october 2002 -
I was reluctant, at first, to attend JournalCon because I am basically a shy person. Crowds intimidate me, particularly when they are made up of people who enjoy doing the same thing I do. I enjoy writing here online, but the prospect of mingling in a roomful of others who write is terrifying because it inevitably brings up feelings of inferiority in me. Also, I am not good at small talk. Not that small talk is bad. On the contrary, it's a nice lubricant for the onset of social intercourse. If there is too much friction, simply apply some comments about the weather or the accommodations or the local sports teams and soon enough things will go swimmingly.
There is another curse among us shy folk, and that is the inability to accept or digest compliments easily. We are used to our sorry opinions of ourselves and carry on, trying to move forward, with as natural-looking a posture as we can muster. When kind words are offered we really have nowhere handy to put them. Our suits have no pockets to carry such things, and so praise ends up looking and feeling like a lump stuck to the torso. For almost two weeks now I've been adjusting myself to the kind lump delivered by Beth in her JournalCon entry. More and more, as I communicate both with people whom I encountered in San Francisco recently as well as people who e-mail me to say nice things, I find myself getting lumpier and lumpier.
Part of it may be that I just don't know how to hold my mouth right. I think it's something one learns as a child. Some people can sit in the middle of a room at their birthday party and graciously exhibit gratitude and unique affection as they open their gifts in front of everyone. Not me. I can't get my mind around that many people being nice to me all at the same time. And while I can smile genuinely in a one-on-one situation, kindness bestowed en masse makes my face freeze funny. This can be off-putting.
Consequently, I and others like me have developed a layer of insulation, a shield of near-invisibility which makes us able to function at basic levels of interaction without freaking out. It makes us quieter, but we know it's for our own good, otherwise, if we were to offer up the compliments and affection we truly feel, well, deep inside we have this feeling it would make our heads explode and that would just be a big messy shame. While displays of affection toward us are filtered and muffled, their essence penetrates this protective skin. Intent and intensity are perceived, but the impact is cushioned. An unfortunate result of this protective coating is the appearance of aloofness. We are not aloof. We are afraid. Afraid of the affection we feel and the damage it would do.
Having practiced this skill over decades, I have become almost deaf and blind to how other people see and understand me. For example, had I not acquired the insulation, and tended to its impenetrability so thoroughly, I would have been able to sense the incredible wave of infatuation that swept across the female population of JournalCon. I would have seen the swooning. I would have heard the sighs.
It is only now, through the magic of photography, that I am able to see the reality I missed. The evidence has been submitted.
I'm doing my best now to nurse myself back to mental health.
I have a long road ahead of me.
"A Kiss To Build A Dream On" -- Louis Armstrong -- SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK
"The ability to feel is indivisible. Repress awareness of any one feeling, and all feelings are dulled... The same nerve endings are required for weeping and dancing, fear and ecstasy."
- Sam Keen