I hate the fact that I have been shy all my life.
It might be because I felt unwelcomed and unwanted in my adoptive family. My new cousins always made sure I knew I was an outsider. They were good and quick at pointing out how I was “different” from everyone else.
I’d been told that even as an infant, I was quiet, but that kind of familial rejection made me even more quiet. For the longest time, I yearned to “belong” to the family, but after a while, I stopped yearning and turned even further inward. I had made a cocoon, and inside, it was warm and I was safe.
The cool thing about the cocoon is that it IS warm and safe and keeps you isolated. The bad thing is that living in isolation doesn’t work in a world based on relationships.
I had succeeded in making myself super shy. As a teen, I would freeze if anyone even looked like he or she was going to approach me. I lost a chance to do television work a couple of times, I was told, because even though I was good on camera, once I’d lost the security of those cameras, I didn’t have anything to say! I can remember going to to lunch after a particular television interview, and being almost in tears because I had to sit with people whom I did not know.
I’d succeeded in making myself lonely. All I wanted was the safety of the cocoon.
Fast forward to the mid 8Os. I was still shy, but trying to work through it. I had few friends, but that was OK with me. But I was in seminary, for goodness’ sake. Though I am now struggling with organized religion like I have never before, that wasn’t the case back then. I was working in churches as part of my theological training, and HAD to talk to and mingle with people whom I did not know. People reached out to me, but I couldn’t reach back. I was stuck in the cocoon.
I became a pastor and had the hardest time pulling out. By now, I had gotten it: people who make it in the world do not make it in isolation. OK. I got it, but I was stuck. It was like I had gotten my head out, but was lying transverse in the cocoon and was holding up the process. The difference between being stuck now and “back in the day” was that now, I realized the value in getting out of the cocoon, and I realized that there was a whole lot more I could be and do.
I finally got out, and realized that I had missed many an opportunity by staying inside so long … but now, at least, I had something important to teach my children. My son was a natural extrovert, but my daughter, I could see, was as introverted as was I. Hah! Now I was a butterfly with wings, and if nothing else, I could teach caterpillars wanting to stay inside the cocoon the value of letting themselves be pushed out in order to become all they could be.
So, I would push her gently to talk to people. “I don’t know what to say,” she’d protest. “Not a problem,” I’d say. “Just learn a little bit about them and get THEM to talk. Chances are you won’t have much to say, but you will be letting yourself get a little further down the birth canal.
I am still pushing her ever so gently, and she is, thank goodness, allowing that push. She is beginning to get her voice, find her stride, and she definitely knows that she cannot live life in isolation.
I never really had close friends, but at least my daughter does. Not a lot, but a few really good friends. I was never in the wedding of a friend, but she will be. It makes my heart sing to know that she will experience what I never did because I had chosen to stay inside a warm, safe place.
My daughter is almost out of the cocoon, and I, her mother who stayed in the cocoon for far too long, am finally able to grin as I see her wings coming out …because I can finally look around and see my own.