letting loose

I find myself having a hard time appreciating the little things. I am perhaps not really alone in this pursuit. Saying it is hard to appreciate the little things is a bit an overly used type of commentary — but that does not make it true. I think you can find an amount of wisdom in most hallmark-card level expressions.

When I say the little things, I really mean a lot of things. But the category that is top of mind for me this early morning has to do with my interactions with other people (a topic, if you have read this blog in any capacity you would know currently owns a large amount of real estate in my head).

Last night, I went to dinner with some friends. I knew about half of the ten people at the table — meaning I did not know the other half of people (about five or so). And, while they seemed like extremely nice people (perhaps extremely is an overstatement, but you get the point that they seemed perfectly nice and innocent), I found myself creating a barrier. The barrier first and foremost existed in my own head, and barely made it outside of my own head as I got caught up in my thoughts. I found myself unable to bridge the gap between harsh judgements I was somehow fabricating in my head and then the actual social interaction.

I basically kept making judgements in my head — these people are not my people. These people are cringe. These people are kinda losers.

Even though, well I know I know, that I had no place to be making full judgements about people when really first meeting them.

And that not particularly kind internal monologue I was having — that did not really make it outside of my head — does not feel healthy to me. And even forgetting health to me, it feels very much like a limiter. Surely, and I do believe this in my heart, it is possible to learn a thing of experience a thing from every person you interact with. Me putting up this invisible barrier of sorts really does not serve everyone (not me, not them, not anyone in the mix).

Beyond my own mental gymnastics, it also makes me think about how I am perceived by other people. And makes me wonder if other people are also running into the same situation with me — I wonder if they are playing this game, intentionally or not, of judgement. My gut says surely yes.

Some people you meet, though, seem to radiate with curiosity. They seem to really, and genuinely, be open to matching your energy and tone and really seem to care about what you have to say in an interaction. And it seems real.

And for me, if you were to ask me last night, I felt like I had this additional weight I was carrying that was almost preventing me from letting loose entirely and opening up to the conversation. I felt like there were really two conversations going on — one in my own head and one that was taking place out loud. The one taking place out loud was ~fine. I mean it felt like other people were enjoying it more than me. This is fine to be clear — the world does not revolve around me entirely (even though my world often does), and the conversation is not marked as successful or not pending my satisfaction (nor am I the one to universally mark a conversation as successful or not — I am not the king of all conversation satisfaction).

But it did feel odd. It did feel like my judgement glasses, perhaps a subset of the emotional sunglasses I have written about, came on early in the night. I wonder what triggered them. I imagine it was a combination of factors — like I saw these people having so much fun to some degree but they were making the types of jokes and comments that I honestly cringe at to some degree. And I wonder, again hopefully you can see (or at least hopefully I can see!) that I am leading with genuine curiosity here and not saying I wonder just for motion’s sake — I truly do wonder, what is stopping me? Because surely this has to do more with ME versus me, and not really them at all.

Now to be clear, I think they were having fun. They had a great night. And that is awesome for them. What was in my soul that was stopping me from doing that?

I very much believe in this notion that the world is a mirror into your soul. And your soul, perhaps worthy of a ~very long definition (one that I could attempt but am not going to write about today) so I will give you a short one, makes up all your past experiences. So there is some thing — or set of things, tugging at me. Blocking me.

That is at least one perspective. If I were to go with it, and dive down the rabbit hole fully, I would think that some set of events in childhood impacted the way I perceive social interactions. I am in no ways making the case that I need to be friends with every person on earth — that is not my expectation in the slightest. But there is something to this reservation I have by default. A reservation that may be a version of fight or flight, that gets triggered with or without my intention. The fight or flight may come from a desire growing up, something about not getting embarrassed.

I remember I often found myself wanting to avoid being embarrassed. It is unclear many people aim to get embarrassed, especially in your youth. I remember myself getting embarrassed by things that were not particularly laughable — but I still found a version of awkward. I remember my dad always questions my embarrassment: “why are you getting embarrassed, you do not even know the people here?” I always thought that was an interesting point — I mean it was something I would often agree with in my head, but in practice, I would still find myself feeling awkward and embarrassed.

