Our Gifts Are Also Our Obstacles

For all my bluster around creating belonging and nurturing community, I am hitting a significant obstacle within myself that is preventing me from building relationships.

I am deeply insecure about initiating conversation and connection, as well as continuing connection to people with whom I don’t have a natural chemistry and flow.

At work I have opportunities to visit members or spend time in the community room and I haven’t followed through. I only feel comfortable when I have an introduction or a purpose in making contact with someone and somehow I can’t make the leap to understanding that just being part of this community is permission enough.

It isn’t about the people we work with, although adding layers of physical and mental disability makes it more complicated. The truth is that I have always been this way. I am shy in new situations and with new people in every context. I had the same obstacle with the Imps and truthfully, I usually overcame it through oxytocin, champagne and/or drugs (weed and Molly). Generally, once I established relationship with someone at a party, then I felt free to connect with them any time after.

I have to be presented with a reason and/or way to break the ice with someone and feel a sense of permission to continue building connection before I slip into the comfort of regular interaction. My inability to small talk also gets in the way if I don’t achieve a certain vulnerability with someone. I have no real interest in shallow interactions, in part because I don’t know how to relate that way.  Also because I am wired for depth, for emotional connection far more than intellectual. And whether it’s nature or nurture, social niceties and commonly agreed rules for engagement don’t come naturally to me.

So while my heart hungers and calls me to more relationship and connection, and my mind tells me this belonging stuff is vital to human happiness, I resist what makes me uncomfortable. I am ridiculously courageous and vulnerable in many other ways. I’ve raised children by myself, sculpted vulvas for the world to see, hostessed erotic parties, had sex in front of people, posed nude for photographers and told my raw stories in many venues…why is this so fucking hard? Why is it easy for me to be vulnerable with strangers on Facebook and my blog, sharing my deepest thoughts and feelings with the world, and yet I struggle to be vulnerable face-to-face?

They say our greatest gifts also contain our darkest shadow. I am an empath who feels people, but doesn’t know how to talk to them. I am a community builder who is shy and insecure about initiating connection. Someone shared this article with me today about the relationship between social anxiety and empathy being discovered by researchers. I realize this is exactly the challenge – I feel people’s emotions so I am acutely aware of their response to me. I can feel if someone is engaged or disinterested. I can feel when someone shuts down their heart or mind, even if their words say differently. I have social anxiety because I am anxious about feeling other people’s discomfort and negative emotions, especially when it’s directed toward me.

My only real option is to just face it down and try to connect, even when it turns awkward or difficult. As well as work at not taking what I feel personally. Like anything else, this is going to take practice and it’s ok if I don’t get it perfect. My deepest desire and intent is to love, to connect, and to create a sense of belonging for others near and far. I can mess it up and I’ll still be doing better than all the narcissists in the world acting only for themselves. I can bumble and struggle and still make a difference in someone’s day. I won’t connect with everyone I attempt to but that’s ok because that isn’t my job. It’s my job to make the effort, to follow the pullings of my heart and let go of the outcome (like when I drop lovebombs and never know if someone appreciated them or threw them away).

My integrity demands that I do better and my heart calls me to be more. I am hoping by admitting this breakdown in my process toward the work of my heart, and the shame that I feel around failing to be the relationship nurturer that I claim to be, that I am creating a crack in the wall of my resistance.

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