Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Confidence again!

I feel as though I have been away from the site for an age and yet it is a mere handful of days since I last blogged - I so wish that didn't sound like a 'delicate' situation requiring syrup of figs and prune juice! I have tried once or twice to dip in and out, but it seems hardly worth the effort of logging on (hmm, still in the same tack I fear), the computer barely managing to reach the site before some other necessary task calls me away again. Eventually, I conceded defeat and decided to wait till the bank holiday weekend was over before catching up with you all again.

The weekend was a mixed bag of outings, beach trips, shopping and lunch in Truro (Thorntons - need I say more?) and wonderful, relaxing times at home. Very lovely and very much needed by all. I even managed to get back out into my sewing room and make Isabella a rather jaunty pair of shorts complete with frilly trim rather reminiscent of those naughty postcards of Brighton, now I come to think of it. Obviously, on a nearly year-old baby I am assuming the connection won't be made by passers-by and I won't therefore have to explain why I thought this was a Good Look for one so young and innocent. In fact, now I am thinking about it, I do wonder why I didn't make the connection myself before making the blasted things. Hey, ho.

Yesterday saw life return pretty much to normal with the weather helpfully marking the occasion in shades of sludge and gloom, the afternoon further enhancing the effect by producing copious amounts of the wet stuff in order to drag any lurking bright spirits down into the depths. Personally, I didn't particularly note the weather until after I had dissolved into tears after an incident at the playgroup. I think I'd better explain...

I mentioned my 'love' of all things playgroup in an earlier blog, making it clear that while I admire the people who organise such things and know they are a necessary part of enabling a child to learn the skills of socialising, my own inability to do the small talk makes me dread the experience. Last week, a mother at Lucy's school who has a seven month baby suggested we try a group at Mylor Bridge (lovely village previously mentioned and adored by me). Now, I really don't know this mum despite the fact that we stand outside the same school gates every day and both have babies, though we do pass a few hellos - not on the same occasion, of course. Even I can find more to say than that! Anyhow, to cut to the quick, last Tuesday found Isabella playing in a bright and sunny hall full of babies and toddlers. Toys were everwhere and there was a real atmosphere of enjoyment that I have never found at playgroups before. The mums were very much involved with the kids and chatted as they played rather than huddling in a corner in some ghastly clique. I have to say they were an extremely friendly bunch, coming over to say hello, etc. I actually quite enjoyed myself (teach me to be so judgemental) and, needless to say, Isabella had a whale of a time - would be grateful if someone could explain that sometime. Why 'whale'?

With such a good feeling about the whole thing I gaily set off yesterday, babe in tow and confidence fairly oozing through my pores - right until the moment I stepped through the door to find no sign of K (school mum). Tummy jitters ever so slightly. I decide to be pro-active and make eye contact with various people, smiling as I do so. They smile back (why wouldn't they?) and then it happens: my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth and my mind goes blank. What to say? What to ask? To all intents and purposes, I mingle with ease, chatting my head off and appearing comletely at one whereas the reality is that I feel on the edge, drifting around the perimeter of the group and feeling as though I am back at school.

It is this I hate, the reminder of the inability to be comfortable in groups which always descends into a character assassination in my head. They are so much younger than me; they are all dressed trendily in Bench jeans and Animal tops (surf gear), whereas I cannot wear such clothes as I have too thin a body and manage to make casual clothes look ill-fitting. This means I generally look over-dressed in a world full of jeans; another thing to make me feel out of place. And the whole time I am aware how ludicrous this internal dialogue is and that it really stems from a childhood where I was ridiculed for not being part of the crowd - it is difficult not to stand out when your hand-me-downs originate from a sister who is ten years your senior and have reached you via three others. Fashions certainly changed a lot in a ten year space of time and children are the harshest critics. Add to this the fact that we were never taken to playgroups, never allowed anyone home to play ("I'm not letting anyone see the state of this place") and were never allowed to any parties ("No, because I can't have them back") and it is hardly difficult to see why it is second nature for me to see myself as a problem. The excuses were, of course, my mother's way of avoiding the very thing she loathed, her terrible shyness making her unable to allow her children the chance to learn a different way of being.

So, there I am, familiar feelings making my tummy lurch and anger at myself making me carry on despite wanting to crawl away to the comfort of my home. Finally, it is time to leave and yes, I have mixed and chatted, and yes, I will go again because I will not have Isabella struggle like I do but no, I didn't enjoy it and no, I didn't feel part of the group. As I strapped her into her seat I felt such an overwhelming wave of sadness that the little girl who was me had never been given the chance to have friends and had, as a consequence, been an incredibly lonely child, a situation which was only ever heightened in my teens when I was never able to stay out later than nine and so was never asked by my peers. What seemed so sad was the fact that I actually like people and would, I'm sure, have had a good social life if only I was given the chance, which would in itself have increased my self-confidence. To my horror I sat in the car with tears pouring down my face, poor baby in the back having the sound of her mother's wretched sobbing as background music while the rain slid down the windscreen. Wonderful.

So there it is. A maudlin tale full of far too much introspection and a need to shake off the residue of the outing. Of course, I shall go again next week (capricorn never gives up - unfortunately) and I'm sure I shall report back what a fool I have been. Oh, and please don't think I sit around like some saddo now; I was fortunate in realising early on that I could be beaten by the past or learn from it. I constantly put myself in situations which require me stepping out of my comfort zone and, while it never gets any easier, at least I know I keep on trying! Lord, I think I had better go before this gets any worse!