I could probably spend a year defining the word embarrassment and learning about various theories that explain why it happens and how to potentially overcome it. I do not think I have any sort of generalized social anxiety or anything of that variety — this is not the type of situation that absolutely ruins my life to a degree that it is debilitating. But it is, at least when I zoom out, “interesting” to me that I put this wall up. I put it up pretty quickly, too, like I can make a judgement of someone based on very few triggers. And once the judgement is up; I tend to perceive them differently than I would like to. The triggers generally just have to do with particular sets of comments. I am not afraid to admit that – I would by no means say that I am going around judging people in any capacity that would be marked as “hugely wrong” (now I know this is a bold claim to be making but yeah I think it is generally quite innocent). But I do feel like and do admit that I am limiting myself in many ways. I know this comes across as egocentric — I guess I would also say that I am being unfair to those around me. Not in a very dangerous/harmful way. Not in a way that I am directly hurting them.

More in that I am giving them less of a chance than is possible — or rather I am making a judgement faster than perhaps is optimal for understanding’s sake.

This may have to do with my desire to understand (which likely stems from my desire to be understood — all of which may or may not trace back to childhood interactions I have had, where I was failing to feel understood). The desire to understand sometimes trumps my desire to understand reality. What I mean by that is I may jump to a cognitive based path to understanding — one that is not representative of reality (as reality would also include perhaps emotional based paths to understanding) — because I am craving clarity. But it’s not real clarity, it is just placeholder clarity. Nonetheless, my mind gravitates towards that state because I would prefer, intentionally or not, to have the “I am freaking out because I do not understand what is going on” blank filled as soon as possible, over suffering with the state of the unknown.

Now I do not always read back my work to myself — especially not on this blog — but in re-reading the last paragraph, I totally see myself spiraling into “trying to come up with a complicated answer for a not that complicated topic.” In times like these, when I have entered the meta meta meta — I try to remind myself, what would it look like to choose the stupid simple answer to the prompt.

The stupid simple answer here is that I went to dinner last night and didn’t like the people at the dinner party. I didn’t like them because I thought they were cringe. That’s all fine.

But even there, I avoided the prompt. The prompt was NOT why did I not like them. That is all fine and well to not like someone (at least I think, depending on how you express that potential dislike). The prompt is moreso, in spite of not liking someone, why could I not fake it? Why could I not have been an actor of sorts in that situation.

And the the simple straightforward answer to that is perhaps — that I just didn’t care to.

Okay that’s a boring answer. But I think it’s probably the root here. I saw little incentive from doing so. Like the benefit of learning a thing or two was trumped by my perceived cost of letting loose in an environment I did not feel particularly comfortable in. And I will admit that I think my perceived cost of letting loose is higher than it needs to be. That is something I can work on — and then I wonder what it will take to get better at that.

Wow that’s an even ridiculous comment to be making — perhaps the opposite of letting loose is asking yourself how to let loose. I do “let loose” (however you define it) in the “right” environment, which generally includes being with people I like.

I find some people are able to make friends with anyone and let loose in any environment (in a way that feels authentic to them). A good excuse for myself would be finding a biological reason for this. Perhaps there is one (perhaps there is not one, too).

But yeah…this exploration, I know not the cleanest, was mainly sparked by my frustration with myself of my inability to morph to the situation, which was downstream of my lack of desire to morph in that situation (and honestly, in most all situations…I do not really have major appetite to be someone I am not).

And that is the conclusion I loop back to time and time again — which is like, becoming someone I do not want to become, no matter how “curious and interested I pretend to be” — has never worked. In the history of my existence, it has never worked. Yet I pretend it will work for other people and I pretend it will work for me. Over and over. I make the same mistake. I have this naive baked in assumption that it is possible to change.

I may not buy that anymore. I am not even sure you come up with new ideas as you get older. I am not even sure you can change your fundamental personality characteristics. What if I modeled that as more static? What is stopping me from making that the default expectation? Why do I default to thinking/dreaming of some other beginning state?