Day 215/365 It’s Not You, It’s Me

Hi, my name is Bethany and I am socially awkward.

Yesterday I wrote that I am not naturally gregarious, and that making eye contact and connecting with strangers is something on which I am presently working. Today I am ready to admit that it goes deeper than simply not being outgoing. If I am being honest, I have to finally admit (to both of us) that I have some social anxiety.

Tonight I was at the small and lovely wedding of a dear friend. It was beautiful. Most of the guests were family members of the bride and groom, therefore I did not know many people. I am embarrassed to say that being in a social situation like this gives me flashbacks to the high school cafeteria…walking with my tray and trying not to let the panic show on my face as I frantically search the room for a familiar face. God forbid I’d have to make a new friend…or sit at a new table.

The thing is, I am terrible at small talk.

I have been told (months or years later) by people that they first assumed me to be one or more of the following – shy, stuck up, quiet, generally unhappy, cold, dull…

I don’t think I am really any of the above, but I can completely understand how I would be perceived as such. No hard feelings here.

I just…I don’t always know where to begin. Or rather, I want to skip the beginning entirely.

It isn’t that I don’t think you are interesting. I actually think people in general are fascinating. In fact, if I am not standing there thinking about how uncomfortable I am (and making assumptions about how uncomfortable you are) I am probably wondering what makes you tick. That’s the conversation I want to be having.

What do you love about your life? 

What is your biggest fear?

Is your love relationship satisfying? 

What is your biggest regret?

You see, I may not be naturally gregarious…but I am naturally curious. 

If you want to tell me your deepest secrets I am all in…and I will take them to my grave.

Unfortunately, delving deeply is not always welcome, and it isn’t always situationally appropriate, either.  I totally get that, and so…sometimes I struggle, and it’s awkward…for both of us. I am really sorry about that.

Please know, it’s not you. It is totally me.

 

 

 

Day 210/365 Violin Lesson

Last night Beau really had a meltdown about her violin playing skills. She said she was horrible at it, and that every note she played was wrong.  There was a lot of playing of one or two notes, followed by sounds of complete despair. This went on for a long time….a long time. It was painful for all of us. Finally I suggested she put it away and try again tomorrow.


I have been exhausted lately. I am blessed to have so many people and things that are important to me. Sometimes it feels as though I am not giving any of them enough…not as much as I want to give. This makes me feel sad and tired and overwhelmed.

I got to work this morning and I was talking to a colleague and friend about an upcoming special event at the school. I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of it. She quickly and easily broke it down for me – what has already been done (most everything). “What can I do to help?” she asked.

I nearly reneged on having friends over for dinner on Saturday evening (something I’d planned a week or so ago), due to feeling overscheduled. The friends offered to take a rain check, but when I said the girls had really been looking forward to having them over, my friend offered to make dinner. “I’ll bring dinner. No worries. Just breathe,” she wrote.

I described my crammed Thursday schedule to another colleague and friend…from the bus stop to a lengthy meeting in Pawtucket, from Pawtucket to the girls’ school, from the girls’ school (45 minute ride) to their dentist, then to a doctor’s appointment. What’ll I do with Louie (my dog)? I hadn’t thought of him. He can’t stay home alone all day, and there’s no room in my schedule for me to stop at home. “Bring him to me,” she said. “I’ll watch him.”

After a meeting in Warwick this afternoon I was running late to the bus stop to get my kids. I called a friend to see if he could help in case I didn’t make it. “I’ve got them. No problem. I’m here,” he said. 

I appreciated all of this help, but… 

It also compounded my feeling that I am somehow failing at life.

I should be able to handle everythingall by myself.

RIGHT?!

I arrived at the bus stop just as the bus was unloading. As the girls got into my car, Beau  (carrying her violin case from today’s lesson), announced…

“Guess what! I am not actually terrible at violin! It turns out I am just not good at playing it all by myself.  It just doesn’t sound as good as when I’m playing it with my friends.”

I’m telling you, I burst out laughing – hysterically. The girls seemed confused at first, until I said between gasps for air, “After all that drama last night, it turns out you are not actually terrible?” The girls both started laughing with me. “I know!” she said. “All that drama for nothing.”

