Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I don't have all that many friends in my life. I would even say that I don't have any close friends. These are the folks that you hang around with in your leisure time and talk to regularly. My lack of close friends is closely connected with the fact that I have always had difficulty opening up, with letting folks get too close to me (see Life as Nature II). Whenever I talk to others in a social setting, I immediately feel very self-conscious, out of place, exposed, and uncomfortable. Where do I put my hands? Where do I focus my eyes? When is it my turn to talk? What do I do if there is an awkward pause? It seems so foolish, at my age, to not have any social skills. It is an ongoing source of frustration for me. Far too many times it has caused me to have panic attacks that have led me to avoid connecting with others. Better to stay hidden in my fortress of solitude than to risk the anxiety that being around others causes me.

The other night I got a call from the leader of my church small group. She asked me a personal question regarding my preferences about a social gathering that she was organizing. As her question hung in the air, still echoing in my ears, the world around me abruptly shuddered into slow motion. While she was waiting for an answer, I thought to myself "What would a normal person do?". This kind of scene plays out on a regular basis in my daily life.

Part of my issue is putting myself in the shoes of other people and really understanding their point of view. Call it lack of empathy, lack of a developed imagination, lack of deep cerebral cortex functionality. Call it part of me that has proven very difficult to understand or change. "What would a normal person do?. When I was younger, I viewed my distance from others as a strength. I felt that I was superior. The fact that I did not think or act like those around me was proof. Now that I am older, I have come to realize that my continued distance from others is a sign that something is wrong with me. This defect can be crippling at times. How I long to be more like the others, to share their laughter and their deep connections. How I long to be more normal ...