I abhor social situations. Big or small. Family, close friends, or strangers. It’s all the same. I feel an overwhelming desire to run, hide, and call my mommy. If I can get out of going then I just won the lottery. If I can’t? Well, maybe it will be fun? Cringe.
Here’s the thing: I’m weird and awkward. I’m peculiar, quirky, and socially inept. I say the wrong thing, or I don’t say anything at all. I don’t fit in, anywhere. I never learned how. The niceties. The social customs. The intricacies of the normal world are as foreign to me as life on another planet.
Now that I think about it; I grew up on a different planet. This strange land had its set of social norms. It had its special blend of niceties and social graces. The way we talked and the way we fit together, in this parallel universe, was uniquely ours.
My friends were just like me. Living in this world of disease, surgeries, needles, and white coats. Taken away from the lives we wanted to live. Thrown into one that existed inside the walls of a hospital. We were all apart of the “other” and, in that, we found companionship.
We were trapped inside failing bodies with time running out. Living with the knowledge that you’re about to die simplifies life and the rules became just as simple: Don’t waste a precious second. Laugh often and laugh hard. If you need a good cry have at it. Most of all, if you need someone, someone will be there.
It was okay to sit in the silence. The quiet didn’t need to be filled. Being present was good enough. Watching a movie, playing a video game, or simply hanging out. Staring at a wall or out the window. It didn’t mean we weren’t engaging. It didn’t mean we weren’t enjoying the company. We were in the same space, sharing that moment, and it was good.
We were adults in the bodies of children, and our conversations were flecked with both identities. We watched morning cartoons and tried to get out of school. We talked about the surgeries we had coming up and what risks they presented: “Yeah they think I’ll make it through but I heard a nurse say it’s 50/50.” The reply was simple, “If you don’t die you’ll have a cool scar.”
Death. We talked about it. Talked about what kind of funerals we wanted. Me? I wanted a pizza party with balloons, cake, and a clown but not a scary clown. Dancing! A lot of dancing and stupid jokes. The more knock-knock jokes the better. Yep, that sounds about right.
We talked about the friends we’d lost and how we’d like to go when our turn came. We all knew our turn would come. Death was real. It was permanent. It meant we were gone, our bodies were buried, and we’d never come back. Where did we go after we died? We all had our ideas.
We had sword fights with our feeding tubes and dialysis lines. We raced our wheelchairs and surfed on our IV poles. We played practical jokes on good natured nurses. Empty syringes became water guns. Typical kid stuff?
That world was messy, painful, but also uncomplicated. Out here, in this world, things aren’t so straightforward.The rules are baffling. The social norms are strange, and I’m lost. I’m so confused. What do we do if we never learned how to fit into this world?
Have you ever tried to understand cricket? The game, not the insect. Sorry, Dad, you’ve tried to explain it but it just won’t stick. I’m impressed by the intensity of the spectators, the physical abilities of the players, and the passion of devoted fans. I still have no idea what’s going on!
Going to a dinner party is a lot like that. I appreciate the graceful movement of a charming host. The effortless conversation is a wondrous thing to behold. The beautiful sound of laughter and the excitement that fills the room is heartwarming. I still have no idea what’s going on!
I sit back and watch it all play out and try to learn. Silently praying that no one asks me to pinch-hit because I’ll drop the ball. Actually, I’ll toss it through the window and make a mess. It’s safer for everyone if I just sit here quietly. Silence is safer. Being alone is more comfortable. Engaging is hard because I never learned how.
I’m trying to learn. Trying and failing and trying again. I’m more comfortable on my own. I enjoy the silence. I don’t need to be a part of the conversation to enjoy what’s being said. Being present is good enough. Not always great but good.
I’m peculiar, awkward, and just plain odd. I don’t know if I’ll ever fit into this normal world. I would love to belong or, at least, find a few more people who look past my awkwardness. I wish I could be a little more “normal” but I think I’ll just have to come to terms with being me.
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