Wednesday, 7 August 2013

In which I remember that being Awkward is Actually Alright

I used to volunteer in an Acute Mental Health Unit - for a couple of years I went onto the ward once a week for a few hours to spend time with people. It was one of the most intense but most rewarding things I have ever done, and mostly that was because I had an amazing supervisor. We had some fantastic talks about things, and he explained lots of things to me after team meetings and I generally used to spend far too much time in his office drinking tea and talking about life, the Universe and everything - and very often religion, people, mental health, and all sorts of other things too. I fell off the wagon somewhat when things got a bit hectic in my life and I stopped volunteering there so we lost contact. I heard that last year he had a stroke at aged 58 which I must admit shocked me completely. I really wanted to contact him but I had no idea what to say, and the days turned into months and I felt increasingly awkward.

A few weeks back I ran into him and his daughter in the street and he suggested that I come round for coffee. After some wrangling about dates - because he's been such a jetsetter! - I turned up for coffee at his place today. I was quite nervous before I went and I'm not really sure why. Maybe I wouldn't know what to say... Maybe he'll be really different and all the sparkle and connection we had wouldn't be there... Maybe I'm quite ashamed that I hadn't contacted him when he could have done with a friend around... Maybe maybe. In any case, I turned up at the appointed time with chocolate cake as requested, and tried to see this as an opportunity to be there for him this time, whatever that entails. True to form, at the beginning it was awkward... and then I realised that actually he's a bit odd and I'm a bit odd and it was always a little awkward at the beginning, at which point I relaxed into it all and just chatted to him. Eventually I even asked him directly how he feels about God now, with everything that has happened, and we got some real deep and meaningful chat in. I think he feels like people come round because they feel sorry for him, so when I said I'd love to come by next week and carry on the conversation he was happy. And I'm happy that we still have a connection that we can build on. We are both different people these days, I look forward to getting to know him as he is now, I'm pretty excited to have him back in my life again.

In the evening, I went to my Jive class as always. I danced with quite a few people. The legendary Phil was not dancing too much tonight, he was mostly having a chat with the lads. I decided not to pester him too much and just dance the night away. There weren't many leads there and there were quite a few people wanting a dance, sometimes you just have to let it go. In the meantime, I had plenty of dances with Red and with Miss T who is a fantastic lead and a pleasure to dance with. I did notice, however, a weird awkwardness within me there too - maybe I just want to feel special... some affirmation that I am a good dancer after all... or maybe I'm a bit overwhelmed by Phil's general amazingness... or, I suspect, all three. I was watching my mind trying to find the source of the discomfort and I think that there is a strange thing about being someone's student and wanting to be their friend, but not really knowing how they feel about you. With my sewing teacher, Fran, she gets as excited about things as I do and it's lovely, we are on the same page. With my yoga teacher, it's the opposite - I very much respect her as a teacher but I know that I'm probably not her cup of tea as a person and I'm fine with it just being a student / teacher relationship. With Phil, I realise that the awkwardness is the feeling of a possible friendship being born which takes time, and can't be forced, but I really want this person to spend time with me because I have so much admiration for them. I don't know if that feeling a good thing in itself, but maybe it points to wonderful things in the future, who knows. In any case, I should probably just accept the fact that sometimes things are a bit awkward, and then just dance right through them til they come out alright.

I saw this quote on facebook today that summed things up quite nicely:
'Our job is to love people when it hurts. When it's awkward. When it's uncool and embarrassing. Our job is to stand together, to carry the burdens of one another and to meet each other in our questions.' - Jamie Tworkowks
This is what I'm trying to do with my life. Just sometimes I do it a little awkwardly, that's all.

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