Fanning the flames … or not as the case may be

Anyone reading this who follows my twitter account will no doubt have read about my recent date that ended up not a date.  I certainly tweeted enough about it!  Part of the reason for this was that I was so excited about the prospect of it – I actually plucked up the courage to ask a bloke out on a date!  We went out and had a lovely evening, but it became clear that he wanted only friendship.  I was, of course, disappointed.   However, even after that awkward moment in the conversation, and with the help of copious quantities of alcohol, we managed to continue having a good time and enjoying each other’s company.

Obviously I felt rejected and disappointed.  While it was wonderful to discover a new friend, someone with whom I managed spend about 7 hours chatting, part of me was thinking “I went to all the trouble and anxiety of putting myself out there and I didn’t even get a date out of it? Life is so unfair!”  It took weeks of casual chatting whenever we bumped into each other before I had even considered suggesting we spend some time together outside work.  It had involved so much bravery to start finding reasons to strike up a conversation with this guy.  There were plenty of times where I got nervous and therefore completely flustered when talking to him.  So many times where I felt I had said completely the wrong thing and then berated myself.  Add also plain fear of rejection and the humiliation that ensues.  It felt like having courageously completed some kind of obstacle course, having faced down terrifically scary odds, only to find I still wasn’t good enough.

When I thought about it some more, I realised all these anxieties and scary challenges are things I face every time I make a new friend.  For some reason I’ll give myself permission to feel intimidated by the prospect of inviting someone on a date, but I consider it silly to feel so anxious about embarking on a new friendship.  This is ridiculous as there is not that much difference between the two.  I find both activities to be hugely anxiety ridden.  As soon as I do anything that makes it clear that I am making an effort to seek someone else’s company I feel incredibly vulnerable.  I find this is the case with both men and women so it isn’t a dating specific anxiety.

As I think about it more, the process of getting to know someone better and establishing a framework within which you can relate to one another fairly comfortably is no easy task.  Relationship building seems to be a kind of project that is both amazingly resilient and incredibly fragile all at the same time.  Fragile because it takes such a lot of putting out feelers ever so tentatively to find out if someone else is genuinely interested in you.  It feels like any false step, for example assuming too much, interpreting a casual comment as being indicative of much deeper feeling than it is or not responding warmly enough to another’s tentative attempts at friendship, could doom the whole process.  Then there is the general possibility for misunderstanding and misinterpretation when dealing with other people.  It is so easy to interpret their behaviour in terms of our own insecurities and assumptions and we can therefore get it so wrong.  This human endeavour is also surprisingly resilient however, because in spite of all the above we  human beings do generally succeed in making strong alliances with others.  Admittedly, I have become much better at it with practice.  It takes time, patience as well as willingness to take risks and to make yourself vulnerable.

The other thing this links to for me is my difficulty with asking people for help.  This is something I have been at pains to work on over the last few months.  I find it really hard to ask for help and I habitually tell myself before even trying that there is no reason for anyone else to have any interest in helping me.  Funnily enough this doesn’t encourage me and is not even necessarily true!  I guess, again, it is the prospect of being visibly vulnerable that bothers me.  I have always valued being self sufficient so highly and this trait has benefitted me in many ways.   For years I’ve coped by being in control and not relying too heavily on other people.  But I can achieve so much more and be so much happier with the help of other people.  I have only to ask for help and then allow them to offer it.

‘Only’ – as if it is just that easy 😉

What has helped me get over my terror of exposing my vulnerability to other people is the growing discovery that many of the people I encounter find it similarly perplexing.   To round up where I started, the cute guy at work who I asked on a date and I are now pretty firm friends.  We have found a sympathetic ear in each other for our stuff and worries.  When I confided in him that even something as simple as sending a text to a friend I didn’t know that well was a difficult thing for me to do, to my complete surprise he agreed and said he felt exactly the same.  We found we both have spent periods of feeling quite lonely and not really been at all sure how to reach out to other people and to start off friendships.  We both find the prospect of doing so pretty damn scary.  Funny, because he does a really good job of making it look like he has life all sorted out, is really confident and doesn’t need anyone and of course that doesn’t remind me of anyone else I might be intimately acquainted with at all …

Just for good measure, and as I don’t have any apt photographs, I’ll leave you with my latest playlist (started earlier in the month and finished a few days ago).  I’m not trying to say it particularly goes with the post, but like what I’ve written it represents some part of where my head has been over the last few weeks.  I’ve decided I like it, but any kind of analysis is not forthcoming.  Just liking it is enough.

