Which Socialite Are You?

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Are you an Intentional Socialite or an Incidental Socialite?*

A what or a what? I’ve never heard of those terms.

Of course not. I just made them up.

Well then how can I answer the question if I don’t know what they are? Maybe if you explained them first?

Oh. I guess you’re right. Okay.

An Intentional Socialite is one who actively pursues social interactions with others. They’re the ones who hold dinners, organise nights out or coffee catch ups or who are only interested in going to see a movie if it’s with a group of friends.

Makes sense. And an Incidental Socialite?

An Incidental Socialite experiences social contact in the context of another activity. A chat over coffee after church or community singing, catching up during a break in a theatre rehearsal or art class, the brief “How’s it going?” exchanges after a meeting or waiting to pick up kids in the school playground, even purely social events as long as they’re predictable like Friday night drinks after work or a weekly coffee date at the same cafe.

I think I understand.

Good. So which one are you?

I need to think about it. I’ll let you know in the Comments.

Okay.

So which one are you, then?

Me? Oh, definitely an Incidental Socialite. Well, except for a brief period at the end of my 30s when I actively pursued social contact with the support of a psychologist in a challenging time of my life.

What made you stop?

Psychologists are expensive.

Ha ha. Couldn’t you do it without the psychologist?

As a shy introvert? No. Not for long, anyway.

Did it concern you?

Not really. That’s the beauty of Incidental Social Contact, you don’t notice that you don’t really have a social life.

So what made you come up with this concept?

Too much long distance running by myself. Nowhere to go but inside my own head.

Very funny. But there must have been some reason the thoughts were there.

Hm. Yeah, there was.

Well?

Well, you know how I said I wasn’t concerned about not having intentional social contact?

Yes.

Lately I have been.

Been what? Concerned?

Yes.

Why?

Well, that was the question, wasn’t it? Why? Why now after all these years?

And?

And I realised I was noticing a lack of social contact with people because almost all of my incidental social opportunities have disappeared.

I see. How did that happen?

Hard to say. Life changes, you know? Some things ended by choice. Some not. Even with work, I’ve gone back to casual teaching and work offers have been thin on the ground so even brief staffroom chats over lunch aren’t happening.

So what are you going to do? As an Incidental Socialite?

Get used to my own company?

Not funny. Seriously, what are you going to do?

Well, I’ve got you, haven’t I? I do enjoy these little chats of ours in the Comments Bar & Grill. What are you drinking? My shout.

Thanks, I’m flattered and I’ll post my order in the Comments. But don’t you think flesh and blood socialising might also be a good idea?

Well, I have started going to group classes at the gym.

I guess that’s a start. Although, how do you hold a conversation while you’re bouncing around and sweating profusely?

It can be done. After all, I came up with this whole Intentional/Incidental social concept while I was running thirty kilometres, didn’t I?

Thirty kilometres?? You ran thirty kilometres? Okay, I think you may have more problems than I thought.

Very funny. I’ve finished my drink. It’s your shout.

Uh, right. What are you having?

Gin. And as you’re buying, make it a double.

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*My fingers kept wanting to type “Socialist” but that’s a whole other discussion.

Introverts Are People Too

Type “introvert meme” into a search engine and you’ll find a million and one results. This is good for those of us of the internal variety not only to realise we’re not in there alone but they provide some handy resources to circulate in an effort to help the extrovert world understand our weirdness.

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There’s a common misconception that introverts are anti-social. We’re not. It’s just that being social can be exhausting for an introvert. Some people (extroverts) are energised by being around lots of people and talking. Introverts get their energy from spending time in their own heads.

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Does this mean we don’t enjoy being with other people? Of course not. Admittedly, we’re not always good conversationalists. We don’t do small talk. And for those of us with the double whammy of introversion and shyness, maintaining a conversation, especially with someone we don’t know well, can be agony. On the plus side, we make great listeners.

