Writing on Not Writing
It’s been a few months since I made a post here. Though I’ve thought about it nearly every day, it’s become quite the habit to daydream and theoretically wonder what I could post next. The wondering ranges from realizing that I’m not meeting my own expectations of posting more often (ambiguously anxious), to believing I’ll damn well just post when the right ideas come along (disgruntled and avoidant). Thinking about it all the time doesn’t seem to be helping. My own internal brainstorming meetings often end up with all ideas crossed off the list and quickly moving on to the next thought. In fact, it just took me 10 minutes to write this paragraph, and I’ve edited it four times already.
It’s not that I don’t have stuff going on. I’ve thought about writing about the ever-evolving understanding I have about the intersection of race and homophobia in my workplace (criticism: too heavy for this platform). I’ve thought about the ever-evolving understanding I have about who my father is, whom I’ve been estranged from for over 20 years (criticism: too personal and too heavy for other people). I’ve thought about writing about how I’ve settled into a general sense of peace and confidence in my late 30s that I never imagined could be possible (criticism: too braggy and naval gazing). I’ve thought about how I watch far more shows and movies these days than I used to and can’t seem to focus through a book anymore (criticism: whine, whine whine.) Now that it’s warming up outside, I’ve thought about writing a frivolous little post about the love/hate relationship I have with shaving my legs (I think it would go well with my recent post about skinny jeans, but, criticism: too frivolous). I’ve thought about telling you that I recently took a very special 24-hour personal solo retreat that included a one-room cabin bed & breakfast and an 8 mile hike (criticism: will it be devalued to me if I share it with the world?)
If I read someone else’s blog post about any of those topics, I’d likely be riveted and entertained. The mere act of writing it myself takes it off the docket and leave me stranded of ideas. (Maybe I should revisit that ‘look I’m feeling so confident’ thing…) I’m far too self conscious and self critical about putting my own thoughts on the internet that it’s prohibitive sometimes. I post only 1-2 facebook status updates a year now because of this; I realized how much anxiety it was causing me to know my vulnerable little reflective thoughts were out there in the world for people to judge, ignore, misunderstand, and then, *shudder* actually comment on.
Which brings me to the crux of the matter. I have always been, at my core, pretty socially anxious. I am sociable enough. My career and professional calling even has the word social in it. But we know that shyness, as a quality of temperament, never really changes throughout one’s lifetime, even if a person gains relational skills and correctly interprets social cues (which I believe to be great at). I’ve been (half-)reading a book called You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero that has been the most convincing influence so far in getting me to believe at my core that it should not matter at all what anyone else thinks of me.
This is not a new concept. What’s new is that I’m letting the concept into my psyche in a different way than before. I’m starting to think of my ‘social anxiety’ less as a personal failing and more as neutral quality that has been improved upon greatly by my lifelong efforts, even if those efforts have been at fitting in, getting along with, and pleasing other people. I can remember a former friend telling me over 10 years ago to ‘get over’ what other people think of me because ‘it doesn’t matter.’ Her reflection just sounded like more criticism. I had enough self criticism, and so her words didn’t help the situation but instead just worsened my feeling of being negatively noticed. I am going to consider changing my wording to ‘social sensitivity’ because, that’s an aspect of the experience that the word anxiety does not encompass. And sensitivity requires care and consideration, which is far more nurturing and supportive than the shaming thoughts that emerge when I call myself socially anxious.
As Ellie taught me: I write to find out what I think about something. So I’m writing about not writing to see what I think about not writing.
I’m sure you all would just love to read about any of those topics I outlined up above. Putting their synopsis out into the world today gives me a little incentive to elaborate on them at a later time here. Perhaps I will. Perhaps this expression of my thoughts has shifted me just a bit in the direction of neutrality and away from the self-defeating effects of editing my thoughts before I’ve even written a single word.
Just (please) don’t hold me to it.