It wasn’t until later, when I crawled into to bed to think about the day (and to write to you) that I drew the parallel…

I am not failing at life.

“It turns out I am just not good at playing it all by myself.”

And what a blessing that I don’t have to be.

Ghesh.

All that drama for nothing.

 

 

 

 

Day 188/365 Karen (aka Goob)

Yesterday I wanted to honor a dear friend on her birthday.  However as I explained in my last entry, something else was occupying my thoughts, and I had a hard time focusing on anything else.  So, today is for Karen (aka Goob).


Karen is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Though we met in middle school, we became devoted friends a few years later, in high school.  This was, of course, quite some time ago, but when I see her smile and hear her laughter, I makes it seem like yesterday.

Neither of us like to talk on the phone, and although we live only a half hour apart, our family and work schedules have made it challenging over the past ten years or so to get together as often as we would like. So, we sometimes go long stretches on time without seeing or even speaking to one another.

We’ve made new friendships with people in our personal life-orbits, other women whose children play often with our own, our to whom we live closer…but our bond remains unchanged.

We never seem to allow the space between us to impact our friendship. Neither of us is ever keeping score about who reached out to whom last, or more often.  We never take an extended silence personally. We always know we are good.

There is always love.

I think I understood she was my friend for life when, as my roommate, she silently endured an endless (and high volume) post-break up loop of Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughtta Know.”

“Does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you died…but you’re still alive!”

Oh, God bless her.

Bless her many times over, because she knows all of my secrets and has been witness to all of my heartbreaks…from the (now, in hindsight) clearly ridiculous ones to the truly painful.  Never did she tell me I was being ridiculous – she always waited for me to figure that out for myself (but she never pointed out that she knew all along).

Karen is one of the kindest, gentlest, most authentic people you could ever know.  She is so unassuming, and so generous. To know Karen is to love her. She is someone people instinctively know they can trust, and respect. My entire family adores her.

There is something so special about how Karen is able to hold space in a relationship.  She is an incredibly devoted and supportive friend, and she can make that known without ever being overbearing.  She quietly offers her love and support in a way that allows space. I know she will always be there if and when I need to lean on her, but she never takes offense if I choose not to do so. I aspire to be the same kind of friend for her.

Karen lost her mother (an amazing woman) to cancer about a decade ago. I think (I hope) I was a supportive friend through that. When my dad passed away, I finally understood the pain of losing a parent as BIG in her life as her mother had been to her (and my father had been to me). It is just something you can’t know until you know it. Still, I regret not having done more. I regret that deeply.

Goob, I hope you know how much I love you…and that I always will.

Happy (belated) birthday.

 

Day 178/365 Melissa

I’ve been wanting to write about Melissa for a while, but knowing she is a very private person, I have been reluctant to shine a spotlight on her.

Well, let me clarify – she is the kind of person who will not hesitate to tell you in detail her most embarrassing experiences if they might bring a laugh, but she will rarely bring attention to herself in a way that isn’t self-deprecating.

She is one of the most modest people I know. She is also incredibly protective of the people she loves. Her heart is enormous, and fierce.

Today I pulled out my checkbook to pay a bill, and I noticed the date –

September 11th

As I always do on this date, I thought of Melissa…and somehow I felt as though I wanted to honor her today…and so I hope I can do that in a way that feels like a tribute and not an intrusion…

Because Melissa is truly my personal idol when it comes to grace and strength.

Melissa lost her brother in the World Trade Center attack.  I’ll never forget the panicked call from her that morning…the fear, and the agony of uncertainty…and then the unimaginable confirmation of their worst fears.

Within two years Melissa lost her brother, Richard, and then her father. During that time of fresh grief she became a mother twice over.  I can only image the strength it took to navigate all of that, emotionally…the births and the losses…the tragedies and the miracles.

More very painful losses came for Melissa and her family. Through it all she has remained an unwavering pillar of strength and love.

She astounds me.

Melissa and her husband, Jaime, now have four beautiful children. They are amazing parents.  They have prided themselves on their active role in community life, both holding jobs in public service. They love people, and their gregarious personalities are a draw to all. They are the kind of people who make other people feel good about themselves. That is a gift.

