When I met with my therapist on Tuesday we spoke about needing alone time, feeling overloaded by too many people commitments and all of that stuff. In the Summer time people often assume that teachers are completely free agents and available to meet up and do whatever whenever. And we kind of are – hold on. I kind of am. I can usually meet up on any given afternoon or evening, though I’ll sometimes have to have a child or two in tow. The issue is, I don’t want to.
On Tuesday, a friend had just texted me, reminding me of a vague plan to potentially meet up in town that day, and I felt overwhelmed and sick in my stomach at the thought of it. So why? Why such a visceral reaction to something fairly minor? Well, in the context of the week: I had a family event on Sunday, I was due to visit a friend’s house Monday evening, but I cancelled as my brother was coming to dinner, this was Tuesday, but Wednesday is a standing playdate with friends and their kids, Thursday we’d planned a trip to Bantry to see friends and on Friday – dinner out with other friends.
And it’s too much people for me. The thought of the Tuesday meet up was a person too far, and I was already feeling a little drained and although the meeting itself would be fine, in the aftermath I knew all my generosity would be spent – and I would have nothing left for the patience and love pool required to get through the evening with demanding 4-year olds.
I’ve always had a tendency to feel a bit peopled out at times. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that for me – I’m really just fine with that aspect of my personality. I just don’t know how to stop the invitations coming – and sometimes the suggestions even come from my side, before I see them in the context of the longer week – and I don’t know how to decline without guilt.
I totally believe that “No.” (or maybe more appropriately “No thank-you.”) is a complete sentence. I believe in my right to decline, but I still feel guilty about it. And that guilt often turns to frustration and anger towards people who are doing nothing other than invite me to things. I’m aware that I accept fewer invitations than the average bear. I feel like people expect a better excuse than just “I’m tired” – and anyway any excuse leads to an opening for people to argue “solutions” to the particular excuse. The truth of the matter is just “I’ve had too much people. I’m tired, I want nothing more than to have a normal dinner and if not an early night, then a relaxed night, with a large chunk of only my own brain for company.
Sometimes – a lot of the time – I can’t face the effort required to wear a human mask for an extended period of time. A lot of people I interact with leave me feeling like the proverbial square peg; there’s a whole lot of being bored with unstimulating conversation, focusing so that I respond in an appropriately human manner, rather than segueing into something that seems related and interesting to me, but it inaccessible or boring to others. It’s fine. I can do it. I can even get quite a lot of enjoyment out of it, but by the end I’m usually pretty drained.
I’d mostly be pretty happy to not see people outside of my direct family from the start of the week ’til the end.
Coz my direct family don’t drain me in that way – well, they just drain me in other ways. But at least I don’t have to expend pointless effort in being someone that feels not me. I don’t have to obey the “social contract” when in the confines of my own house.
Anyway, all of this was leading up to the fact that I had an unexpectedly refreshing and fulfilling conversation with an old friend across a couple of hours last night.
It turns out that I don’t hate people so much as I hate pretending, and a meeting or conversation that feels truly connected can fill me with joy and energy and give me more rather than less ability to function in the world. The disconnects I so often encounter leave me feeling more lonely despite the social interaction. True connection undoes all of that.
It possibly also helps to not have to face into dinner and bedtime or have to get up crazily early in the morning, but even with all of that ahead, I think I’d deal with it better on the heels of a solidarity-filled meeting of minds.