him some yoga poses. We went and picked up a few groceries and cooked a delicious vegan dinner together while listening to one of our favorite bands. Overall it was an absolutely lovely day. He even opened up to me about the details of his past relationships. Even though I struggled, I did the same. I feel very awkward being vulnerable like that with someone, but I feel as though it was necessary.

Unfortunately he also showed me pictures of the new apartment he’s already signed a one-year lease for. I truly am happy for him about his new job, but it still pains me to know he’ll be living five hours away from me by the end of this month. At least I feel reassured about his commitment to maintaining a relationship with me now. Part of me hopes the distance will be good for us. Perhaps it will allow me the time I need to get more comfortable with him before I feel any more pressure to be physically intimate. We are planning on writing letters to one another once he’s moved. That’s one thing I am actually extremely excited about. He seems to be too. He told me he’s been planning out a few things for our letters. I’m not sure what exactly he means, but I’m so excited to find out.

We’ll probably only be able to hang out one or two more times before he moves. I really want to make an effort to be in the moment with him on those days. I don’t need to worry about what will be said or done. I just have to breathe and enjoy his company and trust that I’ll know the right thing to say or do as the day unfolds. No matter what happens, I am still grateful for the wonderful experiences we’ve already shared.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Fond Farewells

Today’s yoga class is the last one I’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite regular students. She is an older woman named Carol. I felt a strong connection to her right away and was always pleased to see she would basically only come to the studio on Saturdays for my class. We would always stay and chat for a few minutes after class about our practice or about politics. She was truly a delight. There was a palpable absence when she didn’t come to class.

A few weeks ago I found out that she was moving back to her home state. I was quite sad knowing that soon I’d have to say goodbye to one of my students and a good friend. As I prepared my class for this week, I decided to design it specifically for Carol. At the end of practice she always works on her bakasana (crow pose) and urdhva dhanurasana (upward facing bow pose.) As a special treat for her I made the whole class a build up to get us ready for those exact poses. I was happy to talk with her after class to discover that she noticed and appreciated this gesture of mine. I also gave her a small farewell gift. I had planned to give her one of my many hag stones since they are supposed to be good luck. However, I forgot them when I left this morning. Fortunately, I had a lucky howlite crystal keychain I decided to give to her instead.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I am not very good with people. I’ve never really understood how to appropriately approach different social situations. So while these kind gestures may seem second nature to a lot of you reading this post, know that for me it took a great deal of consideration and effort. To be honest, I don’t really know if that was “normal” or not when saying goodbye to someone you care about. I often worry that I am being over the top. As I was contemplating what type of small gift I could give her, I even second guessed doing anything special at all. She is just someone I see once a week for an hour or so that I probably won’t ever see again. I’ve certainly parted from people that were more integral in my life with less fanfare, sometimes without as much as a goodbye. I noticed that I was asking myself if it was “worth it.”

Most people seem to interact with others in the way they do simply because it comes naturally. For me, each interaction requires a lot of thought and careful consideration. I spend my mental and emotional energy very sparingly. So when I thought about the fact that I would never see this person again, the cold, logical side of my brain told me it would be a waste to exert any energy making an effort for a relationship that was inevitably ending. Normally I will justify kind gestures by telling myself it will end up being a benefit to me in the future. Even though that may sound heartless and selfish, it’s just the way my brain works even when I do genuinely care about the person involved. It’s usually the only way I can keep myself from avoiding the interaction all together.

I decided to just ignore that icy, calculating side of myself this time though. I felt like I wanted to do something for Carol, so I did. It felt right, and that was enough. Then, as I saw how much my small gestures meant to her, as I saw her teary eyes above her mask as she thanked me for everything, I knew I made the right decision. It doesn’t matter if I don’t see or hear from her again. It doesn’t matter if ten years from now I don’t even remember she exists. Sometimes it’s okay to just be grateful for the fleeting moments in life. Today was about honoring the meaningful connection I made with another human being if only for a brief period in time.

I am always so focused on the future, that sometimes it can be hard for me to find value in the temporary. Yet, nothing lasts forever. Today was a reminder of that. It was a reminder that each moment must be appreciated for what it is, without worrying about what it could be or what it will mean for the future. Isn’t is good enough to be happy just for the sake of being happy? It doesn’t have to last indefinitely for it to mean something. There is truly a lesson in everything if you care to look for it. I am grateful for Carol and the many lessons I’ve learned thanks to having her in my life for the time that I did. I hope she has gained as much from our time together as I have.

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To Understand & To Be Understood

Navigating interpersonal relationships has always been something I really struggle with. But last night I had an interaction that made me really proud of myself. Let me explain. A lot of the time I feel almost threatened by other people. It’s as if their presentation of who they and the things they say and believe are saying something about who I am. And I need to defend myself, my identity. I hope that makes sense.

I understand this is irrational, but I get caught up in the moment and get into arguments or get fed up with the person all together. But yesterday I somehow managed to avoid my normal pattern. And it felt so good.

Instead of feeling personally challenged or attacked by what my friend was saying, I just listened. Really listened, with genuine interest and curiosity. I didn’t get upset or get lost in my own interpretation of his words. I allowed myself to be curious. To really try to understand not only the words, but how he intended them, what he was really trying to convey.

I asked a lot of questions. Questions that led to answers that surprised me. Instead of angry or frustrated, I felt intrigued. For once I felt confident enough in myself to not feel threatened by the perceptions and actions of someone else.

Normally that conversation would have devolved into a bitter argument. Over nothing honestly. It would have left me feeling aggravated and ashamed and more alone than ever. But instead I was able to let it turn into an insightful, meaningful conversation that helped me understand my friend better. Maybe even allowed me to provide some support and comfort to him. For once I was able to take myself out of the equation. Finally I was able to focus on who I was talking with rather than myself. And it felt so incredibly good. It was one of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time.

I am so proud of my behavior. I was able to remain calm and inquisitive. I expressed myself honestly, openly, clearly, and confidently. My friend even said jokingly that it felt like he was talking to a therapist at one point, which I took as a compliment. Therapists listen. They ask questions. They remain selfless in the interaction. They help people. I hope I was helpful. Even if just for one brief encounter.

I also hope this interaction was not just a random fluke. I hope that it is a reflection of some type of inner growth that has occurred over the last year. I want to have conversations like I did last night again. I want to be able to stay calm and through that openness and willingness to be vulnerable have more moments of genuine connection with my friends and loved ones.

I have to remind myself that each person in this world has a fascinating, unique universe inside of them. And I want to learn about those inner worlds. What could be more interesting? I’ve often heard the phrase “to love and to be loved” expressed as the quasi goal of this life. But I would add to that “to understand and to be understood.”

I’ve spent so many encounters in a hostile state, focusing on myself, wanting to be understood, yet not at all expecting I ever would be. But I was missing half of the equation! I was not trying to understand the person I was talking to. I was too wrapped up in myself to understand them. It is equally nice to love as it is to be loved. I am just now finally learning that it is also just as nice to understand someone else as it is to be understood yourself.

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