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Introverts can do social. We can even like it. It’s just that we prefer meaningful conversation with one or two people we know well. In a large social gathering, you’re more likely to find us clearing the table or in the kitchen doing the dishes. We like a large gathering if we have the option of moving in and out of social interaction with a job to do.

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Unfortunately, introverts – along with those ubiquitous memes about us – can sometimes be our own worst enemies. A plethora of memes about how we’d rather stay home or how social occasions cause us anxiety can have unintended consequences. Often it means that other people hesitate to invite introverts out for a social date. Let’s face it, an introvert will never be the life of the party (although personally I kill it with the Under 5 crowd) and rarely tops an invitation list. People think we’d prefer not to go, that we’re happiest at home alone.

Okay, yes, we are.

Just not all the time.

Introverts are people too and people need people (cue Barbara Streisand…). We can do alone but we also do lonely.

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So, if you’re not an introvert yourself but you’re lucky enough to be friends with one, don’t forget your homebody friend may be getting too much of a good thing. Ask them out for dinner or a drink or to see a movie. They’ll welcome it. Just don’t bring ten people with you.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Actually, given it’s from an introvert, this has been a Privately Expressed Suggestion.

 

Lament of the Lonely Runner

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She runs alone

with no partner, friend, coach or team

to while away the hours

as the kilometres plod by

 

Time in her head

her own company she keeps

She sings to herself

to keep the rhythm in her feet

and silently screams at the voices

that tell her to stop

that she can’t do it

that she shouldn’t be there

 

She revisits past troubles

and reviews ones yet to come

She rewrites past conversations

and rehearses ones that have to come

 

It has always been thus

and she has met the challenges

she has set for herself

and overcome them

Alone

 

And she has not minded

the time alone

She is alone

but not lonely

 

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Until today

 

Today the loneliness strikes hard

Even the usual fleeting connections

with strangers on the track

a smile, a wave, a breathless ‘Hello’

are rare on this cold and blustery winter day

as sensible people stay indoors

curled up on the couch

watching their footy team play

 

Perhaps, in these days of reduced social interaction

this introvert has had too much of a good thing

like an overly restrictive diet

As coffee dates and drinks and dinners out

have all but disappeared

perhaps loneliness has put a foot in the door

 

The loneliness in her life

finds its way onto the track

 

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As the kilometres of bitumen

pass endlessly by

under her pounding feet

she questions this life choice

this pursuit of isolation

And she knows

 

Because loneliness is hard

but also all too easy

 

She questions her value as a friend

to all but a tiny few

Reaching out is easy when one feels

one’s value to the other

 

She knows she is appreciated

for her willingness to help

and her acts of generosity

She knows she is respected

for her tenacity in the face of challenge

and her passion for justice

 

But she longs to be loved

for her sense of humour

and her addiction to American late night talk shows

for her innate childish silliness

and her ridiculous dance moves

for her love of cosplay

and musicals and themed birthday parties

 

She wishes her annoying traits

that keep her from friendship

could be softened and understood

couched in an understanding

of her shyness and social awkwardness

her need for order

and her belief that life should be fair and just

 

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As she reaches the end

the thoughts ease for now

and she knows

tomorrow she will lace these shoes again

and run

alone again

 

Always alone

but not always lonely

 

 

The Gift That Counts

Last year I celebrated a significant birthday. As much as I tried to bury it in a marathon effort and fundraising for refugees, there were friends and family who still snuck in some gift-giving.

I received some wonderful presents from people who clearly know me well. The generosity of my work colleagues blew me away and also their perspicacity in choosing a gift that happened to be on my bucket list – a session in a flotation tank.

Birthday gifts that also made me happy were the many friends and members of the family who generously supported my bid to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Surely the best birthday presents help someone else in need.

ASRC Fundraising

However, the birthday gift that touched me most deeply and for which I was most grateful did not come wrapped in colourful paper.

