Friday letters

I am so unbelievably ready for Friday this week! The last 2 days have been so busy – I did overtime on Wednesday and yesterday I worked for 6 and a half hours before I managed to take my break (which technically isn’t even allowed, but I had a deadline!) I did manage to get out during my lunch break on Tuesday and met up for coffee with someone I’ve been talking to on an expat’s forum – the first time I’ve tried to meet people in Switzerland without dragging Jan along for moral support! I managed not to say anything stupid and make a fool of myself, and she had her toddler with her, which provided a distraction for my awkward silences, so that’s positive. It’s so hard making friends when you’re incredibly awkward and scared of social situations! Anywaaay… letters.

letter box

(I need a new letterbox pictures! I’ve used the ones I have so many times.)

Dear weather. You were so nice yesterday when I was stuck inside. Now the rain has started that’s set to continue all weekend. Thanks for that!

Dear clothes. I promise you will have a wardrobe to go in very, very soon! We have a trip to a furniture shop planned… (Yes, dear readers, after almost a year in Switzerland my clothes are still mostly in boxes).

Dear dishwasher. The man who came to look at you the other day said you were 20 years old. You certainly don’t look it! After all that time I suppose I can’t be too mad that you’ve given up washing dishes. I just hope your replacement comes soon!

Dear squirrel. It was such a nice surprise seeing you in our garden the other day. I hope you come back and visit us again!

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you have a great weekend!

 

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Snippets of life

The tagline for my blog is “Just a place to gather my thoughts”, and this is going to be one of those posts where I do just that…

  • Yesterday, I was reminded again of just how socially inept I can be when I’m not expecting to see someone. I bumped into my neighbour outside our building (not entirely unexpected you might think… but it almost never happens. I actually have neighbours who I wouldn’t recognise if I did bump into them!). This was the one neighbour who I know more than just to exchange hellos, so I stopped to converse… and could think of literally nothing to say! He started talking and I managed to respond, but I felt… awkward. And it was only after we parted ways that I realised he had asked how I am but I never returned the question. Hmmm…
  • I’m seriously starting to wish this cross stitch thing would just hurry up and get finished! No baby yet, luckily, but spending almost every spare minute stitching but failing to see much progress is very frustrating!
  • Purple loveliness
    Photo: rutty

    I was sent some Parma Violets for my birthday and introduced Jan to them this weekend. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of them, which isn’t really surprising. I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure out what to make of them! For those who don’t know, they’re little purple sugar sweets that smell like either floral old lady perfume or soap, depending on who you ask (the former is my description, the latter is Jan’s). They are supposed to taste like violets (as in the flower). Having never tasted a violet, I’ve no idea whether they actually do… mostly they taste incredibly sweet and vaguely soap-like. Definitely the weirdest sweet the UK has to offer!

  • Over a week after my birthday, I’m still trying to figure out where to put all my gifts. I need more surfaces! And more storage space!
  • Speaking of my birthday, I am aware that I haven’t posted anything about my party yet. I do plan to, but other things (like working late and tiredness) keep getting in the way, leading me to take the easy way out and take part in photo challenges instead. I promise to post about my party within the next week…

That’s all from me! I’m off to make another Mississippi Mud Pie so that Jan can actually try some too. At least this one won’t get rained on! 😉

 

Something to think about…

*I apologise in advance for the length of this post. And I will totally understand if you decide not to read it! Come back tomorrow for a more “regular” post*

There was no post yesterday for the simple reason that, after coming in from work and sitting down on the sofa, I wa unable to summon up the energy to get back up and turn on the computer. The theatre on Monday night followed by quiz on Tuesday meant two very short nights… I’m loving having friends but the whole social life thing is exhausting!

Anyway, I said there was something I wanted to post this week once I had more time and could give my attention to it properly. This is that post.

Once again, I was reading some posts in the “British Armed Forces Brats” group that I’m a member of on Facebook (see Saturday’s post if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

One person mentioned that, a few years back, he had been “in a very bad way with the relationship/communication issues many of us seem to experience.” Looking around for fellow brats who had had similar experiences, he found himself on the (American) Forces Brats Wikipedia page, where there is a section on mental and emotional issues linked to the typical forces upbringing. One of the conditions listed was Avoidant Personality Disorder, which he provided a link to. Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant_personality_disorder

I am not going to say that I have this disorder… obviously only a trained professional can do that. But many aspects of the condition sounded exactly like me.
Wikipedia says:

social_phobia-234x300

People with avoidant personality disorder often consider themselves to be socially inept or personally unappealing and avoid social interaction for fear of being ridiculed, humiliated, rejected, or disliked. Avoidant personality disorder is usually first noticed in early adulthood. Childhood emotional neglect and peer group rejection (e.g. bullying) are both associated with an increased risk for the development of AvPD.

