Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shy Redux

I am nervous in new situations. When I enter a room filled with people I don't know (and even filled with people I do know sometimes), I get very nervous. My stomach hurts and I have to work hard to feel calm. Once I click with someone, though, all of this dissipates. For me, being with people gives me enough energy that it is worth the few moments of nervousness in the beginning. Likewise, when I speak in front of people, I am typically terrified...for about 25 seconds. When I preached regularly, I became physically ill prior to preaching -- each and every time. If I know I might be called on to ask a question in a public forum or if I think I might like to say something in a public forum -- like a class or a meeting, I become dizzy and my stomach gets queasy. Again, all of this lasts about 25 seconds.
Because of this, it has been very interesting to be married to a very shy person. It took me several years to figure out that my darling husband wasn't quiet in public because he had nothing to say, but because he was so nervous and shy. Although the kids have really brought him out of his shell, he is still my shy guy and I am getting him now.

Then came Blueberry. Blueberry possesses two of the most conflicting traits imaginable: she is incredibly verbose AND painfully shy. She WANTS to talk -- all the time. She has much to say and says whatever is on her mind when it comes to mind. Unfortunately, much of it, at least in public, happens under her breath or to herself or into my ear. There are significant people in our lives who did not know that she could talk until recently. She has been talking since right around the time she started to walk. At 16 months old, she clearly and politely said to her siblings, "I'd like some privacy please." She is never at a loss for words. NEVER! Did I mention the child can TALK. A LOT! Still, there are many people who would never know that because they only see her in public.

The amazing benefit to her verbosity is that she verbalizes every thing she is feeling to me. Yesterday, for example, she was sitting in the cart with her scooter next to her, as Rhubarb and Eggplant scootered and biked ahead of us. A lady passed by and giggled at Blueberry, saying, "I guess at least one couldn't take it any longer, eh?" Blueberry buried her head into her blanket, emerged after passing the lady, and said, "Mamma, I am not happy that that lady laughed at me." Later that night, Blueberry said something funny at dinner and so we laughed. She started to cry. Once calm, she let us know that she was still very upset that the lady had laughed "at" her that afternoon. "I don't like when people laugh when I do something," she announced.

Today, at the park, Rhubarb and Eggplant had latched onto two little girls and were playing merrily. Blueberry went to the tire swing to play when Rhubarb, Eggplant, and their new friends ran over and got on the tire swing too. Blueberry immediately got off and ran to the bench, where she sat and cried. I went over to comfort her and she cried for a while and then said, "Mamma...I just wanted to play with Rhubarb and Eggplant, but then the girls I don't know got close enough to touch me and I got really nervous. Mamma...I don't like it when people I don't know get close enough to touch me."

Now don't get me wrong...Blueberry makes friends just fine. She has several very good friends. She often meets kids on the playground and plays happily with them. The problem here was the the girls were close enough to touch her before she'd had enough time to adjust to the situation. For someone who is painfully shy, I am learning, this is very difficult.

On the one hand, Blueberry's level of shyness and her ability to express her feelings about it really help me understand more about shy people and especially about her. On the other hand, all I can do in those moments is hold her and give her a place to seek comfort and security...and an ear...because she will most certainly tell me all about it. No matter how outgoing I can be, there is nothing I can do to arm Blueberry with a shield to her shyness. I want to, but I can't.

I wish I had learned this lesson in regards to my darling husband long before his daughter had to teach it to me. Sorry sweetie. Better late than never?

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