A few weeks before my birthday, a friend asked if I could babysit their baby son so she and her partner could go out for a date night. I eagerly agreed. With three now-grown sons, time with baby boys is always a joy. With an arrival time set on 6pm, my friend insisted that she provide me with a meal. I argued that it was ridiculous to be going out for dinner and still have to provide a meal and I was more than happy to provide for myself. She insisted again and stated she already had it planned. I reluctantly agreed.

I arrived at the appointed time and was surprised to see her mother and brother there but then inwardly shrugged and decided it must be a family dinner out.

As I stood there, waiting for them to leave, my friend looked at me, smiled and said, “You’re not babysitting.”

“What?” I said.

“You’re not babysitting. My brother is babysitting and we are taking you out for dinner.”

“What?”

“We’re taking you out for an early birthday dinner.”

I stared at each of them trying to comprehend. Then it dawned on me. And then the tears welled up.

In a year when my trust in friendship had been badly shaken…

In a year when I wondered if my worth lies only in what I can do and not in who I am…

In a year when I felt so confused about how to read people’s motives that I have become increasingly socially reclusive…

…Such a gift was unexpected.

More was in store as I arrived at the restaurant to find other friends part of the secret. More emotion. More confusion and joy.

I received some wonderful gifts from people who took time to think carefully about what I would like and I will treasure them always.

But, in the end, all any of us really wants is to know we are loved and wanted for who we are and for others to want to spend time with us. That is a gift that truly counts.

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What is the gift that truly counts for you?

 

The Best of Friends

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What makes the best of friends?

The best of friends stick with you through the good times and the bad.

The best of friends do not abandon you when life changes.

The best of friends forgive your mistakes, thoughtless words and careless actions. Time and time again.

The best of friends are there for you when you need them even if you haven’t spoken in a year.

The best of friends receive an offer of help with joy and not a sense of obligation because they know that helping them makes you happy.

The best of friends can pick up where you left off no matter how much time has passed.

The best of friends let you know where you stand and tell you to your face when you’re being a pain.

The best of friends celebrate your successes and mourn your losses.

The best of friends never leave you hanging.

The best of friends take a genuine interest in your passions even when they are not their own.

The best of friends can live close or far, see you every day or only once a year but are always your friend.

The best of friends can read between the lines and respond to what has not been said.

The best of friends know the worst sides of you but love you anyway.

The best of friends are a rare and precious gift.

 

What makes the best of friends for you?

 

 

 

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An Imaginary Friend

Imaginary Friend

Me and My Imaginary Friend

Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Do you have an imaginary friend now?

If you once had an imaginary friend, I feel very happy for you.

If you have an imaginary friend now, I feel even more happy for you. (You thought I was going to say I feel worried for you, didn’t you?)

I think I’d rather like to have an imaginary friend now, at my age.

But that’s a discussion for another time. It’s not actually what this post is about.

Sometimes, a random thought will come wandering into my head like a lost tourist, plonk itself down on its suitcase in the middle of my thoughts and wait for me to ask if there’s anything I can do for it.

The latest one was this:

“I wonder what it would be like to be an imaginary friend?”

Let’s think about that, shall we?

You’d never have to feel guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time. An imaginary friend always has perfect timing.

You’d never have to take your foot out of your mouth or apologise for saying something thoughtless, hurtful or stupid. An imaginary friend always knows the right thing to say.

You’d never have to agonise over a gift, wondering if it’s appropriate or too much or too little. An imaginary friend always buys awesome imaginary gifts with his/her imaginary millions.

You’d never have to second guess yourself about whether you were a good friend or not. An imaginary friend has absolute confidence.

You’d never have to make conversation with other friends or relatives of your friend, especially those with political views that make your blood boil. An imaginary friend is invisible to everybody else.

You’d never have to worry about posting the wrong thing on Facebook or Twitter or forgetting to reply to an email from your friend. Imaginary people don’t have Facebook or Twitt….er….acc…..ounts….. Okay, you might have to wear that one.

