Social Contract(ion)

Lately, my social world has felt like it’s been contracting, and becoming much smaller than it used to be. I know there are reasons, and good ones, and they aren’t, for the most part, things that are my fault or over which I have any control. But it feels like my world has become much smaller and lonelier than it used to be, and I’m not really sure how to go about changing that. I should note now that I’m really just writing to get some things off my chest here, and out of my head; while I feel kinda low, I don’t think that it’s to such a degree that it should be concerning.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am not the most socially adventurous of people. I’m quiet, and shy, and it takes me a while (sometimes a long while) before I feel ready to have whole conversations with people. I’m also introverted, which means that I don’t really have any interest in the empty pleasantries that fill up a lot of conversational space, so talking with me can be kind of weird. I have areas where I feel comfortable and knowledgeable, but outside of those, I will typically just shut up and listen until I feel like I have something substantive to say – which, on some topics, can take quite a while. I’m also very aware of the generally liberal views I hold, and the polarization bringing those into a discussion can cause, so I feel very cautious advancing my views on anything that might start a fight.

I also don’t go out a whole lot. While travel is nice, and can be fun, and I know that it can broaden your horizons and open up your mind to new things, I don’t generally feel the need to go out and do things alone. I feel awkward going to movies, or out to eat, by myself, and I feel travel – like a lot of activities, is best enjoyed (for me) when with other people whose company I enjoy. When I’m alone, most of the places I prefer to go can be easily reached in my own mind, whether just daydreaming, reading, watching TV, or playing video games. While I like playing games that can be social, like MMORPGs, after a while even that can be awkward for me, because unless I get to know people, or even feel that I can get to know people, I lose interest.

And over the last year or so, a lot of people have left my life. Last June, Alice died (if you want to know how that affected me, feel free to go into my older posts and check – around June 19 of last year). Over the next several month, my relationship with someone I had felt extremely close to, who I’ve noted before here as Calla, deteriorated to the point that this past April, she decided that being my friend was not in her best interests – a state of being that I certainly had a hand in, so please don’t assume I am claiming blamelessness. Around the same time, another close friend who had been here in Houston left the state for greener pastures, and while we still keep in touch, our friendship is far more long-distance than it was.

Also, while I had been a member of two separate gaming groups – one that I was running a game for, and one in which I was a player – both of those now seem to be, for most purposes, defunct. Neither has met for several months, and my efforts to try and cobble together a third from the people in both that still speak to me have not been very successful. I’m looking into finding another right now, but given my difficulties getting to know new people, that is likely a process that could take a while.

I still talk to several people from work, so there is hope there, but trying to arrange some way to interact outside of work is – for want of a better term – generally super awkward for me. Also, given our retail schedules, a lot of things that resemble plans for getting together have a high probability of falling through, which can leave whoever does show up sitting around just wondering what on earth is going on, which makes things awkward for everyone. Again, not a blaming situation – I know my schedule and situation has changed a number of times, leading me to have to cancel at the last minute, and I assume that’s happened with other people from work, as well. But given my general state of mind regarding social situations, when things like that happen my default assumption is that somehow I did something wrong to alienate others or cause them to not want to be around me. Yep, the shame monster rears its ugly head in those situations.

And some of this is undoubtedly just the kind of down-in-the-dumps feeling I get after another birthday (I turned 36 yesterday). Historically, birthdays have not been great times for me; some part of my head gets all hyped up and excited about any potential birthday activities, and no matter what I do or how much fun I have, somehow that part of my brain is always left feeling disappointed and let down the day after. There’s probably a specific term for that kind of feeling, but I haven’t gotten far enough in my MSW program to know what it is.

What this all means is that I need to figure out how to expand my social circle again, and I’m not really sure how to go about doing that. I did pretty well with the people I got to know at Menninger, and then again at the aftercare program I Was a part of; I made some good friends there. And somehow I managed to become a part of not one, but two separate gaming groups. For a minute or two there, I even thought I had real hope at a romantic relationship. So now that things have contracted, I need to figure out how to push that circle out again. If you live in the Houston area and have some ideas for how I might be able, as the uber-geek I am, to branch out somehow, then by all means let me know. Or if you just feel like chatting about how crappy feeling lonely can feel at times, drop me a line. But don’t freak out; things aren’t that bad. I just had some stuff in my head I wanted to get out.

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