Mar 29, 2009

Does Not Play Well With Others...

Lately I'm wondering if I need to wear a sign that says something like "Normally I'm more personable than this, honest." I'm not going around yelling at people or anything (for the most part), I'm just having a hard time engaging very much with those around me.

I think there are, like, 5 or so layers to this whole thing. The most obvious aspect is the impending arrival of Kiddo #2, and to that extent I expect to draw inward as I prepare for it. I'm down to the last few weeks, where I'm thinking "There is not room for the both of us; the belly HAS to go," and my extremities all feel rather noodle-like and sometimes even like they might fall off if I'm not careful. Good for getting babies out. Bad for, say, putting out the trash while trying not to slip on the icy driveway because the Cat Daddy got stuck out on alert an extra night due to the snowstorm, otherwise he'd be glad to do it, but the trash is overflowing and MUST get out and it's too late to ask the neighbor for help so it's this or be overrun by a mountain of trash until a week from now. Or just wanting to walk around for more than 10 minutes at a time. Neither is fun. All to say I'm a little out of it in general, but this will remedy itself over time as my hormones all realign and re-regulate and whatnot.

Then there's the meeting people angle. Where the last time I had a kiddo we were well established and had close friends to make sure I didn't withdraw from society completely, I felt free to be less outgoing and concentrate more on the mental prep for crunchy birthing. But now we are still in the phase of needing to be more outgoing so that we can form such connections with others. I'm uncomfortable meeting new people to begin with, but lately I'm particularly unmotivated about it. I feel like somehow I should be more enthusiastic or something, I dunno.

Here's the thing. Over the years I've tried several ways to describe myself in a nutshell. "Benevolent subversive" is still by far my favorite. I've also used "Ragamuffin" from Brennan Manning's "Ragamuffin Gospel," but that still doesn't quite capture the warped-humor side of things. Lately I've been describing myself as "a little inappropriate sometimes," which while not very specific, is quite true.

I don't necessarily come out and say this immediately upon meeting someone, mind you; I try to be a little more subtle. I might toss out some sort of mildly odd or random comment and see what happens. The most encouraging reply is a smile, laugh, or snarky retort. This is how I knew I was in good company when I joined my moms' group on base (Spouses Helping Spouses, or SHS, it's called).

Then sometimes I get a blank stare, which is unfortunate but I can deal with it. It, um, actually happened quite a bit in grade school, come to think of it. The worst response, though, is when the other person appears frightened. This one I feel badly about because it usually comes from someone who seems very, very, very nice, which means I've just made them nervous, which then makes me nervous, and at that point I'm looking for some sort of sign marking where the inappropriate people should congregate so they can snark on each other and stop scaring people.

This happened at the meeting of another spouses' group on base a couple weeks ago, by the way; I'm not making it up. I've thus far not joined the base spouses' club, but different squadrons within the base will often have a spouses' group to promote unity and help people get to know each other and all that, and I met a couple of really cool ladies through the one I went to in California (neither of whom came to Wyoming, bummer), so I figured it was worth a try here. Alas, tons of nice people, just no kindred spirits yet. And no special section for the inappropriate people, so I was stuck sort of watching the craft time from the side. Of course I could have participated in the craft, I'm aware of that. I didn't though.

I feel really torn about it, because how ungrateful is it to lament meeting nice people? This makes me wonder about my attitude, and if I should be fighting against my cynicism some, or for heaven's sake cutting people some slack before deciding they're too nice for me to be friends with. How ridiculous is that! On the other hand, how long do I keep repeatedly forcing myself into a situation before letting myself off the hook and saying "OK, this one just isn't my thing" and concentrating my energies elsewhere? Where is the line between being kind and courteous, versus feeling like I'm stifling myself to the point of painful pretending?

Oh, and THEN thoughts creep in, like "Gosh how narcissistic, Skerrib. It's not all about you, you know." And other things that send me into what Homer Simpson calls a shame spiral, and it's all just very messy and a bit hard to sort out.

