Hi, society

by Jennifer on July 21, 2008

I’ll let you all in on a secret (those of you who know me, you know this): I’ve spent a good part of my adult life feeling quite sure that I didn’t enjoy being around other people all that much, with exceptions made for a few good friends and a few family members. I was sort of proud of it, the way I kept myself to myself. My free time, when I had it, was most often spent alone, and I liked it that way.

But as time went on, I was forced to admit that on the flip side of my personality I’m a bit of a social butterfly. I inherited that trait from my grandmother, and I’m learning to treasure it as much as the ruby ring she left for me. She was always the one who made everyone feel at ease. She couldn’t have a good time unless she was certain everyone else was, also. I’ve grown (am still growing) into this part of myself. It feels uncomfortable at times, and is certainly not without its embarrassing moments. (There’s that whole awkward, quiet side of me that trips up my confidence often enough.)

Don’t get me wrong. I still like to be alone. I need it as much as I need almost anything. But I’m starting to become quite fond of more than just a few of you. (Quite a lot of you, actually. And not just you, here, but a good number of people I come across when I leave my house.)

It’s not just a need for adult company, though that is definitely the case after almost a decade of hanging out with the under-10 set. But the thing that has changed, the thing I was too arrogant to recognize before, is that I really do like to hear other people’s stories. Of course, it helps when they’re entertaining or poignant or startling, but those aren’t essentials. Sometimes a story that isn’t showy at all can stay with me longer than one with fireworks to it. We all have to get through life somehow, and though there’s something moving about the aggregate accomplishment of that and the solidarity that we feel when we recognize we’re a tiny part of something bigger, the close look is the one that is most interesting to me.

The stories are one of the prizes we get to claim in life, and we don’t even have to wait to the end of the party for them, like door prizes. We collect them. We make them. We pretty them up, or dress them down, or scuff the edges of them for effect. Sometimes we can even change the way they turn out, as we’re living them, if that needs doing.

Sure, the laugh or the heartbreak exists even without the telling of it, and there are things we never tell to anyone, because there’s no way to get it right, no way to explain them in a way that would be understood. It’s impossible to completely know another person, and that’s how it is and as it should be. But the telling of our stories closes a circle that won’t close any other way. It’s how we know each other, as surely as we recognize a person by the shape of his face or the sound of her voice. It’s how we know we’re probably not so much crazier than the next guy. How we know we’re all a bit odd, that we’re all broken. The stories of the bruises and the scars and the laugh lines are what make us interesting.

Stories are how we know each other, how we recognize another soul like our own. It’s a lonely life if we don’t have at least that much, if we go through the hell of it and the sweetness of it without a way to share it all.

I’m not saying that I won’t screen my calls from time to time, or that I won’t come close to peeling rubber next time I go for a long drive by myself. But at the end of that drive, when I’m at the table next to you at the diner, don’t be afraid to say hi.

Especially if you have a good story to tell.

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Edited: In her most recent post, Kyran Pittman at Notes to Self tells the story of how, in the space of a cab ride, she set her judgment aside to make room for curiosity and compassion, and heard a story she might not have expected. What she writes there is a perfect illustration of what I was trying to say here.
Kyran’s writing always changes the way my day looks, and her blog is one of my favorites. If you’re not reading it already, I hope you will take a moment to discover a beautiful writer who writes beautifully. (Also, you should check out her article, Mommy Wears Prada, in the most recent issue of Good Housekeeping. )

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn @ Juggling Life July 21, 2008 at 10:31 am

You’re describing the reason we all read each other’s blogs–we’re hungry for the stories.

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..BitchHer 2008: The Inaugural Bash

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flutter July 21, 2008 at 11:36 am

you have me anytime, at your whim. Deal?

flutters last blog post..The good, the bad, and the WTF?

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McSwain July 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

What Jenn said. And I’m right there with you–I love to be alone, but I also love to be with people–to hear the stories. Those last three paragraphs are dead-on.

McSwains last blog post..

