Shelley Widhalm

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Shyness Factor

In Finding friends, Fitting in, Shyness, What's important on November 28, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I have read several how-to books about overcoming shyness. I think the advice on how to start and maintain a conversation, as well as the various explanations of the possible causes of shyness, have been helpful.

What I don’t understand is why I take this beaten-dog approach to some of my conversations. I sometimes wonder: Did I reveal too much? Did I say the wrong thing? Does this person think I’m a bore?

All of this comes to mind because I felt insecure after a wine and appetizer get-together in late November with members of my writers group, which meets on a weekly basis to freewrite and critique each other’s work.

I remained quiet most of the evening, though I was eager to tell the story about my covering a lung cancer awareness event and crying halfway through it. I wanted to tell the story because the group members (there are six or so at each meeting) knew about my mother’s hospital emergency a month earlier.

One of the members brought up that she had wanted to go to the awareness event and missed it, and I said that I was there and then told my story (as described two blogs ago). And then I segued into how I feel left out with some women in another social circle.

I felt guilty – later – about bringing up my problems, particularly the telling of the second story when I was venting.

I figured the group members all thought I was a bore, and then I realized I was taking that beaten-dog approach. I talked. I said things. And, of course, it being me saying the things I said, those listening would think I was an outcast. Get out, I could hear them say. And then I realized, it’s me being insecure, walking on the self-created eggshells, wondering how I appear to the rest of the world when, really, it doesn’t matter what people think.

It’s my first step, or another actually, in letting go of my shyness label. I’ve carried it so long, it weighs me down, so that I have to duck my head whenever I fear I’ll be laughed at, picked on or ignored.

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The Town Crier

In Moms and daughters, Multiple sclerosis, Too young, Trying to be professional on November 21, 2010 at 8:30 am

I didn’t know I had leftovers within my emotional makeup. I found out the truth when I covered an event involving survivors of lung cancer and their families. I listened to the stories of men and women who were diagnosed with lung cancer – 17.9 percent nationwide never smoked and another 60 percent had quit smoking.

The survivors said they were asked, “Do you smoke,” a question that they said blames the victim. They said that when heart patients or those with diabetes get sick, they are not asked, “Do you eat healthy?” “Do you exercise?”

One woman said that battling cancer is a frightening experience but that she learned to cope through the support of her family and learning to watercolor. Her daughter said she was hurt, sad and angry and too young to have a mother with cancer.

I wiped at tears as I took notes. I am way too sensitive to be a journalist, I thought as I took more notes.

I inhaled air and a sob came out of my body. I was so embarrassed, especially feeling that tears were all over my face.

I ran to the back of the room, taking more notes and crying.

I felt something come to the surface, something I wanted to keep inside, away from where the tears are ready to sweep away the pain, only if you let them out.

My mother was in the hospital for a week last month. They, at first, thought she had had a stroke but later found that she had a flareup of multiple sclerosis, something she was diagnosed with in the mid-1990s. I knew my mother was sick. She uses a cane. She is exhausted. She forgets words. She misplaces things.
These things I’ve cried over. But I guess I hadn’t finished giving way to all those tears piled up in the muscles and ligaments of my body. I hadn’t cried about my mother’s hospital visit. I had only got teary-eyed and got busy with my own life.

Why have I become the town crier, I began to wonder when I had dried eyes? Where is this pain coming from? I, like the daughter of a lung cancer survivor, am hurt. I am angry. I am scared. I am too young to have a mother with M.S.

Bullying Angst

In Alone, Bullying, Not supposed to be, or not on November 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

I thought that at my age, I was done with being at the receiving end of bullying. Three women in their 20s and 30s whisper about me and make faces at each other directed toward me, but if I acknowledge that I saw the communication, they act innocent.

I remember a particular inane incident where I coughed, or more like hacked from my allergies, in the middle of a conversation for something professional related, and they laughed at me because my phone etiquette was non-existent at that moment. I found it to be annoying and insulting that they expect me to walk on their eggshells to not get the looks.

I could get more specific about the details of this situation. But the point is that I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried being nice to them, asking them about their weekends or telling them I like their hair or clothes. I’ve tried to ignore them. And I’ve tried making snarky comments that acknowledge I know what is happening.

I had been bullied here and there as a junior high and high school student and at a couple of my jobs by incompetent co-workers.

But I was younger. And I knew that kind of stuff happened.

Now, I am, or at least was, under the impression that I’ve outgrown what is supposed to be in the halls of high school. I guess I’m wrong.

Bullying happens anywhere, anytime, to anyone. You just never know. It doesn’t matter if you try to be professional and kind, you will run across people who don’t believe in the Golden Rule.

Popular Unpopularity

In Alone, Finding friends, Fitting in, Shyness on November 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

I’ve always wanted to fit in, but I wonder what that means. I was kind of an outcast in high school, though I had friends. They were not of the popular crowd. That’s what I wanted to be: popular. I joined a few sports teams, believing that if I was an athlete, I would have instant friends.

That didn’t work, plus I was not very coordinated or good at getting balls into hoops or hitting them with bats or tennis racquets.

I became a journalist and at the small-town newspapers got a lot of attention, but that’s because sources wanted their story told, or they recognized me. They liked my writing. Or my reporting.

I liked the attention, but it didn’t make my phone ring.

Plus, I went into journalism to write.

I wanted to be the center of attention, but I was shy. And now I shy away from situations where there are lots of people. I linger on the edges. I keep conversations short. I look for any clues that I’ve overstayed my welcome.

As an adult, popularity doesn’t matter, but does fitting in? Why do I, no matter what I do, still feel slightly unpopular? It doesn’t matter how many Facebook friends I have, particularly because it’s a virtual world of social interaction that doesn’t feel real. Nor does it matter how often my phone rings, or not. I still see myself as left out. And alone. That is, until I come home from work and get a greeting from my dachshund Zoey. She makes me feel popular, at least with her.

As an adult, I know that fitting in does not matter. What matters is the meaning we make out of the friendships we are lucky enough to find – and keep – whether in human or dog form.