I've been thinking about relationships a lot lately.
Self-Experiments in Nature = The Best Medicine
Humans are social creatures, yet those stereotypes - introvert, sensitive people, social anxiety sufferers - have been known to be less social than others. As someone who relates to all three of those stereotypes, I'm careful of with whom and how I spend time, but I've found myself hiding behind the labels instead of overcoming them.
Recently being disconnected from almost everything for three weeks was an interesting self-experiment, though I have no regrets of going abroad without a mobile phone. Having time in nature, to soak in our experiences from Dublin, Galway, Belfast, Glasgow, the Highlands, Edinburgh, Malham, and London was the right way to travel for me. I didn't have my nose buried in Google Maps, and getting lost on some of those cobbled streets was a wonderful adventure. There's nothing like a large expanse of city or country life unfolding before you to make you realize how small your life can be.
The more social connections we make, the bigger our legacies?
I remember when my grandmother passed, her legacy seemed larger than life. Sympathy cards and flowers poured in, memories were relived and reflected upon, and unfortunately, it was only then that I realized just how large her life was. I always had known her as Grandma, but she wore many hats - teacher, mentor, friend, Chair of Education, golf buddy, and holiday casserole connoisseur.
Grandma's social network was always extensive, and she made friends easily. For that, I'll always be a little jealous. Those that are willing to have meaningful conversations are easy friends, though I've always struggled with those surface conversations; those that don't come with cut-and-dry instructions.
Travelling on our honeymoon together helped bring Husband and I closer, and our relationship has flourished since then. Yet it's the other relationships that I tend to struggle with; the others that aren't so easy and comfortable. If relationships are a precarious balance of trust, vulnerability, and self-awareness, how do you manage that with a work colleague? Too much vulnerability and trust, and it's almost too personal. Too little, and you can be perceived as a robot.
Making it Right: Course Corrections
My personal vendetta this month has been toward self-awareness. I'm usually been proud of my levels of self-awareness, but I've gotten complacent. Things happen, but someone forgot to tell my face. Coming into places or meetings with open body language, a more pleasant expression (gasp, even a smile), saying "Hello", "Good morning", or "Have a good evening"... these are all basic tenants of being self-aware in the workplace, but they had all fallen by the wayside. I got so wrapped up in my own head that I forgot to take a step back and really be aware of how I could be perceived.
I've been trying to have more patience with those surface conversations as well (though when I ask you how you're doing, odds are I want to know really how you're doing). For those people that I've lost touch with because Life got in the way (or I was overwhelmed by notifications after turning off my phone for three weeks), I've started to schedule time with.
It's easy to isolate ourselves. The "Busy" takes over all conversations, and after awhile, you don't even get invitations to go out and be social anymore. Yet pure loneliness - where you're surrounded by people, but none are your people, those you know are in your court - is hard work. So let's grab a cup of coffee, and you can tell me how you're really doing - and I swear, someone will tell my face to match what's in my heart.