Fumbling Towards Joy

I'm starting to get that pre-social-event anxiety that comes up every once in a while. At my high school reunion in April, we decided to set up dinner this coming Thursday night at the downtown restaurant where another of our classmates is now executive chef. Nobody, except the organizer who will be arriving early, responded to my e-mail asking if the other people in the 6:30 seating wanted to share a ride (I was even willing to drive). So that means I'm going alone, and arriving alone, whereas most of the other people will not be. They all seem to have kept in touch with each other for the past fifteen years. They were friends in high school outside of class. While they liked me--or at least thought I was O.K./harmless--we didn't talk to each other outside of school. We didn't run in the same circles, and to be perfectly honest, having come from a grade school where classmates either directly bullied me or just plain ignored me, I was not used to having a lot of friends. (Even to this day I'm not sure I'd know what to do with a ton of friends.) The few closest friends I had were not the most popular, and I was an angst-y little art student, so maybe that was part of it, too. The reunion went all right (the remaining posts on the reunion series still to come), and people talked to me, but not the way they talked with the others. They talked with the others as if it were just a continuation of some ongoing conversation.

When that happens, I feel left out and somewhat intrusive. The groups seem to come already formed. I couldn't break in as a teen, and I get the impression, not just from these people, but from most people my age, that their "friend orbitals" are full (to use a chemistry expression*). They don't need to add friends. There's no compelling attraction from outsiders, especially someone not particularly gregarious, like me.

It's a bad habit I have, pinning hopes for gaining friends on every new situation. That's a really tall order. Maybe that's why I don't particularly care to "put" or "get" myself "out there." It's disappointing to feel that rejection. This is the point where my mother says, "You're projecting onto other people that they won't respond to you. That's why they're not interested." She also said that my being bullied was my fault, too, but, in any event, assuming that "projection" theory is true, and I don't really believe it is (beyond the occasional remnant of defense/coping mechanisms that sometimes pop up before I can put it in check), I keep pondering how people make new friends.

One of the last "nice" things the Ex and I did was visit the St. Katharine Drexel Shrine with our mothers (he'd wanted them to spend time together--I suspect he wanted to make sure my family was compatible with his family--yeah, yeah, red flag, I know), and I picked up a couple of souvenirs. One of them was a magnet which you can see from the link features a collage of photos of St. Katherine and some children representing the Missions, and the quote, "We must attract them by JOY." She of course was referring to attracting people to a relationship with God, and she didn't mean walking around with a big goofy smile on your face.

That quote popped into my head last Saturday, as I wiped tears from my eyes at the end of yoga class. I'd been so hard on myself for not doing well in class that it just got to me. I wasn't willing to allow myself to have an "off" day, in spite of the fact that I knew my muscles were not going to be as relaxed as usual. It bothered me that everybody else in the class was doing all right and I could barely manage. The song that was playing didn't help either. The teacher had chosen the "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" CD and the title track was just needling me with that "I won't fear love" refrain. I was sick of being afraid, sick of crying. Definitely sick of not feeling loved. At that point I was praying. I was asking God to just love me and let that soothe some of the void I still felt, and still cried over.

Then St. Katharine's quote came to me, and I just really wondered if I would ever feel joy, that kind of joy that attracts, especially because I was crying at the moment and simultaneously hating that I was. I hated it because it was not the first time the tears had come at the end of class, although they hadn't in a long time. When I'd first started going to classes taught by this yoga teacher, it was right after I'd moved, in hasty shame, from my ex-roommate's place, and the expulsion was just one of a number of horrible events that had piled up on me that year. So there I was, nearly three years later, crying at the end of class again, and embarrassed and annoyed.

But a new thought occurred to me. These weren't new tears. Rather, I'm at the point of wringing out the last deep sorrows from my heart. Once they go, there will be room for joy to enter, and to attract good people.

*Surprise! I sucked at labs, but I ate up all the theory in science classes.

(Side note: I had a bizarre blast from the past-type encounter in the supermarket after work today, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Will post after I survive the dinner.)


Lizzie said…
Ugh. I so feel you. It's so hard to find friends, and I do the SAME THING expecting a friend to come from every new situation. And then mostly I get disappointed because people aren't generally as "good a friend as I am" as Adam puts it - as dedicated to wanting a new friendship. I would say something more along the lines of your comment that their friend orbitals are full.

I have room for you in my orbitals, Kate. ;)
nightfly said…
For me, God proved the passage in Matthew: seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. Once I gave up on wanting to find tons of friends, I started to get them. (Same thing with my Ladybug, actually.)

Luckily God is patient with dumb ol' me. Now, we've just got to be patient with ourselves as well. That's tricky...

(word verify: "ayoamab" - who begat shoamabab, who begat nephthchshali, who begat ishkebibble...)
Lindsay said…
Dearest Kate,

Thank you for sharing that. It really is difficult to open yourself up to people and vulnerably put yourself out there not knowing the result. I had a little bit of difficulty with this when I first went to college, but I often had to remind myself that the friendships I had built up prior to college were built up over a very long period of time. I think that realising that both made the situation easier to handle and also more dismal. I do think that you're right, though. You'll attract good people, Kate. You have a good heart.
Kate P said…
Liz--Aw, thank you! And yeah, are we just out there with our expectations, or what?

'Fly--What about "Ask and you shall receive"? I'm just sayin' ;) And I'm pretty sure "ayoamab" was the sauce that came with the calamari appetizer last night.

Lindsay--you're too kind. And you're right about friendships; they're not always the breezy things we make them out to be.

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