I admit it: I’m a big ol’ chicken. I’m not afraid of bugs or scary movies — most of the time — but I quake in my briefs at the prospect of being confronted with new situations, new places, new faces. I’m especially afraid of new situations and new places that include new faces to which I’m supposed to speak and seem intelligent … or at least not come off like the timid, blithering numbskull I worry about being at such times.
To put it more succinctly, I’m afraid of social situations. I’m afraid of them (and often avoid them) because I don’t see myself as someone good at small talk and definitely not as a confident and courageous speaker.
Surprisingly, I’ve recently learned that some folks — folks I’ve known for years — consider me anything but timid, and more like a capable and confident conversationalist.
Jim and I were invited to a friend’s house for dinner Saturday night, a friend who used to be my boss, a friend who has seen me at my worst as I struggled through the teen years with my daughters, and at my best as I wrote some pretty darn good articles for the publications for which he served as editor. I thought the guy knew me fairly well.
But as we slurped our French Onion Soup (a culinary delight made by his wife), the conversation somehow turned to my fear of speaking to strangers — a certain obstacle for a writer expected to conduct interviews on a regular basis. My friend/former editor stopped mid-slurp, surprised by my admission, and said, “I’ve never considered you timid. I’m surprised to hear you say that.”
Wow! I was more than surprised that he thought I was anything but timid.
He’s not alone, apparently. One of my four sisters, the one with whom I’ve spent the least amount of time throughout our childhood and adulthood but recently partnered with in a writing venture, has expressed again and again in the last six months that she thinks — despite her previous perception of me as the “quiet one” – that I’m actually the “mean one” of the sisters, the tough one that takes no bull, the “beeyotch” as she lovingly called me while expressing her confidence that I’d succeed in small claims court because of my beeyotchiness and way with words.
Wow again! Wow! Wow!
Really, guys, I truly am a chicken.
But I’m apparently a chicken who has mastered the cover up, the faking it til making it, the ability to feel the fear and do it anyway with the guarantee that — as I often told my daughters who were scared of upcoming social situations or confrontations — no one can see the fear rattling around inside your heart and head and thus have no idea how darn scared and lacking in confidence you may be.
The revelation elicited by the admissions from my friend and my sister has me wondering how Bubby will see me, how he’ll view his grandma. As part of my inner circle, will he, like Jim and the girls, see the real grandma, the chicken grandma who’s scared of strangers, of her inability to speak eloquently, of her paralyzing paranoia that something bad is bound to happen the moment she steps outside the confines of her home if she’s required to open her mouth and speak while out in the real world?
Or will Bubby see me as a kooky and courageous grandma who’s willing to scramble around the bouncy house regardless of who may see? Or bang on the piano with him regardless of who may hear? Or read him stories loud and proud with nary a concern about anyone else hearing her rumbling and grumbling and roaring like a monster if that’s what the story demands?
I hope that’s the grandma Bubby sees. I hope that’s the grandma he loves, the grandma who makes him grin ear to ear by saying “screw it” to speaking eloquently (out of his earshot, of course) and simply settles comfortably into just being herself.
Not only do I hope that’s the grandma Bubby sees, I hope that’s the grandma I truly will be.
I just need to let go of the timid little wrinkled-and-too-old-to-be-so-darn-self-conscious me I see in the mirror, embrace that beeyotchiness others see, and be the grandma I’m meant to be.
So here goes.
Watch out, world!
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