Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The Soup & Spoon
I have social anxiety, ever since I was a child. Being in social situations, it’s kind of hard to tell, because in mixed company, I am not at all what you imagine when you think of someone with a painful case of social anxiety. I am a spazz. I talk non-stop, I laugh loudly, I flutter from person to person. Of course, this person roaming around, chatting people up, never shutting up about this and that… she took years of work to create. In school, I had a hard time making and maintaining friendships. Around horse people, however, I never had a problem because I was always comfortable having a social life revolving around a beloved pastime. At our stable, I was easily able to make good long-term connections and I hardly ever felt uncomfortable at social events because everyone was a friend.
It took a lot of personal struggle to push myself to do things out of my comfort zone. The ORS is an anomaly, because I expected it would be something small and easy to control, but it blew up into a public relations extravaganza and I had to just set aside my personal insecurities and just open up to people, even if that meant coming off as a crazy chatterbox. Luckily, working for a Chamber of Commerce for some years, I learned the art of the schmooze, which has helped me secure venues and establish relationships with business people, but again… in my head, my brain is going AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
Whenever it comes to just joining people for social events, I go through a personal battle every time. My brain fills with all this anxiety, and starts making all these excuses why I really don’t need to go and join in. I can understand why my brain doesn’t like it; because even though I’m outwardly social and having a good time, the whole time I am in a state of high stress… the whole time my brain is saying: I want this to be over, I want this to be over, I want this to be over…. I’m like that overused cliché of the duck on the water, sliding along quite blissfully on the still water, but underneath the surface that duck is kicking like crazy. That’s me.
But it’s something you just have to overcome things like that, I guess; although overcoming isn’t probably the best word. Compartmentalize, maybe. Put it aside, just function and get out as much as you can. But if I let my brain have its way, I’d live like a hermit, in the middle of nowhere, where I would be safe from social exchanges and away from the social expectations that make my dopamine-deficient brain go all ape on me. My social ineptitude often makes me bullish in conversation, I will interrupt people, I will talk my head off, I will tell stories when I probably should just shut the hell up… I am trying though; I’m not too old to change and learn, this I know. It’s a constant process.
Today, I went home early to work from home. I decided to stop at the Soup & Spoon in Welches for lunch. I love that place. It’s what you would imagine a small-town hangout for locals to be. You walk in, they know who you are. You order your food with informality, you talk about family problems with people, and more people come in, and people ask how you’re doing, how your fertility treatments are working, how your cabin is faring in the below-freezing temps. Everyone sort of knows each other, and if you don’t know them, you still feel like you do because you are all from this little town. We all laugh at the ski-tourists, and we talk about local concerns… and when a group comes in that has the ‘not from town’ vibe, things go quiet for a moment, until someone asks them a question. There are four tables, three four-tops and one six/eight top. There’s a bar where I sit, looking right into the kitchen. Today, the health-inspector came in, had some soup samples and then did a quick inspection, was pleased at its meticulously kept kitchens, and went on her way. A TSA employee came up to check on his cabin, and the pregnant lady from the Salon came in for soup. The lady from the acupuncture clinic next door helped wait tables because she had nothing else to do. We all talked to each other from our seats and tables as if we were all at one table. It’s so comforting. I was there an hour and a half.
The soup by the way, is fan-freakin’ tastic. She gives you four soup-samples when you come in, and you get to pick your fav. The food is fresh and delicious and the atmosphere is fantastic. I got on the web and worked there for a while… just talking and doing emails. I walked out of there feeling 1) that I talked too much, but 2) that I had a good time and 3) that I wish I could be there more often. That’s unusual or me, to *want* to go somewhere to be social… so it’s a good thing. Like our local hardware store, I feel good there, I feel comfortable with the locals, I feel like part of a community. It made me feel like I’ve grown a bit in the past few years… that my anxiety is waning, or evolving. I don’t know.
Anyway… if you’re up in Welches, Oregon… look for the Soup & Spoon, it’s small and hard to find, but you’ll likely find a lot of really nice folks there and some amazing soup.