People who have been reading for a while may recognise me in that paragraph… particularly the part on being socially inept (how many times have I mentioned my lack of social skills and inability to act like a normal human being on here? Not enough times to get the key words onto my tag cloud, but often enough, I think…).

The World Health Organization says Avoidant Personality Disorder is characterised by at least four of the following, which I would like to comment on:

  1. Persistent and pervasive feelings of tension and apprehension;
    I’m not sure this one applies to me. At least I don’t think feel particularly tense when not in a social situation.
  2. Belief that one is socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others;
    I’m pretty sure I actually am socially inept – it’s not just a feeling. Personally unappealing… not all the time, and in every way (there are things I actually like about myself!) but yes. I don’t think I feel inferior to others though…
  3. Excessive preoccupation with being criticized or rejected in social situations;
    YES! I have been known to plan out what I’m going to say to make sure there’s no chance of me being judged negatively for it. The better I know people (and the more sure I am they like me), the less I do this.
  4. Unwillingness to become involved with people unless certain of being liked;
    “But what if they don’t like me?” is a phrase Jan has heard me say many times…
  5. Restrictions in lifestyle because of need to have physical security;
    Other than tendency to try and avoid social events where I know literally nobody (which I’m not sure is even meant here), I don’t think this applies to me. I’m always looking for new experiences and I don’t feel like my lifestyle has been restricted in any way.  
  6. Avoidance of social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact because of fear of criticism, disapproval, or rejection.
    Associated features may include hypersensitivity to rejection and criticism
    Definitely!! I’ve got a lot better at this over the years, but I’m still not a fan of attending social events with people I’m not already convinced actually like me! I worry about saying the wrong thing and being criticised or laughed at… years of being told you’re “weird” or that people “never actually liked you” will do that, I suppose.

The American Psychiatric Association has a similar list, but two things in particular struck a chord with me:

– Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
– Is unusually reluctant to take personal risk or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

YES and YES! I love trying new things, but only certain new things… the kind that I’m pretty sure won’t lead to any embarrassment for me. Unless I can do them with my friends and only my friends. People I’m already sure like me are allowed to laugh at me 😉 Although even once someobody likes me, I am afraid I might do something wrong or stupid and end up alienating them…

This post probably makes me sound like a very unhappy person. Actually, at the moment, after having very few friends in Germany for a long time, I now have a group of people who I am reasonably sure actually like me (and don’t just hang around with me becasue I’m Jan’s girlfriend) and who I can spend time with without my usual fears about social situations coming up.

Socially-Awkward-Penguin-01So why am I posting this if things are so good? Because, after years of believing I was just odd, knowing that there are other people out there from the same type of background who have the same kind of confused, illogical feelings as I do is a huge relief! And knowing there’s an actual disorder with characteristics that describe me perfectly (seriously… I could have written the Wikepedia article!) make me feel like I’m not just a freak. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actually have avoidant personality disorder – I do still attend social events and usually even manage to force myself to speak to people (while praying that I don’t say the wrong thing!). But knowing that such a thing even exists at least gives me a point of reference, and a possible place to start with trying to overcome my issues. As the title of the post says, it’s something for me to think about. And I feel like I’ve made some kind of breakthrough!

Why I’m a terrible friend

It’s only Tuesday, isn’t it? How is that possible? The last two days at work seem to have gone on for weeks! Sort it out will ya, time.
Anyway….

It’s been a while since my last “I am a terrible, horrible no good person with no social skills post”. Now it’s time for another one. Here’s something that’s been on my mind lately.

