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

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