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Louise July 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm

“She was always the one who made everyone feel at ease.” That is you, too. And you didn’t grow into that. You’ve always done that. And how? By listening to stories. I have never in my ENTIRE LIFE met anyone who is better about actively listening and not interrupting. And sometimes when we talk, there is so much going through each of our respective heads that we interrupt each other. But you are the rare soul who notices it and apologizes for it. You don’t HAVE to apologize, but you do.

As for finding out that we are no crazier than anyone else, well that’s true. And that is something that I don’t think you can figure out unless you interact with people. I’m an alone-type person, too. Probably a lot more so than you are. I don’t think I’m a hermit, but I often don’t choose my interaction-with-others time. It happens because of the things I do, and it makes me tired and need to be alone. Anyway, the interaction, whether or not it was my first choice of interaction, has given me more confidence in my life than anything else. You are right. We are not any more messed up than anyone else.

Most of all, I’m glad you are learning this about yourself. I know it will continue to grow and blossom nicely.

Louises last blog post..Sunrise. Sunrise. And Some Awards.

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Lisa July 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm

This reminds me of a quote from Mother Theresa ‘You can’t help buy love someone when you know their story’ (note I may be paraphrasing but ya get the point!)
Great post!

Lisas last blog post..Is this karma?

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San Diego Momma July 21, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I’m a story kind of girl. That’s why I come here so often.
Keep telling your stories!

San Diego Mommas last blog post..Into The Worm Hole

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Lennie July 21, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Couldn’t. Agree. MORE.
Well said.

Lennies last blog post..Training wheels no more

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Milena July 21, 2008 at 2:09 pm

You have me at any of those other times Flutter isn’t claiming you. Hi back and I love your stories like only a few others. I recognize you through them and that is the best kind of finding possible. xoxo

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JCK July 21, 2008 at 2:41 pm

What a lovely post!

“Sure, the laugh or the heartbreak exists even without the telling of it, and there are things we never tell to anyone, because there’s no way to get it right, no way to explain them in a way that would be understood.”

But, you get it right and explain it SO well. Always. That’s why I keep coming back.

Plus you’re a sweet lady…with a racy, poker face side that is sexy!

JCKs last blog post..All of us brought together by our passion for blogging

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Sandy (Momisodes) July 21, 2008 at 3:39 pm

I feel ya. This is why I’m so addicted to the blogosphere. The raw, honest imperfections in human interest posts keep me grounded, but at the same time it forces me to grow.

A lovely post. Very well said 🙂

Sandy (Momisodes)s last blog post..I Got Served

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melissa July 21, 2008 at 3:54 pm

I love the stories. But what is the best way to get people to reveal? That is what I struggle with. I’d be a terrible interviewer.

melissas last blog post..Spy Games, Blogger Style

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Ann July 21, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I swear, we must’ve had the exact same role in our families. I was/am such a loner – and want to be – and yet, I was always pegged as the “sunshine” of the family as well, the one who brought everyone else together. I am getting better at reconciling this conundrum. However, I’m not much better at screening ALL my calls!

Anns last blog post..The Summer Of My Content…

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jenrantsraves July 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm

I really love this post, and the way you wrote it. What has always struck me is that 2 people can tell the exact same story in such a completely different way. One – totally interesting and funny. The second – like watching paint dry. Gosh, I hope I am more like the first.

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Lisa Milton July 21, 2008 at 6:13 pm

I think you just captured something essential to bloggers – a little introverted and the love of a story.

I’m always amazed by others’ stories, combing through my reader.

I think about different families ups and downs and it makes me feel less alone. More capable.

What a beautiful post.

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Mrs. Schmitty July 21, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I love me time. Just to be alone and collect my thoughts. I’ve been known to screen calls too…just because I don’t feel like talking to anyone.

But I do love people too. I like the balance of the two.

And P.S. anytime you’d like to swap stories over dinner, I’m there! 😉

Mrs. Schmittys last blog post..Every Mom Should Own One

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Suzanne July 21, 2008 at 7:35 pm

You seem to have struck a cord of commonality here….perhaps that is what makes blogging so appealing…it allows us to find a community we can visit at will, but also allows us the solitude to create and then share our thoughts.

