It has been a busy week.
I like the city. It is green, a pleasant change from California. It was raining a great deal, a pleasant change from California. People were warm on the streets, and said nice greetings, and I cherish the Southern charm that had played a critical part in my life during grad-school.
There are many people at the events. Loudness everywhere and a pressure to socialize. I cannot handle interactions with new people for nearly the full period of a waking day, for an entire week. It has been a thorn in my side that aches the most during orientation weeks, during conventions, during weddings, during parties. I am grateful to be here. I am glad to meet new people, but in smaller installments. It is not shyness. I am not shy, and can perform if required, before audiences small and large. It is the pressure of social interaction, where I am required to be comfortable and vivacious, where I am required to be the best version of myself, at short notice, in new company. A week of that has shredded my nerves. I need a corner to be quiet in, a long walk alone to breathe, a reprieve from the constant stimulation of excited voices and loud entertainment, a few moments just to be. In this medley of excitement and stimulation, well beyond the threshold of my comfort, I cannot think, I cannot write, and I cannot focus. I find it difficult to explain to people who genuinely enjoy being in the thick of everything, almost all of the time. It reminds me of Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.
I found a church close by. It provides a few moments of solace. It is large and empty, dark and high-ceilinged. It invokes memories of days when I had been loved and in love, when I had been safe and full, when words had flown to paper from pen with joy and ease. I lit candles at the pedestals. The old and familiar ritual brings back a semblance of rightness to my world.
I like company. I like it when I seek it out, when I am in a frame of mind strong and ready. The piano duelling bar is a lively place. I enjoy myself a great deal. I look an oddity amongst them, in my usual off-duty white clothes, and they remark on that a great deal. They are kind people, though, and take me seriously enough to let me try. I enjoy the pleasure and the surprise on their faces when I brokenly play Barbara Streisand’s The Way We Came. I don’t linger long. I come back, happy and in high spirits, and the good mood lasts until I have to show up for the next group event. My face is tired of smiling, my brain is weary of keeping up with the social graces and nuances I am put through, and I have run out of social niceties to say. It is going to take a day or two of solitude to come back to my normal levels of energy and willingness to engage.
I need to find a way to balance it more. I want to enjoy people more, and the wild, beautiful things they say and do and share. I want the comfort of being myself, outside settings that I find comfortable or am used to. I don’t want to leave gatherings early, or be less livelier than anyone else at weddings or parties. I want things to be easier, just as easy as it looks to be for some acquaintances I admire, who can be vivacious and circulate in groups that are completely new to them. Life goes on, though.
Cohen’s new album came out today.