I had to give a speech from the pulpit before Sunday Mass some weeks ago. It wasn’t anything huge or mind-blowing— just an explanation of this ministry I’ve been facilitating for the past couple of years and an invitation to see what it entails and all that. Unfortunately, I’m usually the behind-the-scenes coordinator. I’m used to writing everything and then handing it off for publication or letting someone else be the center of attention.
Last Thursday, I led my first program at the library. It was a really simple thing on the basics of backyard astronomy— a watered-down version of the astronomy lab class I helped facilitate/teach while I was in college, if you will. Talking to a group of families and young kids should have been loads easier than facing a group of snooty college students. Besides, I knew this stuff like the back of my hand (literally!). Yet, here I was, tripping over myself all again. How do you find Polaris? How should I know? I can’t even formulate a coherent sentence.
It’s my M.O., you see: Sniper. Hunter. Intelligence officer. The Setter-Upper Person. You don’t see me, but you see my work. Of course, in the realm of video games, by the time an enemy sees my work, they’re waiting to respawn. Put me in close quarters with something, however, and I start fleeing like a panicked rodent. Or, more appropriately: put me in front of a group of people and I freeze up like a deer in the spotlight.
When did I become so socially inept? I asked myself. Am I really that shy?
Hey, I can hear you laughing through the computer! “Tori? Shy? In the same sentence without a ‘not’ in between the two? Surely you jest!”
I’m not joking, and don’t call me Shirley! Let me explain. I’m considered the social or extroverted one in my family circles, mostly because I happen to be slightly more outgoing. It’s like Vega calling Sirius bright: they’re both very bright stars, but Sirius is a magnitude brighter than Vega, and that’s about it. So, when I spent a nearly two years as a stay-at-home mom with little face time with other adults, what real-time extrovertedness I had got sapped out of me.
Instead, I became more comfortable in a virtual skin, talking to other people in text and writing as Toriah. You couldn’t see the physical me, and I liked it that way. I suspect a lot of this had to do with how I was coping in a new post-baby body, along with trying to figure out this whole motherhood role. Virtual communications allowed time to delay, think, formulate responses, and perfect them before you send them off into the world. And with a little human watching my every move and action, I felt pressured to deliver perfection so she’d be able to learn properly.
My “anti-social behavior,” then, wasn’t because I just didn’t like talking to other people. It was more about me being deathly afraid of how I was representing myself— and consequently any group I happened to associate myself with. Every misspoken word, every stutter, every fact I misremembered would be held against me… Or so I thought. Remember that post on confidence I wrote last week? The fact that I had none factored in quite a bit, and you can see me echoing a bit of that post here, too.
I’m my own worst critic and I demanded— rather unfairly— absolute perfection from myself.
Of course, we’re anything but perfect as humans. Parenthood doesn’t require you to be perfect all the time, or at all. I’ve learned that now. Life, with all of its trials and experiences, is all about rolling with the punches when they come up. And Life is definitely not going to stop and wait around for you to edit everything until it’s ready for publication.
So get out there and live. Who cares that your life might have a typo or two? Whose life doesn’t?