A couple of weeks ago I joined a friend at an AA meeting to celebrate her two-year milestone. Since it was a celebratory occasion, I opted for a colorful red blouse instead of my usual black or grey ensemble. I showed up, knew her, and knew nobody else except for a guy I led a 2 am meeting with (which is a story for another day.)
I am not a social butterfly. A former therapist had described me as a “slow to warm” child. Someone that does not join in social activities and doesn’t feel comfortable playing with strangers until I’ve watched others interact, measured them all, trust that it’s safe, and then I’ll engage. Granted, this is only in group settings with strangers because otherwise one-on-one there is less to lose. I can confirm this is true and am now a “slow to warm” adult.
So, that is me. I don’t say hi or introduce myself and not because I’m a snob or anti-social or even particularly shy, but just because I don’t want to talk to strangers. But if you’re a new face in a small room with a brightly colored blouse, you’re going to get called on. Called on to share, I was. So I did. Then before closing the meeting, the leader asked me to lead the following week. Doh!
I said yes because I haven’t been making my meetings and felt this is good: be of service = stay sober, or whatever. Yet on my drive home, I was like, ughhhh this is why I don’t wear red!
Being “seen” is a horrifying thing. For so many years before and during my alcoholism, I didn’t want anyone to pay attention to me for fear they’d find out what a loser I was. Keeping appearances and living a double life was wholly too easy. Most of the time, for a long time, it worked for me and I was good at it. Until it didn’t and I wasn’t.
Then came the painstaking process of figuring out what in fact I was. Who am I, where I am I… One by one, each cloud of self-delusion was analyzed and evaporated or used to water my soul to grow. I hated it.
But of course, I also loved it. Now I had a firmer grasp on who I was, what makes me happy, what purpose I serve, how I can be helpful. Now I knew what made me sad, what made me insecure, what things I had done and why I had done them. It was like seeing myself with new eyes and trying on new clothes and feeling good in them. This was especially nurtured by the company I keep, safe people that care and want good things for me. Of course, my faith doesn’t hurt one bit. For every setback or failure I’ve had, the reassurance that better things lie ahead gives me all the courage to keep wearing my new clothes and keep being this new person.
Until I was in a room with strangers.
You know what I discovered, though? I was going to be just fine. I showed up as myself, spoke as myself, and was invited as myself. There was no pretending or manipulation.
That is the most freeing thing: Being myself all the time means I never have to remember a lie. I never have to pretend or act like or hide who I really am. The people that want me, will want me regardless. The people that don’t, just don’t. There are so many personalities at work in the world, and that is so beautiful. Just like colors in a painting, some are very complimentary and eye-catching when they’re together. Sometimes, they just don’t belong in the same painting. All of it is fine.
In my opinion, freedom is greater than any acceptance a human being can give you.