Jan thinks I’m a good friend because I keep in touch with people, remember birthdays and make an effort with gifts for every imaginable event. He, on the other hand, is terrible at replying to e-mails (I am too, but he never believes me when I say that!), has reminders of people’s birthdays on his computer but fails to actually do anything about them and would probably never see anyone if they didn’t make an effort to include him – or I wasn’t there to occasionally force him to respond to a message/invitation/whatever. So he has come to the conclusion that I am a good friend and he is not. However, in my opinion all that stuff is the easy part. Respond to a few facebook statuses, congratulate people on pregnancies, engagements and birth, keep a record of everyone’s birthdays (and their childrens) so you can get gifts and cards in the mail in time… none of that is rocket science. I look generous and my friends and family feel special because they received a parcel all the way from Germany (this is not why I do these things by the way. I realise this sounds like I’m trying to buy my friendships but I swear I’m not! I just enjoy giving birthday gifts/making people smile). But when you place me in the same room as another person, which, after all, is the whole point of a friendship – it can’t all be done via Facebook – it’s a different story.

Jan and I used to have the same argument over and over again. I would get upset because he never told me what was going on in his life, while he was convinced that I wasn’t interested in what he’d been doing because I never asked him anything about it. A typical converation would be something like this:
Me: How was your day?
Him: Alright.
Me: Oh, okay. *looooong silence during which I would usually get on with cooking while Jan sat down with his laptop*
Me: *Start rambling on about what I’d been doing that day/thelatest news from England/which of my friends had announced their pregnancy this time*

'awkward silence hour'
Photo credit: CRASH:candy

Eventually, I pursuaded Jan that just because I don’t ask any questions it doesn’t mean I’m not interested. I really do want to know about his day, I just have no idea what to ask. So he started telling me things without being asked and I tried to extend my repertoire of questions (I now have “what have you been doing today”, “did you get to do any work for your dissertation” and “how was your meeting” (only if he had one, obviously). Plus, after choir practice I also get to ask him how that went and how the other members of his choir are. Yay me… or something. Now, I am aware that the way to show people you’re interested in them is to ask questions, but beyond the standard “How are you?”, “how did your exam/job interview/driving test go?” and “How was your birthday/holiday/honeymoon” I have no idea what I’m supposed to say. It’s not that I’m not interested… I just honestly don’t have the words to show that I’m interested. Unless someone answers one of my standard questions with a nice long tale that screams out ideas for further questioning/comments I am completely lost. Which leads to awkward silences and me saying something random to fill in the blank, usually about something in my life because that’s the topic I know most about. And because other people do have social skills (or have possibly taken some master class that I wasn’t invited to in how to keep a conversation going), questions do get asked and the conversation remains on me, or goes off at some random tangent. The end result: I appear selfish, unfriendly and only interested in myself. Which would explain why I have so few friends (well, that and the things I’ve mentioned in previous whiny “I have no social skills” posts, such as my being ridiculously shy around new people, leading to me either not saying a word or overcompensating, talking too much and coming across as a complete weirdo. True story!).  But I have decided this has to change! I’m meeting a friend on Saturday (yes, an actual friend!) who I haven’t seen since July and I shall be practicing asking questions then. In the meantime, if anyone has any advice, book recommendations, websites or the like please throw them my way. Any and all suggestions gratefully received!

A matter of perspective

I think I might have been a bit harsh lately when talking about work. (In case you’re wondering, the blog posts in question are now private).

My boss is really quite nice. He actually employed me when most people wouldn’t have given me a chance and he gave me a pay rise, even though I’m only an intern. If I was him I would want to get something out of it too.

Jan says it’s all a matter of perspective, or possibly perception. The boss sees me looking unmotivated, having to ask him for work instead of taking the initiative and finding something for myself… maybe he sees things I could be doing that I just wouldn’t think of. Things that are second nature for other people just don’t occur to me – so I don’t do them, and people who are “normal” think I’m just lazy or shelfish or just don’t care. I on the other hand see me working hard, doing my best and being as motivated as I know how. It’s all a question of attitude I guess. And so-called “soft skills”, which I unfortunately don’t possess. I’m not a good communicator, I take a long time to get used to new situations, I fail to see opportunities to help. It’s the social ineptness thing again. But bosses don’t want socially inept people. They want people who can communicate well, who work as a team, help each other out, are organised and don’t forget things. They also want hard skills I guess, in my case that would be someone who’s good at translating.
At least I got that bit right.

I think I’ll go and do some research on how to become a people person. Who knows, maybe it will come in useful someday.
(That reminds me… Jan told me off last night for doing a Google search for how to impress the boss. Apparantly I’m “missing the point”).