What would it be like to be an imaginary friend?

I reckon it would be freakin’ awesome!

How about you?

 

 

 

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Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane?

It’s [insert favourite superhero here]!

Superheroes are all the rage at the moment, have you noticed?

Marvel is raking in the millions with movie franchises based on individuals (Captain America, Iron-man, Spiderman, Thor) and ensembles (The Avengers) while their television shows (Agent Carter, Agents of Shield, Daredevil) draw millions of viewers.

DC Comics isn’t doing so well on the movie front these days (Batman vs Superman) but the television DC world is thriving (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl).

For a geeky household like ours, this growing popularity of geek culture is very welcome. Superheroes everywhere! (Why else would I have a caped crusader for an avatar? Even if it is an un-Masterly one.)

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But superheroes don’t just live in comic books and on the silver screen. They are all around us. Sure, they may not fly or have superhuman strength or even possess the coolest toys but I’ll bet you know one.

It’s the friend who has endured overwhelmingly difficult life challenges but still smiles and offers her gifts and talents for the enjoyment of others.

It’s the one who has suffered unimaginable loss but has learned to love and laugh again.

It’s the friend who despite financial struggles continues to give generously to others.

It’s the one who chooses to follow her heart and with courage step out to start a business, move to another country, launch a new career or begin a new life on her own.

It’s the friend who fights and defeats a serious illness.

It’s the one who makes you believe you can do anything.

Superheroes are all around us, quietly going about their lives often oblivious to the inspiration they are to the rest of us. They don’t have magical powers or a fancy suit or a cape but they are our real heroes.

I recently chose to acknowledge one of the superheroes in my life by making her a cape for her birthday. I think all the heroes who work magic in our lives should have a cape. Sorry Edna.

Who are the superheroes in your life?

 

 

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The Friends That Scare You

I have the unerring ability to attract a certain type of person. Like flies to a cowpat. Okay, that’s not very savoury. Like bees to honey. Well, that’s just ridiculous. Bees are attracted to pollen in order to make honey. Like moths to a flame. Well, that’s a bit derivative. Like goats to a cabbage. Better, but it’s a bit early for Chinese New Year. Like…

You know what? Forget the analogy. Just trust me that it happens.

There is, within my psyche, a need to draw to myself Button Pushers, Gauntlet Throwers, Challengers, Comfort Zone Destroyers…. you get the picture.

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These are the ones who say “You should run a half-marathon”, “Come along to this songwriting circle and write and perform your own songs”, “I want you to play a part in this play and you’ll need a Yorkshire accent”, “You’re a great writer, you should start a blog”.

In response, every shy and insecure cell in my body (which is, let’s face it, most of them) starts screaming, “NOOOOOOOO!”

But the reckless, unthinking, adrenaline junkie who lurks in my dark corners, always gets her way.

“OKAY!” she says while I try and work out how that happened.

One of the Button Pushers had her way with me a couple of weeks ago. We were due to catch up and in response to the question of what we should do, having been stuck at home with three teenage boys for a very long, long summer holidays, I said, “Something girly. And creative.” More fool me.

A plan was hatched and I was not to know what it was, only that I was to dress respectably but with comfortable walking shoes. That’s the other thing they do, you know. Spring it on you so you don’t have time to back out.

Setting off together, all was revealed. I was handed a small knapsack that contained a selection of art supplies – paints, pencils, pens, sketch paper. We were going on an urban art excursion.

“You’re gonna make me draw…. in public??!

Well, I did ask for something creative.

You know those teen horror flicks where the friend dares the other friend to walk in the creepy forest or sleep in the haunted house? This was like that, only more cultured.

The first stop was our State Library, a grand old building with a breathtaking domed reading room. I don’t know if it was the permeation of decades of higher learning but I found the experience intimidating and I was depressed by my efforts.

