I have made a few friends up here in this rugged country.
It's a small, isolated town. We are forced together. Forced to look for the good in everyone we meet because the chance that we will see them in the grocery store, at the park, on a walk, at the library, at that meeting, wherever is pretty good.
I'm not so good at this yet. I've just come from a big city. You know, the kind where you will never run into anyone you know, unless you have planned it. The people you meet everyday you don't necessarily have to like. Be kind, yes. But like? Not so much. You probably won't see them again. So even if it was a bad day and kindness was somewhere far out of reach, the guilt can be easily assuaged by this knowledge.
So I'm learning. Learning what it means to be in community with my community. Live with these people even if I come across some I don't like. It's not an easy task. Especially for me.
I'm an introvert. Which does not mean that I am socially retarded. It just means that I prefer to process things more slowly and by myself. I like to write, it's as I write that I really start to understand what I'm thinking. I like to run, by myself, because that's where I get to work out the painful parts of life.
It also means that I prefer to have a few close friends, and that I really dislike small talk. For instance, when I first walk into a big gathering of people my senses are assaulted. Faces, bodies, movement, smells, noises, voices, lights all come at me at once. If I have my kids with me, there is that as well. Someone wanting to be held, someone wanting to run away. Someone screaming.
My brain kicks into hyper drive 'whose face is that? and that? and that? Where is that body moving? How should my body move in response? WHAT is THAT smell? What is that smell!?! That is such a loud voice. Whose is it? What is their name? Bright lights! Dark lights!....' and on and on it goes as my brain tries to identify all of its surroundings immediately. But, my brain doesn't work that fast. As it's trying to fill me in on everything around me someone I know (or don't) sees me from across the way and smiles. At first, relief! Something familiar! A face! A smile! But as they get closer my brain is still in hyperdrive noticing new things all the time. That painting on the wall. That carpet. Her shoes. Where did they come from? Those chairs? What should the kids be doing? Where do they go? Shoes off? Shoes on? Coats where? Bag where? The familiar arrives and says 'Hi! How's it going?!' and my automatic first response no matter how easy of a day it has been is '*SIGH*' Familiar then thinks I'm stressed out and it's been a rough day. When in fact we are probably doing ok. We probably sang silly songs on the way over. We probably laughed about Bubs being 'CRAZY!!' in the backseat (he shakes his head back and forth so hard it makes me dizzy and kicks his feet like he is going to break the seat down) We probably danced in the kitchen before putting shoes on. Someone was probably in time out for not listening when Momma said it was time to get shoes on. Someone was probably throwing a fit because they didn't like whatever shoes had been picked out. It has probably been a normal OK kind of day. BUT for that moment, the moment when I've just arrived and haven't gotten my bearings yet, when people are swirling around me that I know and that I do not know, I am overwhelmed. And I need a minute to get it together.
And the small talk that ensues after such an encounter. 'we are doing alright. how are you?' 'good! Aren't you so glad it's nice today? But supposed to snow tomorrow!' 'Ugh I know! But I am so glad for the sun today' '...........' 'Well, it's good to see you!' And off they go. And I feel like an idiot. But really. I do not really want to talk about the weather. What I want to do is find a cozy spot. On the couch, or in a chair at a table. I want to settle my kids in wherever they are supposed to be. I want to sit with someone I know, or someone that I want to know who seems equally interested in getting to know me and I want to talk. I want to tell stories and I want to hear stories. Silly ones. Sad ones. True ones. About dreams. Or your cousins best friend. Or a blogger. Or kids. Or 'how did you get up here?' and I want to hear the REAL story. The long one. And I want to tell the long story. I want to laugh. And eat some good food if that's appropriate and probably have a glass of wine or two.
Now that, is a good time.
Of course, all this is a bit different if church is involved. Not only are all the people things and light things and noise things going on, but someone is talking to you. About big things that need to be thought about and processed. And I don't do well processing important potentially life-giving information while I'm still trying to deal with all that other stuff. Which makes me want to duck out of there ASAP so that I can get to the still quiet car which honestly feels like a haven from the noise every single Sunday. And I start processing what I just heard and felt and said and sang. or not. Sometimes I just think about what's for lunch.
These are all things that I've known about myself for a very, very long time. But we live in an extroverted culture...err...a culture that values extroversion. I have had a lot of extroverted friends. My dad is an extrovert! So for a long long time I tried to hide it. I doubt I did a good job. I'm sure it was obvious. But I tried. Being an introvert was not 'cool' in high school. Or really in college. And so I learned from my dad. I learned how to mingle even though I dread(ed) it and hate(d) every single moment of it. UGH. (I had to mingle for a job once. Chat business people up in hopes that they would give more money or more support to our organization. Worst. Experience. Ever.) As the years have gone on, and I've had hard things happen to me. The normal painful experiences of living in a broken world. I've come to a place where I can say, this is who I am. And I am ok. I do not need to be my dad, or my extroverted friends. I can fully embrace myself, because this is who I was made to be. And that is freedom. I don't have to apologize for who I am. (probably for some of the ugly things I still do although I so wish I didn't) And that is freedom. I don't have to apologize for who my kids are, because they are not a reflection of me. I am who I am. They are who they are. And I know that I am doing my best. I know that my husband is doing his best, and that, well, they aren't ours to begin with.
So when I go to a new place, I know all this about myself. I know that I like a few friends and deep conversations. I know that I get very excited about the things I'm passionate about (and sometimes that's too intense for people. But look at Gordon Ramsey. He is passionate. He is intense. He doesn't apologize. And we, customers of the restaurants and chefs he helps are so grateful!) And I know that I hate small talk. So how do I go about making new friends??? I psych myself up. Thats how. I say' Ami, play this like you are extrovert.' And I do. I can fool a few people. I can act like a great extrovert when I need to do so, although instead of being energized, I am drained.
I got to Lander and I played it up. I went to everything I could think of and chatted everyone up. Park. Library. Moms groups. Swim lessons. Bible study. Church. Where people going to be there? Yes?! ok, I'll go.
I've met some great moms. Moms whose kids are the same age as mine so we can fumble our way through this stage of life together trying to figure out HOW in the world we are going to make it. Moms whose kids are older, so I can learn that I just have to make it to 5. And then we will have a HUGE party because things start to get easier with kids who are starting to reason. (This is what I have heard. Please do not rain on my parade. This is my sanity.) I've met one dad. The only one in Lander who stays home with his kiddo. He is a brave man. He is always surrounded by women, including his only child, a 2 yr old girl.
I have also met some great people who are not moms! I've met women who are young, unmarried, and childless. They help me remember that underneath the snot, the drool, the poop, the baby teething gel, the midnight wake up calls for water and 'POTTTTYYYYY!!!!!' I am, in fact, a person. There are things I want to do, want to know, places I want to see, ideas I want to explore, books I want to read, and so many discussions about all these things I want to have that are nearly impossible with someone pushing someone else out of the way for the slide and someone else saying 'mommiiieee hep peesseee hep peesseeeee hep peeeeessssseeeeeee!!!!!' as they try to climb the slide from the bottom up.
One of these women, is who I want to talk about. But you'll have to wait until tomorrow!!