Thank you for expressing our common thoughts!

Suzannes last blog post..Do We Need Happy Endings? – Part One

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anymommy July 21, 2008 at 8:13 pm

You struck a poignant note in me. And yes, I agree with many other comments – that is exactly why blogging has sucked me in and won’t let me go.

anymommys last blog post..Whisper Sweet Nothings in My Ear

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Rhea July 21, 2008 at 9:18 pm

I’m pretty shy, and I treasure my alone time. However, I love being around a lot of people, as long as the pressure isn’t on me to entertain. I’m more an observer. I think that’s the writer in me. I want to take notes and photograph. :o)

Rheas last blog post..Mystery Photo – answers

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Jennifer Harvey July 21, 2008 at 9:26 pm

It’s making me very happy to hear that so many of you feel the same about this. Just wanted to jump in and say thank you to all of you for adding your thoughts. (I’m responding to comments by email this time around.)

Thank you!

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Trollpop Bagelstien July 21, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Social decadence. wistful words, what are they. who are the syllables that tell to world sweet nothings into air and sky, far betwixt the moon and sun. Relations relating to worldly cousins of aging souls, deplorable, depressing the laughter and lightfully wond’rous walrus?

Walrus?

Quoth the Trollpop, excerptations from “Thus Spoke The Dingarushtra”-Dr. Edmond Eckhart:

“The social ways of the Dingarushtra… entering a world of woe the Dingarushtra lives to eat and live amongst table tennis champion Wang Liqin. Recorded and only recorded to feed from the aura of Wang Liqin, the Dingarushtra stares into his soul, in longing for the attentive attention that may never be his. Despair are his ways.”

Trollpop Bagelstiens last blog post..Ahum hum ho diddly hum

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Carolyn July 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Awwwww. I loved this post. I feel the same way. What you said reminds me of something I wrote about travelling and how the worst parts of a trip sometimes make the funniest stories. I love to hear another person’s travel stories almost as much as I love to talk about my own. The truth of our experiences is what makes us real which is why I always try to be brutally honest on my blog. Someone before me mentioned that Mother Teresa said you can’t help but love someone if you know their story. This is so true. I fantasize one day that the internet will be able to connect all individuals on the planet with our stories and we will finally be able to love each other equally, shortcomings and all.

Anyway… I don’t know if you’d found my blog yet when I wrote my post about travelling, but check this out if you have some time to kill… it’s a little long… sorry!

Carolyns last blog post..silent gratitude.

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Tina July 21, 2008 at 9:56 pm

You describe me to a T. I spent years craving a little solitude and then when I finally scheduled a couple of weeks away by myself, I found myself walking into town and striking up conversations with people. I also enjoyed the solitude, but found I’m more social than I realized.

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Grandy July 22, 2008 at 12:47 am

I just hope my stories are the type that will make you smile, or feel. I can so relate, but on the flip side. I have always been the social butterfly, and am now in need of discovering some more ME time. Maybe we could do some sort of parent swap, only without the folks?

Thank you for sharing this about yourself. I feel honored to know a little more about you.

Grandys last blog post..Belly Watch 2008 Continues

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Deirdre July 22, 2008 at 12:53 am

Your listening skills and empathic ear must make people willing to share, AND you have that knack for recognizing a story when people are unaware they even have one. . . A wonderful post which gave me a “slow down a spell” feeling. Thanks! Very refreshing.

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RiverPoet July 22, 2008 at 3:53 am

Oh gosh, I love a good story, too! (which is why I love your blog!)

I was privileged to have a friend from church with me while I waited for my son to have his surgery. She had quite a story to tell, which I cannot share. It was told to me in confidence. It was one of those “stranger than fiction” stories of a life-changing event for her. I was very grateful to be the set of ears on which she bestowed it.

The coolest thing is, as a writer, someday I’ll be able to integrate those rich details into another story. It’s fascinating to be able to do that.

