DAY TWO – Getting a Name and Assigning a Penalty
I have an amazingly difficult time initiating conversation, even with people I know. In group situations I tend to sit back, observe the flow of the conversation and then if I feel I can add something or have a question to ask, I contribute. Unless I’ve been drinking and then I let loose with my opinions at the drop of a hat. I’m inhibited in general. My fantasy is to be a bon vivant and have a clear sense of joie de vivre. I don’t necessarily want to be the life of the party, as that requires too much extroversion than I can muster, but at least I can be ‘of the party’ and enjoying it with everyone else.
I’ve attempted to analyze my fear of casual conversation but unfortunately I mask it and rationalize it. “I’m a misanthrope,” I say. “There is nothing to talk about,” I deflect. “They don’t want to talk to me,” I avoid. I do like people. New people mean new conversations and new ideas. I love new ideas. I love new perceptions on old ideas. Quite possibly the root of it is a fear of rejection. Facing the possibility that this new person isn’t going to like me might be too daunting. This explanation makes me a wee bit sick since it means that I must be getting some sense of self worth through the opinions of others. I dislike this idea very much, very much indeed. Yet, how else can my general fear of initiating conversation be explained? I know when people initiate the conversation with me I engage and converse as fine as a person with geek tendencies can. Meaning, I probably can’t comment on American Idol contestants but I will go on and on about Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Hey, at least they both have singing. The only difference is one is annoying and one is good.
A challenge I’ve been facing since before I started this endeavor is asking the woman who sells me coffee every morning for over two years what her name is. Honestly, it is quite possibly the simplest type of human interaction. Yet, I’ve been stymied. The more I thought about how to ask and have it sound natural, the more unnatural it sounded to me. This very morning I squirreled up my courage and asked. Walking to the shop as my mind began working the permutations of the upcoming encounter I willed myself to “SHUT THE FRAK UP!” I have to do this on some nights when I am trying to get to sleep and my mind just wishes to torture me with all the little faux pas (this is turning into a very French post) I made through the day or with things I need to address the next day. Hemingway even defined cowardice in these terms when he wrote, “Cowardice… is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend functioning of the imagination.” I love my imagination, but it needs to learn the lesson that I’m in control, not it.
I don’t mean to rest on my laurels for this day. This process isn’t about doing one thing that I’m afraid to do a day, it is about facing my fears consistently over nine days, and ideally carry the lessons foward so I can face them continually thereafter. This minor social interaction is one thing I’ve been fretting about to such a degree that I successfully built it up to a level that after accomplishing it, I felt like I climbed Everest. I need to do more but to do more, I need to formulate a list of the things I’ve been avoiding doing because of my lack of courage. Some stuff can’t be accomplished in the nine days as it is ‘opportunity’ based or require more preparation than I can pull together at the moment. On the days that no opportunity presents itself, I think I need to find a proper penalty that helps symbolize to me the outcome of not facing my fears. Since lack of courage is one of the elements that prevents me from having an enjoyable life, for every day I do not confront a fear, I will have to eat just a potato (baked, nuked, or boiled) or rice for dinner. A bland dinner will remind me that a coward’s life is a bland life. Rewards for courage enrich, adds spice, and sweetens this life. Fortune favors the bold and history does not speak kindly of cowards.