Yesterday I attended a games night with my husband and daughter. It was held in the home of a member of a club we’re involved with.
I had a fabulous evening. D & A said they did too. Our host was gracious – the other attendees were friendly, and up for a laugh.
I was nervous prior to leaving the house. So nervous that I scoured the internet for hot tips on how to socialise. Admittedly, I regularly research this kind of information – without getting around to the actual socialising part though.
There were a number of concerns running though my head, but as it turned out none of them eventuated. Upon waking today I realised that this games night was the first social gathering I’ve attended since beginning my recovery from abuse 15 months ago – and the experience this time was significantly different from my past attempts to relate with people.
What was different?
I didn’t feel the need to apologise for my limitations.
The host knows about my medical condition, so when she began offering me drinks and food (I have a very restricted diet and take my own meals and electrolyte solution out with me) I confidently stated that I was fine; she didn’t need to offer me any food or drink or else I’d just be declining all night. Done & dusted. I made light of it, the host didn’t seem phased… and that was all the ‘illness talk’ I found myself needing to engage in all evening!
I spoke up.
Pretty quickly after arriving I settled down in a comfy spot on the floor (upon two big pillows I took with me) and engaged in conversation with the other attendees. I didn’t rely on D to speak for me. I experienced the sense of being an individual, unique person with my own voice. One rather opinionated woman screwed up her face at me and mildly mocked me a time or two. In the past this would have triggered a shut-down shame spiral, but last night it didn’t get to me; and I can honestly say I enjoyed the woman’s company.
I gave myself permission to be wrong.
Somebody brought along a box of cards with brain teasers written on them. The attendees of this gathering were all very intelligent people. A question was read out and as everybody sat hesitant to call out an answer, I just went ahead and did it myself. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve kept my lips zipped on an answer in the past while I’ve waited for somebody else to say it instead. To top it off, the person who read the card began to reply that my answer was incorrect, but then realised they’d gotten confused and my answer was actually right. In that moment when I heard my answer was incorrect, I felt completely at ease with myself. Previously, another shame-spiral would have ensued. Last night I didn’t need to be correct about everything, in order to feel ‘worthy’. What a beautiful thing!
I listened compassionately to my body.
Just after 9pm I noticed that though I desired to stay for hours longer (and D & A probably did too), my body was at the point of requiring rest. I quietly informed D and the three of us gathered up our things, thanked our host, and said goodbye to the rest of the crew. On the return car journey it became apparent that my body had only just been holding out – I was fast asleep by the time we pulled in at home. I thought there would be regret about not pushing myself; for missing out on hours more fun. Instead I feel thankful to have reached the point where I can tune in to my body and find a healthy balance – one that will possibly enable me to spend more time socialising overall. I think D & A recognise this as well, and neither of them showed any sign of begrudging our early-ish departure.
Perhaps the main difference in my experience of socialising last night compared to past attempts, was that a lot of my shame triggers have been dismantled. I had hundreds (if not thousands). Shortly after ceasing contact with my mother I wrote down a list of personal shame triggers relating to femininity alone; the list covered pages.
It’s maybe impossible for a person whose psyche is littered with such triggers to work on healing them one by one. So what has changed then? Why is my shame dampening down across the board? I’ve considered this question, and believe my healing can be attributed to the self-compassion and mindfulness practices I’ve engaged in for the past 12 months; particularly Metta (or Loving-kindness) meditation.
I like myself now, and so believe I’m likeable. My shame isn’t so regularly triggered because I relate to life from a foundation of loving myself. These changes make socialising a whole lot easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.
Since stepping out onto this path of healing about 15 months ago, I’ve been delighted to find that at certain points I come across signs giving encouragement:
“You’re on the right path”
“Keep going – you know the way”
Last night’s experience was another such sign, cheering me on.
I am deeply loving this journey.
May each of us find our own healing path.