There's a hopeful note in there though. We've been to a few more churches in the area, and to one in particular a few times now. Here we have met a cool couple, and even scored a dinner invite & had a lovely evening chatting it up way past our kids' bedtimes, and went to their small group & had a good time, etc. Things might be looking promising here.

The challenge with this place is that it's a little more churchy, and intergenerational and all. I'm all for respecting the old (OLD) people and their tastes, especially when they are nice about accepting the changing styles, and don't think drums are inherently disrespectful (a personal peeve, go figure). The bummer is that consequently this involves compromise on the musical stylings, and I have a hard time with compromise on the musical stylings (See? The attitude!). The compromise is not so much on the song choice as the amplification methods and levels, meaning that while the music selections are good and have some nice variation, the volume and mix make me feel a little sad.

That and the drummer in the fishbowl, complete with topper, creating a drum chamber. Now this could be helped greatly by rigging up the drum chamber to have large sums of money flying around like in old game shows. That would make being relegated to the fishbowl much more bearable; then again, it would likely be kind of expensive, so probably not.

But the people are cool. They're really nice. And I'm a firm believer in people over things. The question is, will they still like me when they find out I'm a little inappropriate sometimes? (The insecurity!) With the cool couple, I'm almost certain yes. Because when I just came out and explained about it, and they seemed cool with it. But how well do I have to behave around the old people?

So we could try to find something else. Realistically, as far as comfort goes in the way of style, music, and such, I think our best bet is the other church we went to for several months...but then because of the theological differences I would likely leave every week feeling neurotic, and who wants that? Or we could stay, and I could allow myself to be challenged and find out where the fine lines are, and maybe get over myself and relax a little bit. And maybe find some old people who are a little inappropriate sometimes. That would be cool. They are very big into grace and grace alone, so if I'm going to be looking for fine lines, this is a safe place to mess it all up in the process.

And actually I get the feeling the pastor is a little inappropriate sometimes. In a very pastorly way (as opposed to my warped and wonderful compadres at the home church), but still if that's the case...well, we'll have to see what happens...


Anonymous said...

Oh how I commiserate! We're less new here now, coming up on the start of our third year in July. It's been rocky, full of the very same insecurity, cynicism, snap judgments, shame, and secondguessing you've described, plus one major depression and some minor ones. But we have found a few people we're starting to connect with.

Trust your intuitions in all their directions -- yes, there should be limits to your cynicism AND yes, it's good to be aware of how you work and what you like, and so on.

Drama Momma said...

I feel for ya! That's how I felt in MA the first 2 years. It wasn't until NewSong that I started to feel comfortable. Good thing I had you two to take the edge off or I may have gone over the deep end.

We're very lucky to have the comfort of familiar surrounding and the knowledge that family and friends are only a short drive away.

Now, if we could only find our perfect church match. We need a for churches. :)

Amber said...

I got a kick out of this post. I'm so sorry you're dealing with all that church stuff on top of trying to meet people you can relate to, all while being very, very pregnant. I remember towards the end of both pregnancies not wanting to be around people much, let alone trying to make new friends.

I say to go for the church where the most comfortable people/relationships are. Right now, with crazy hormones and all, I believe you need the people. I couldn't get over how badly needy of human interaction I was after Luke was born.

I wish we were closer and could help you out. Do your best to find those other cool people and be honest about who you are, inappropriateness and all. After all, don't you want 'real' friendships? We love you just the way you are and I'm sure others will, too!

I'll keep you in my prayers!

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that all those nice people must be very shallow or very good at pretending. Church ladies who scrapbook, say "bless his heart", and are on the mission board are statistically more likely to be sociopaths. I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere.

Now that I've alienated all your fine readers... :D

You are not alone. In either your insecurities or in your snarkiness. Your friendship has always been clear and flowing water to me. That genuine part in you, quirk and all, is a beacon to others looking for the real thing. You've found them each place you've lived and you will find them in WY.

In the meantime, just say the word and I'll happily commit to a foolhardy trip up to you (in the minivan with 3 kids no less). Just in case a new baby isnt chaos enough...

Love you.


RichardB said...

Preach it!