I’m doing a video course through Brene Brown’s platform, and one of the activities yesterday was to go to Kristin Neff’s site on Self Compassion and take the assessment. The thing that really stood out for me was that I scored nearly as high as I could on the metric of isolation, which is, in her frame, how alone I feel in my self-criticism. I was actually alarmed at my scores in this area. She has some great advice about other areas of self-compassion (how to improve the positive metrics and reduce the negative ones), but doesn’t talk a lot about how to address isolation.
To be clear, her score doesn’t say I’m isolated, it says when I’m being hard on myself, I think it’s because there’s something particularly wrong with me. That sounds like the voice inside my head. I’m connected to my community in several ways, and I have close friendships and relationships. Grey area guy is still in the picture -ish (in a way that seems like it’s going to change— he seems like he’s starting to waver on keeping me at arm’s length).
Isolation, speaking more broadly, is something I’m a little touchy about. I’m somewhat introverted by nature, and I don’t know if it’s group dynamics or what, but I can be funny about interacting with groups or clutches of people. When I was in first grade, all the kids in my class would come to me when class let out, and have me set up the game they would play for all of recess. I might have played it for the first day or two, but after that, I’d set it up and then go play by myself. It’s carried into adulthood, somewhat— I tend to organize events for my company, and I’m great at throwing a party, I just want to go up and lay on my bed by myself at some point during the party. I’ve long-preferred one-on-one interactions to group dynamics, where I too often feel like I have to go along with things I don’t actually agree to or to kick up a fuss and earn that “you’re overthinking it and you’re just no fun” thing I’ve heard too often. I’m also really self-entertaining, so it’s normally fine for me to be friendly with a bunch of groups, but not really belong to any of the groups.
With that said, as someone who has not yet married, and who is unlikely to have biological children of her own, at this point, I definitely don’t want to find myself so insistent on relationships on my terms that I find myself cut off increasingly cut off from people around me. There’s something of a family history of that, that I have to watch for.
This morning, I gave a speech at Toastmasters. My speech objective was to be entertaining. I was. I made ’em laugh (I’m so addicted to making these people laugh! They get my jokes, after a lifetime of hearing about my bone-dry sense of humor), I hit ’em with some Thoreau to chew on, I gave them a “here’s how to do it at home,” bit of wisdom to think on. Everyone agreed that I did a good job (and that I need to do more in the area of vocal variety and purposeful movement. Bygones.)
One of the members of the group wrote on my evaluation “we have all these (she listed a few) things in common! Let’s build on it!” and suggested some activities for us to hang out together outside the club. I’ve never really thought of hanging out with her after hours, but I’m not opposed to being a little friendlier. I can be reserved to the point of being hard to know (at first), and I believe in rewarding people who are that open and friendly. Heaven knows if we wait for me to reach out to others, it will be a cold and lonely stretch. I’d be up for the ideas she suggested. I also chatted (and chatted and chatted) with another woman there. We clearly have some base things in common, and given that I have to bug out of meetings pretty aggressively because they make me really late for work, finding ways to stay in touch with some members after meetings would be a great thing. You know, on a case-by-case basis. One at a time. Long as none of them gave me unsolicited advice or made any sudden movements.
And it’s also a hedge against the isolation I can find so limiting.
Another idea I’ve thought about was a support group for adults living with/caring for an elderly parent. I found the support groups for families of ALS patients really helpful, when my dad was sick, and I trained to facilitate grief groups at my church after he died, which I got a lot from (but which didn’t last long after I completed the training [notmyfaultIswear!]), but I don’t know where to find that kind of thing, where it exists in my area (I’ve done some searching online and through Meetup.com). I naturally resist things like book clubs (you can’t tell me what to read, man!) and other things, but a small group of people who are similarly navigating a thing that’s challenging to navigate and on which there are few easily discoverable resources? Doesn’t make me as naturally rebellious. As long as I didn’t have to host it in my home (I can’t talk openly about my frustrations and challenges in this role with my mom right there, and she doesn’t really go places I don’t take her), I’d be somewhat open to running things, even.
I don’t know where to wrap this up. I don’t have a clear call to action. If you’d like to talk with me about this, I’ll be interested in your thoughts. If you’d prefer not to, thanks for reading! Have an awesome day!