Shy to a Fault

All my life, I have been shy to a fault.

People don’t realize it; when I share it in workshops or in places where I speak, people literally laugh and say they don’t believe me. I am so animated when I speak or present, it’s hard for people to believe that when I am done, I crawl into a shell.

I have always done it.

While there is nothing wrong with being shy, I write this to ask any of you who are shy not to let it compromise your life and your possibilities, as I have.

I have not made friends with people as a rule. I have not fostered and cultivated professional relationships. I have not mingled with people of my profession much, getting to know them, and allowing them to know me.

For the years I was a pastor, I basically went to church, did my “church work,” and go home. Oh…I did raise my children, and did quite well at that, I am pleased to say. But I did not build relationships. I did not diversify the palette of my life.

My therapist ( yes, I see one regularly) said that I made my world too small. Isn’t that a wonderful description of what being shy does?

Where in the world does the shyness come from? Is saying I am shy another way of saying I am insecure, or not confident?

I can remember once I went somewhere to preach. I got there early, with a friend, and was led into a roomful of women I didn’t know. I looked around, and the woman was whisking my friend to another area of the building. I wanted to die! There were all these women whom I did not know. They were well-dressed and articulate …and it felt like their heads were blowing up into huge balloons right in front of me; it felt like the balloons were coming toward me! I could not run out. I told myself that …and so I made myself walk to the balloons and, in talking, was able to stick a pin in them so that the big heads shrunk down to normal. I found that I could talk with these women; I found out that I had much to say and that they listened, but I will never forget the terror of those few moments.

Since then, I have been practicing not being shy. Some people from my former church would see me in a crowd, “working the  room,” and would encourage me. That meant a lot. Someone knew I knew this particular weakness of mine, and saw that I was trying to meet it … and, in effect, beat it.

But the bottom line is that I have hurt my life and my career by being so shy. I told/taught my children not to be like me, and thank God, they have listened. I have gone to the best schools, but didn’t connect with people. They, too, have gone to the best schools and have connected with people, have good friends all over the country, and are nurturing the relationships they have made even as they make new connections.

I told you I raised my children well.

I write this because this morning I wept for a few moments as I dealt with seeing myself “face to face.” Sometimes, I like what I see. This morning, I did not.

But the little weeping spell is over. I decided to write because someone else, a young person with lots of gifts and talent, is hiding under a bushel somewhere.

Please come out. The world needs you.

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: After Divorce

It hit me that we girls don’t talk a lot about something that happens when we go through divorce: people we used to be friends with stop talking to us.

I have been divorced for many years, but I can still remember when, after the divorce was final, how the friends I thought I had stopped inviting me to their houses, to their parties and picnics. Friends with whom both my husband and I had shared really precious times sort of, it seemed, erased me from their lives.

It wasn’t only friends, either. It was people like the guy who had been keeping our furnace and air conditioner in shape for years. All of a sudden, when I’d call him, he wasn’t available. No matter how many times I called, he never called back.

Needless to say, some of the people in the church regarded me as a sinful woman. I was a pastor, after all. How in the world could I be trusted to preach to my people, and even more be trusted to give marital and pre-marital counseling, when obviously, I was lacking in character and in knowing how to keep a man?

I couldn’t figure it out. Some friends who were divorced stop speaking, but more, it was friends, my lady friends, who were NOT divorced whose silence and distance puzzled me. Was it because I was now viewed as a threat? Were they afraid that my failure as a wife was somehow contagious, and that they would get “the illness” if they remained close? I only ask because years after the divorce, some of those friends, all of whom are now divorced themselves, have been gingerly moving back toward me, making contact.

Seriously?

As I have listened to women over the years go through divorce, I realize that it isn’t just me; too many women have the same story, but it would be great if we women wouldn’t back away from each other at such an awful time. It’s precisely at times like that, when your life is falling apart and the ground on which you’ve always stood falls from under your feet – no, more accurately, crumbles as you stand there, that you need your sister friends most.

I ached as I read the story of how the late Elizabeth Edwards, betrayed by her husband, was so crushed by his affair that she yelled at him in public and bared her chest, which showed the scars of breast cancer. How horrible for her to feel that depth of pain! I found myself wondering if her pain was exacerbated by friends who simply disappeared as she and her husband went through their pain, oh so publicly.

I don’t know what it is about us that makes us shy away from each other in critical moments, any more than I understand why we so often stab each other in the heart and/or back when it comes to getting a mate, but I can say that, during divorce, the friend who is real is the friend who sticks with  you through it all.

A candid observation …