"Cordelia: You think I'm never lonely because I'm so cute and popular? I can be surrounded by people and be completely alone. It's not like any of them really know me. I don't even know if they like me half the time. People just want to be in a popular zone. Sometimes when I talk, everyone's so busy agreeing with me, they don't hear a word I say.
Buffy: Well, if you feel so alone, then why do you work so hard at being popular?
Cordelia: Well, it beats being alone all by yourself."
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
I recently discussed the topic of loneliness on the Chrissy B Show. With all the Christmas advertisements promoting family and parties, it's easy to see why some of us can feel a little more melancholy at this time of year. Of course I suggested some ways to connect:
- Have an "online" Christmas - arrange to log in with a forum group
- Make plans for January, for example, if family have gone abroad, then plan your next visit.
- Say "yes" to invitations
- ...and of course getting out in general means that you are exercising, getting some natural light as well as fresh air.
But one other thing resonated momentarily - also the reason for the quote . Don't assume. Don't assume that just because someone is surrounded by people they aren't lonely...but similarly, don't assume that just because someone is spending time on their own that they are. Some people enjoy solitude - and Christmas can be a time to take a break - because everyone is, well - doing something together.
I myself am an "introvert". The common mistake people make is to think that extroverts are the life and soul of the party, while introverts sit in a corner... while this is often the outcome, what extroversion and introversion refers to is the manner in which people draw energy. Extroverts draw it from others, introverts from solitude. The extrovert is dancing on a table not because "That's what they do" - but that's what energises them. They can as easily work at home quietly, but if they do that too much they will soon be seeking company to unwind. The introvert is sitting in the corner because they may well have already spent the day dancing on a table, and now needs to relax.
My work involves a lot of social contact. I speak, I teach, I present. As well as that, being involved in theatre means that I am also always assuming weird and wonderful characters to take the stage - as well as leading the publicity charge to get my productions sold, and raise awareness of whatever cause I am supporting or promoting. At a recent social gathering I was told by two people "You have absolutely no fear"...and this is something I've been told a lot in the past.
Shortly following this I was asked by another friend if someone could join us on a holiday. Of course the appropriate - or perhaps expected - answer would be "Yes" - but I hesitated. For me this holiday was something planned with my husband, and a couple we knew very well. People who are close to me - who've seen me when my mask is about to crack...and instead I said, honestly, - I have issues, but I can get over them.
The truth is - I like my privacy when I get it. My work requires me to be "on show", therefore I treasure my time to unwind. Related to this is my own insecurity that I'm not a particularly interesting person socially...which I compensate for by "doing". I will help set the table, look after the baby, do the washing up - anything to avoid small talk (which I'm quite bad at!). ...and when you look at all the things that I do or have done - they aren't all that brave...just procedural. You want to go on stage - you learn a script, you put on a costume, you perform. You want to write a book - you learn what goes into a book proposal and you keep revising it until you get it right. You want to be self employed - you find your niche, you promote your work, you deliver.
Everything I do has a process I can practice and get better at - but that doesn't mean it comes naturally. "But you danced on a bar at your Hen Night"...yes - after the dance had been choreographed.
The reason I am so good at soft skills training is not just because I have spent a lot of time within
theatre - but I have spent a lot of time acting personally. Yes, through directing I know that a pause here, or an involuntary move there can convey something deeper - but through being what I need to be to do my job well, I know that it is possible to learn what my husband refers to as my "Prom Queen" character.
And I love her.
She is charismatic, vibrant, exciting...and she's great at doing my job!! But if you look a little closer, she speaks knowledgably on a very specific series of topics - admittedly broad ranging, but nonetheless, she's learned them. She likes talking about you - it's easier than talking about herself. She's always willing to help (because it's easier than trying to make conversation), and she's fun to be around...when she's in public and she has to be.
Don't get me wrong, I also like being her. The spotlight can be very warming when you know what you are doing. But I also need my dressing room. I need a place when the mask can come off. I don't mind a select few popping in and out, but I have quite a tight control on the guest list...people who enjoy "Prom Queen", but don't mind, well, me.
Christmas is lovely - and we will be seeing friends and family - but it is also a time when I can take a holiday - from myself...and I'm looking forward to that.