And if I were privileged enough to sit by you, I’m sure we could entertain each other with amazing tales.

Peace – D

RiverPoets last blog post..A Poem for Those Who Won’t Come Home

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HRH July 22, 2008 at 5:11 am

I love a good story. Quite honestly it doesn’t even have to be that good…

I understand this.

HRHs last blog post..Next time Holly is going to get a root canal…

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Madge July 22, 2008 at 6:55 am

I prefer non-fiction.

I don’t even know why i said that. But i realized I hadn’t commented — even though I read this yesterday. and i experienced extreme BFF guilt.

Madges last blog post..Men I Love – Part Two

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Treasia July 22, 2008 at 8:02 am

You hit the nail on the head with this one. As always though you are exactly right. I have learned a lot about myself in the last couple of years of finally becoming a SAHM. I have learned that while I adore my solitude I also love being around people. Until recently this never made any sense to me, but now I know it’s just part of who I am. What makes me ME. Today I start a new job and no more SAHM for me. I am so looking forward to it to feel complete once more. I hope to find a happy balance between the two, working and my quiet time.

Treasias last blog post..Everyone Needs One

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Leeuna July 22, 2008 at 8:55 am

There’s nothing I can add that hasn’t been said already. We’re all more alike than we think.
This was a great post. Thanks for sharing.

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Kimberly July 22, 2008 at 6:34 pm

Wow, I relate so much to this post. I’m an introvert and on many levels I cherish my alone time. When I get a free afternoon, I love to go browse the aisles of the bookstore or go to a movie BY MYSELF. My husband will ask, “why not invite so-and-so,” but really, I’m quite happy to be alone.

On the flip side, when I do get together with my friends, I enjoy it immensely. I love connecting with them and hearing what’s new. And that’s why I love reading blogs. It’s a great way to learn about and connect with others.

Very well said, as always.

Kimberlys last blog post..Inside the mind of a three-year-old

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cog July 22, 2008 at 10:25 pm

I don’t follow mommybloggers or daddybloggers or whateverbloggers because they are mommybloggers or daddybloggers or whateverbloggers. I follow the ones I do because they can tell a good story.

It’s the writing.

I work where I often have to interact with strangers, but also spend quite a bit of time alone, and I think it’s perfect, because I get to hear their stories, and have time to consider them and find a way to tell them like they need to be told, to go along with stories of myself.

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we_be_toys July 23, 2008 at 8:02 am

Well said! I was trying to think of what I would say to someone when I’m asked “why do you keep a blog?” and I think you summed it up brilliantly.

PS – you’ll know its me at the other table when the woman with me shushes me (not my mom, Bea!) for being too loud and talking to everyone.

we_be_toyss last blog post..Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Ringaling

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Hatchet July 23, 2008 at 10:52 am

Exactly so. It’s why we write and why we read and why we obsess over the minutiae of the lives of perfect strangers.

So go on, tell me another one!

[Gazes upon you with rapt fascination.]

Hatchets last blog post..The Origin of Woman with a Hatchet

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Crazycath July 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Jennifer, you are one of my favourite blog reads, and friend. The best bit about friends is not having to be something you’re not. I am always comfortable to be “me” here – and you do that. You allow people to relax. Glad you’re relaxing yourself and enjoying.

Been over to that story you mentioned and it is very powerful, with a great lesson in it. We need to remember to treat others as we wish to be treated. If we all did this, the world would be fine.
Enjoying your company….

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tysdaddy July 24, 2008 at 9:54 am

Excellent stuff, Jennifer. Methinks I’ll share this . . .

tysdaddys last blog post..What Are You Going To Do With That?

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Denise @ EatPlayLove July 24, 2008 at 5:56 pm

I love your stories, you are such a wonderful author!

Denise @ EatPlayLoves last blog post..Thursday 13: Mile High Music Festival Observations

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Ree July 27, 2008 at 10:47 am

Kyran interviewed me for a post once. She was a great interviewer. It was the Great Interview Experiment.

Rees last blog post..Visit with the Goldens

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