Louise’s June 2011 playlist

#foundwhilewalking: bluebells (a virtual tour)

Over Easter I had a whole week off work and I was raring to go do stuff with it.  This was the first break I’d had since finishing my MA where I’d had enough energy to really want to make loads of plans and get out of the house, so I did!  It had been ages since I’d felt like going on rambling exploratory walks armed with my camera, the kind that are not humble walks at all, but really mini adventures.  As with my previous #foundwhilewalking post on Amsterdam, the aim is to present a collection of my observations articulated through a series of photographs.  If you want to, you can see the full sized photographs (plus a couple extra) here on my flickr page.

One of my walks started as a trip to Abbots Wood to see the bluebells, this being something I haven’t done for years.  My trip became an epic wander in glorious sunshine that ranged the entirety of the green woody space within which Abbots Wood is situated.  I walked right up to the north perimeter, just beyond which there is a stadium, and as far west as possible, coming across the A22 which borders the west side of this patch of access land.  According to my trusty OS map (which of course I did not consult until after I was home, where is the fun in never getting lost?)  I wandered through Abbots Wood, Wilmington Wood, Gillridge Wood, Folkington Wood and Gate Wood.  I found bluebells aplenty and they were every bit as awe inspiring as I remembered.  It was a perfect day for a meandering stroll, which I took completely at my own pace and as a wonderful excuse to spend the afternoon lost in my own thoughts and responses to the beautiful surroundings.

I really like this shot even though I took another similar one with slightly crisper focus over the whole flower head.  Something about the vividity of the blue and the slight fuzziness as a result of the focal distance I chose makes me feel a need to look again and a bit closer, pulling my attention right in to the photograph and not easily relinquishing it.  This is how I felt about experiencing the bluebells themselves.  As you can tell by the photo, I insisted on getting pretty close for a look.  Having a camera in your hand is an excellent alibi for wanting to get on hands and knees and inspect things very closely.

This is the same flower head (the brighter one right in the middle of the shot) as in the last photo.  I am surprised by how much lighter than the other flower heads it looks.  It must have been in full sunlight with no shade, probably what made it such a good photographic subject for a close up.

I really liked the vivid green of this bracken and I am always fascinated by the way the new leaves are curled up.  It was the precision of the way the curled, finger-like fronds leapt out at me that attracted my eye.  In the photo, the speckley sea of what look almost like blue brushstrokes stretching out into the distance behind really makes it.

The few below are all variations on a theme.  I spent even more time crouching down over the flowers and playing about some more with focal depth.  I promise I did plenty of walking, I managed to cover a reasonable distance but I also spent plenty of time taking photos from difference angles and at different distances.  I really enjoy focusing my attention on small inspiring details and trying to see them from as many different perspectives as possible and find it very relaxing to absorb myself in this way.  I think the first is my favourite, especially as the flower stem seems to appear out of nowhere, because it fades into such a soft focus before the eye can trace it too far away from the flowers.  I also really like the third, however, because the eye is drawn to that flower in the middle and the delicate curves of the petals as they fold back on themselves are emphasised.  The others nearer the lens, unusually, end up framing this detail and I like that.

I took this photograph because I found it interesting to look at a flower head that hadn’t fully opened yet.  I’m curious about why the two flowers towards the base of the stem are fully opened and yet the others are not out at all and noted the slightly more violet shading of the unopened buds.  As I look at this photo again I want to reach out and feel the texture of them, they look less delicate but perhaps more elegant than the curling petals of the opened flowers.

The photo of the horseshoe impression is not that great, but in trying to take it I edged closer and closer to the squidgy, unstable section of mud in which it resided.  Eventually the inevitable happened and my foot suddenly plunged several inches downwards in to squelchy mud.  Somewhat panicked, I yanked my foot out and almost lost balance completely.  I was glad no one saw me as I would have looked like a right tit, all to take a photo of an impression left by a horseshoe – not even a particularly worthy subject!

I purposefully fiddled with the exposure on this one, it wasn’t that light in this wood and the next photo does the lighting levels more justice.  The quality of light, however, is better captured in this one.  There was something sparkling and very much alive about it, particularly the way it lit up the new green leaves on the trees.

Eventually, I finally came across what I would describe as a proper bluebell glade.  This was right up towards the northern perimeter of the woods I walked through.  Sadly the photo can’t capture the fragrance, which on a warm day in the middle of a sweep of bluebells can be almost overwhelming.  The sun filtering through the tree trunks and picking out sections of the woodland floor made for a beautiful scene.

What a lovely place to be for an afternoon.  After spending some time in the proper bluebell glade I wound my way south-ish again, going as far as the western perimeter, deciding I didn’t want to be reminded of the presence of th A22 and rambling my way back to the car park.  I got slightly worried about not finding my way back to the car park when I realised how far I’d roamed, but getting lost is always part of the adventure for me.  I returned home tired, but refreshed and with lovely renewed memories of wandering through bluebells in the sunshine.