Social Rituals: A Day in the Life Sunday

As I pack my bag for a swim meet weekend I realize that if I play my technology, books and work projects right, I may not have to engage in any conversation I don't want to. I am not anti-social. I just don't do well in forced social situations.



I used to feel guilty about not getting excited about over the top celebrations, being utterly content with small gatherings of close friends and "settling" for a quiet dinner on my birthday. Surprise parties, vacation cruises and extravagant jewelry bought to mark a milestone are not important to me. Oh, I'll take them but they'll mean more to me if they are given out love, interest or desire and not simply because of a social ritual (click for link.)

I am not denouncing social rituals across the board. There are ones that reach out and grab me but there are others I can simply do without.

I love that my husband asked me to marry him in a rowboat on the Eibsee at the base of the Zugspitze (click for link) and had a ring to back it up. I love the markets, the lights, the festivities of Christmas Eve and waking up at home on Christmas morning. I love being beside my daughter each night until she falls asleep (or I fall asleep first). 

The ritual of hauling the clan from house to house on Thanksgiving to eat turkey or on December 25 to eat ham because the calendar says were are supposed to, I can do without. Who has time for family drama because you couldn't make it to a baby or wedding shower or mailed a birthday card out late?

Fortunately, this weekend's swim meet conversations are not forced and I enjoy them immensely. After 5 hours, however, I am ready to revert to my homebody ways and stick my nose in a book, my Google Reader or a round of Word with Friends. 

And I do.

The Yin to My Social Yang

No matter how much I resist, I am always better off when I step out of my comfort zone.



Let's take a few conferences I recently attended. The sessions were valuable but, by far, the greatest benefits came outside of the sessions. The greatest benefits always come through interactions with others.

They come:

  • at dinner in Chinatown when you realize you haven't been playing as big as you could.
  • at the Big Bar when you are introduced by one Canadian HR powerhouse to another and know you've just met the real deal.
  • in the lobby of the hotel looking for the evolution and meet two other women looking for the same.
  • in conversation with an amazing couple over wine and risotto.
  • over pannenkuchen in Rochester, Minnesota.
  • in meeting an email connection in real life right before a conference session.

It's all about making a difference yet the times of greatest benefit also present the greatest challenges for me. Introversion is the yin to my social media yang.

After the initial rush of seeing friends and the new conference high wear off, it is painfully clear to me that I really am a small group kind of girl. Walking into a large social event, even when I know many of the people there, freaks me out. When the momentum stops and I am given pause, I am looking for the door as fast as I can.

It's crazy. And I've let it define my path, my choices and what I see as my options. The more I try to change, the more firmly planted I become. I tend to surround myself with card-carrying extroverts because I am drawn to them and really, how else would I ever get out of the house? Try as they might (or maybe they don't see it to try),  they don't understand. Even those closest to me don't always understand.

Sometimes, neither do I.