Art Excursion 1

This is not what left the library. At the Boundary Pusher’s insistence, I added the middle bit with the arches and gave it a bit of watercolour after the event. It made me feel a little bit better. Maybe.

The next stop was beside the river. Maybe it was the open air, or the gently flowing water, or maybe it was the boathouses across the river and the scullers going past that made me feel more in my element. I was happier but still not convinced.

Art Excursion 2

There was to have been a nature element to our excursion with a visit to the extensive Botanic Gardens but by then the temperature was into the 30s and tea and cake sounded more appealing. This was the girly part. Tea in china pots and teeny cakes served on white tablecloths at the swishy little café attached to the Art Gallery.

The table had white paper overlaid on the linen tablecloth. And this was an art excursion. (I like to carry a purple pen. I feel like Harold and his crayon.)

It has taken days to prepare this post and quite some measure of nerve to bring myself to make my art pieces public. I am yet to be convinced I possess any real artistic ability.

But that is what the Button Pushers are for, aren’t they? To believe in you more than you believe in yourself. To push you out beyond the view you hold of yourself.

And so, despite my fears, I am truly grateful for the friends that scare me because I would achieve nothing without them.

But I’m not sleeping in a haunted house.

 

 

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Two Degrees of Facebook

So, we all know the theory of Six Degrees of Separation, right? And probably its derivative Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (Excuse the use of Wikipedia but I’m not explaining rocket science. And if it’s good enough for our Federal Environment Minister to use to disprove a link between climate change and increased bushfire intensity then I think I’m safe in this instance.)

Let me assume that it doesn’t take a mathematician (I am one but that’s irrelevant) to work out that this theory is seriously out of date in this age of social media.

It all came home to me when I inadvertently wandered into the ‘People You May Know’ section of Facebook.

I was bored so I scrolled down the list. Lots of people I kind of know, lots of people I don’t know at all but are friends with my friends so Facebook (who wants the whole world to be friends, bless ’em) thinks I should be friends with them too, and people I know who are friends with other people I know but whom I did not know were friends with the people I know.

It’s all a little bit creepy.

And then there’s the suggestion of people you don’t know and who also seem not to have any mutual friends in common. What’s with that?

I usually try to be friends with people I want to be Friends with (with a capital F) so I ignored Facebook’s suggestions.

And having recently learned that a flesh and blood, pre-social media, long-term friend has just been through a really rough time, I think my energies are best spent on those with whom I have a Real Life One Degree of Separation relationship. But thanks anyway, Facebook.

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Six Degrees of Sesame Street (I’d be friends with these folks – especially that fabulous Mr S.)

 

 

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Why The Show Must Go On

The Show Must Go On

My friend who died last week was a stalwart of the local theatre scene. As an actor, writer, director, singer, mentor and founder – along with his wife – of his own theatre company, any person involved in local theatre would have been touched by his life in some way.

I’m currently rehearsing for a play with his theatre company which is due to open in less than three weeks. A number of friends, when they heard the news of his death, assumed that the play would have to be cancelled. Admittedly they were non-theatre friends. When I explained that of course the play would go on, they looked at me askance. My response? “Theatre people.”

“The show must go on” may seem like a trite cliché to outsiders but to theatre people, it is what they live by. We could no more stop the play from going ahead than stop the rest of the world from going on its merry way. Anyone who has experienced grief knows, to quote another seeming cliché, that “life will go on” even if at times that seems impossible.

“The show must go on” is just the theatre world’s version of “life will go on”.

The play is one by Agatha Christie. It’s the third Agatha Christie play I’ve been involved in, the two previous productions having been directed by my friend. What more fitting way to honour his memory than to do what he loved?

Besides, I’m pretty sure he would be sending thunderbolts down on us all if we dared to cancel. “What are you thinking?” he would say. “The show must go on!”

And so it will, my friend. And so it will.

 

 

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