Have a cheery and confident day all xx


  1. Oh Pipany I can so empathise with you. It does get better and then as you get older it seems less important to the point where it doesn't matter any more - well not all the time!

  2. As a child it never occured to me that adults could get shy too, I thought it was something that miraculously disappeared when you grew up. I know better now! I always used to be very sociable, but weirdly I'm finding as I get older that I want to retreat more and more and only be with people who 'get' me or vice versa - I find small talk exhausting and can't chat nearly as well I used to be able to. Just think, if we ever meet up, we can ditch the small talk and get straight down to serious subjects! Good for you for going. What you need to remember (and I know, I never can either) is that many of those other people would have been feeling the same - it's like the affliction that dare not speak it's name! Those times that you feel 'outside the group' growing up haunt you forever.

  3. I am the fat half! I swear to God we share a personality, although I think I have teh fat half, perhasp we could time share, i could do the angst on toddler group days and you can have it on the days I have to do school meetings. I don't actaully think it gets easier as you get older, only as you get older you realsie that a lot of people feel like taht as well.

    Chin up we are all out here falling over our own feet and thank you for describing life on the periphery it is how I feel my entire lie. Sometimes its good to know you are not alone!

  4. Pipany, I can definitely connect with much of what you describe of then and now. Sometimes I find it hilarious that I should be spending so many hours now chatting mostly superficially with staff and customers in the shop. It is not what I consider the "true" me, but it is a me that I can deliver as needed. And, the best part is that sometimes the surface is an entryway to a deeper connection!

  5. I love that "Why the heck does it matter feeling" I got when I reached 50 and by the way I think Whale of a Times is as follows:

    The blue whale being the biggest creature on earth, a "whale of" anything is "a large amount of" it. As well as "whale of a time" people used to say "a whale of a lot" and "a whale of a job". It's US slang from around 1910.

  6. Pipany, i too emphasise with you. I've very often felt 'out of it' for many reasons - too many to go into here - but some are the same as yours. Sounds like you are doing very well indeed - we all have down times. I will come back later with a bit for for the 'power' card and a new one for you today, but have to zoom off now cos dog groomer just called and my angel boy is ready for collection!

  7. I used to hate playgroup with a passion! Your blog epitomises the way I used to feel about it but how interesting that we all felt the same way.

  8. Poor Pipany-You have brought a tear to my eye-I am such a hermit and so lacking in confidence at times-can relate to much of what you say. I have been there at that playgroup and really feel for you. Don't put yourself down, you are not the only one to feel this way my friend. And you should be proud of yourself-you are so brave to do something you quite clearly didn't feel comfortable with. I have turned around and not gone in the door before now out of fear and the creeping ivy of shyness up my neck...Your little one is very lucky to have you as her mummy.

    BIG Hug from me
    + of course, warmest wishes

  9. Here we are again - this wonderful blog site oozing warmth and love.
    Me too. I never met a child until I was 7 - taught by a governess on my own. My Mother was terribly shy and hated parties or meeting others when she was young and "didn't want to put you through the same agony" My gosh, she succeeded putting me through much worse agony through all my life. I did not learn to socialise at the age when everyone else did. I had (and have) nothing to say to other people. There would be a lot of people who, if they read that, would say what a chatter box I am. Yes, with people I know well.
    I am sure you and your 'commenters' have been in a room at any sort of party (or play group) and wondered what on earth they are all finding to talk about!
    It is quite right that lots of them probably feel the same, but somehow that doesn't help.
    The only thing is that as I have grown older, I have realised that the really bumptious people are often the really shy ones and that is their way of dealing with it.
    As they have all said, well done you for seeing your wee one doesn't go down the same road. It doesn't really get much better, but we learn how to deal with it!
    Love and a hug, Rho

  10. When I read your blog and all the empathetic replies it makes me wonder where are all the chatty confident types, perhaps they're all putting it on. I'm just like you and tie myself up in knots when I don't know anybody very well. Don't think I'll grow out of it now, but being and old bag I'm not too bothered or bovverred.Toady

  11. oh so feel for you. i am one of those people that hates social situations but am also conversely (because of my job) able to throw myself in with abandon. you'd look at me and think "oh she's ok, she can chat to anyone" and i can but I hate the situations when you feel you have to. am not saying this very well.

    Suffice to say, keep with it. Or alternatively take a book, say hello to everyone and then go and sit in the corner. Or maybe not. Or just get in the car with the babe and come to my house, we'll put the girls in the playroom and you and i can sit in the kitchen and just gossip about the bloggers!

  12. Me again - and in response to Toady, ,maybe the most confident type of people are not the people who blog - maybe they are all out there conquering the playgroups while we are tentatively baring our souls on blogs! who knows.

    Power - 'The capacity to act on your awareness with loving discernment. Utilize your resources to the fullest and create win-win experiences'

    Well, considering what we have been discussing I think that is very appropriate for you at the moment. I will draw you another, so thinking about you and at 21.26 on 9/5 i drew.... you won't believe it, but I never lie about these cards.... 'Faith' - 'The unshakable knowing of the heart when nothing makes sense to the mind. Optimism is an expression of faith in action'.

    Best wishes, Pipany.