Most people seem to be under the disillusion that I am a social person. I assure you that this is not the case. It’s easy to fake an overabundance of cheer and general goodwill when with friends for the hour or two that dinner and drinks require when you know that in thirty minutes, you’ll hug and kiss goodbye and then be safely ensconced in your room with a book and a pen and paper and cold pizza. I think people confuse being loud with being outgoing. Being loud is a learned survival skill from growing up in a house of seven people, when you could literally get lost in the sea of people at holidays and family gatherings.
There are things that my mother taught me when growing up about having manners: the basics that I practice in my sleep, “Say please and thank you, yes ma’m and no sir,” and the more complicated and hard to follow, “No books at the table,” “Smaller bites,” “Don’t run off to hide and read your book,” “Stay and visit,” “Don’t run in that skirt,” “Be nice to your sister,” “Answer the question,” “Don’t mumble,” “No running in the house,” “Where are you going so fast? What’s your hurry?”
The last, a rhetorical question, was one I spent much time trying to figure out. I used to get this restless feeling when I was younger and trapped here in my hometown by pesky things like family and school and chores and lack of transportation and funds. It happened most often after the whole family was in for Christmas or Easter or my grandmother’s 80th birthday. As each guest departed off into the sunset on Sunday evening, I would get this burning and restless feeling that if I didn’t follow after them, I would perish. Anything had to be better than here.
I didn’t even know where I wanted to go but I felt this itchy sensation, like I was going to burst out of my own skin if something didn’t change. I didn’t know how to tell people that I needed to go because I was old enough to know that you couldn’t go somewhere if you didn’t have a destination. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was looking for, only that, like with most everything in my life, I would figure out as I went along.
Sometimes, if I sat still for long enough, read a book, took some deep breaths and drank a glass of ice cold water, the feeling would go away. Sometimes, if it didn’t, I would make a snap decision that I wouldn’t necessarily regret later but would definitely be deemed imprudent by cooler heads.
I still get that feeling. It’s what makes me tell stories a little more extravagantly, laugh too loud, drive around town with the windows down, , move to Montana, leave dewy footprints across midnight lawns, make trips to the beach at 3 am, flash strangers, steal public property, shout in restaurants, be barefoot, make snap decisions. I feel this bubble in my chest, growing and getting bigger and pushing against my lungs and leaving me in such a state of jittery restlessness that I can hardly breath and my heart labors to keep up and I’m searching for something to make it POP.
I’ve learned how to temper it, too. I take deep breaths, think of something else, move slowly, put on pants, start a blog. Y’know, big girl stuff.