Russian Dolls. I have a small collection of them. I love their colourful designs and themes. The fact they contain smaller, sometimes different versions of their outside shell, that can’t be seen, unless we take the time to open them. Some have as few as 3 pieces and others have as many as ten or more – each one beautiful but slightly different. Some are simpler in their design as each doll reveals itself and they become smaller. Others have an unvarnished, unpainted wooden exterior, embellished with a little gold -yet when they are opened the ones inside are painted in vibrant colours. All rather like people, I think.
People are complicated and rarely do we get to see the smallest, simplest versions of them. It requires time and effort on both sides. We need to listen and observe more in order to see beyond the exterior. For our own part, there is also a freedom in allowing our inner versions to be exposed. But it requires honesty and bravery.
Age gives us the confidence to be more honest. On the one hand I can easily stand up in front of a hall full of people and speak or read and even enjoy doing so, but as my friends now well know, I find parties very difficult. At this point in my life, I find it stressful having to socialise with lots of people. The woman who happily exchanges smalltalk with the public at work or at the checkout in the supermarket, really dislikes social occasions doing the same thing. I love just being at home. I talk a lot at work and I like peace, quiet, comfy clothes and my own company in my free time.
The whole getting ready to go to a party has become stressful. I can guarantee that any outfit I have planned to wear will look dreadful on the night and I end up with a bedroom littered with clothes and a longing to stay at home. I feel bad-tempered and hijacked. Even the anticipation of this feeling increases my anxiety. When and if I finally get to the party I wonder when it would be polite to leave. It sounds ungrateful and unfriendly, I know.
I feel the same about committing to going out as a group in the evening too – in fact any social arrangement involving a group of people. However much I love those I am supposed to be meeting, when a ‘night out’ is arranged, I can’t get enthusiastic about it. Dread would be too strong a word, but In the past I have been thankful for reasons not to attend. Putting that into words seems shocking but I have become protective of my ‘Me’ time.
One day, as an evening out was being arranged, I finally decided to be honest with my work colleagues. I admitted how I felt and asked if it would be ok if I decided on the day whether to go or not. Their complete understanding warmed my heart. Now when booking a table they always call me a “maybe” -but say that it will be lovely if I do come – and with that freedom I mostly do – and I have a great time.
Knowing that friends understand if I don’t attend has made life much easier. By peeling back a layer I may have made myself appear more vulnerable – weird even – but I have removed a source of stress from my life and I feel closer to the people I have shared that with.