Jaime and Melissa have a relationship I have always admired. Their love and devotion to each other is never in question. I so appreciate the way they make each other (and everyone else) laugh, and how they clearly respect and appreciate each other. They are true partners in life. I love being in their company – they bring joy.

Almost two years ago, Jaime was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It has been a rough road, but miraculously, he continues to heal. Through it all, Melissa has been remarkably brave and optimistic, and whenever possible, she continues to insert her humor.

She is just a powerhouse of personal strength.

Recently she and I caught up over dinner, and  I keep thinking about something she said.  She said, “You know, I am just really looking forward to boredom. Seriously, it will be wonderful when life just gets dull.

So many things we take for granted…right down to the seeming minutia of our daily lives. What an amazing reminder to treasure it all…even, and maybe especially, the boring bits.

Melissa, you truly inspire me. 

Day 152/365 Nichole (Colie)

Her startlingly clear blue eyes radiate such kindness and depth of soul, and reveal just a flicker of mischievousness.

There may not be a more gentle soul. She is a lover of all children, with a soft spot for those who need a little extra love, attention, and support. This makes her job as a special education coordinator the perfect fit. Brimming with compassion and drive, she has been recognized by Newport Life magazine as a groundbreaker in her community.

Colie has been a vegetarian for many years because of her deep love of animals (but she doesn’t shame us meat eaters, bless her).

Colie embodies such a contrast to me…and I love it. She is deep and philosophical, and she also loves inappropriate and silly humor…never letting an inadvertent reference to one’s anatomy go without a smirk or a snicker.

She is the most wonderful mother – lovingly firm, patient and so much fun.  She sometimes seems to be in perpetual motion, which has been a gift to her active sons.

She has always been high energy.  When we were neighbors in our twenties she would use a workout with me as a warm up to her actual workout.

Colie has taken some hard knocks, but she has pulled herself up, brushed herself off, and moved forward. She doesn’t let anger get the best of her. She believes in letting karma do its thing.

Colie loves her family fiercely, and somehow I have been lucky enough to earn honorary family status somewhere along the past twenty plus years of friendship.

I am so blessed to claim her as one of my people.

I love you, dear friend. You are an absolute ray of sunshine.

colie 1.

 

Day 148/365 Shane

Shane, you are one of my favorite people on Earth, truly.

I believe when I wrote about my younger brother, Ryan, I wrote that he is love personified.  I feel the same way about you, Shane.  You have the same energy.

The word that comes to mind when I think of you is warmth. There really isn’t a warmer, more genuine man.

Shane has an unabashed bleeding heart. If someone is hurting, he wants to help.  Thank God, that includes me.  Whether he planned for it or not, he has gotten himself a platonic “bonus wife” of sorts….thank goodness his actual wife is my dear friend, Sarah.

He is completely comfortable with female energy…having two daughters and four sisters, he seems to consider the company of women an honor. I truly believe that.

Shane is a skilled woodworker by trade. He is also a talented singer…though he is incredibly humble about this part of himself.

Shane is quick witted, and so very fun. People gravitate toward him.

He is easy going almost to a fault – he rolls with whatever is happening.  I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen him angry, through eighteen years of friendship.

His luminous smile welcomes all, and he truly is one of the kindest people I know.

Shane, I am so grateful that you are my friend.

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Day 146/365 The Other Woman

I am about to embark on my fourth annual Maine vacation with Monica, Austin, and all of our children. It is sometimes hard to believe that I have already been a “single lady” for four years.

Other times my marriage feels like a lifetime ago…so much has happened.

Most of my close friends are a part of a couple, which I would imagine could be a difficult thing for many singles – having the old “third wheel” feeling.  I am lucky to have friends with whom I never feel that way…in fact, it hardly ever crosses my mind at all when I’m with them.

I am very grateful. I love their company so much – individually and together in pairs.  They are great people whichever way they are packaged.

I guess they feel the same way about me…

My married friends don’t act as though they’re afraid being divorced is catchy.  Blessedly, they aren’t constantly trying to fix me up with someone in order to balance the wheels.  We are balanced already.

If anything, I’m worried about making sure whichever man I ultimately bring into the fold blends in…

{Though there doesn’t appear to be an immediate threat.}

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