Am I Jekyll?  Am I Hyde?  Introvert?  Extrovert?  Where the hell do I get my energy from?  The silent meditation, the buzzing conversation after practice?  What I used to be, I’m no more, but then perhaps I’m just reverting back to what I was as a child.  A lonesome sort of thing, who used to feel perfectly content playing with Charlotte – my imaginary friend.  My mum said that the neighbourhood kids would come to the front door asking if I wanted to play.  She’d call my name and reluctantly I’d emerge from my room, and peer down from the top of the stairs.

“Laura, do you want to come out and play?”

I’d look at them, look at my mother and say “No.  I’m playing with my peoples,” and retreat back to my room, with little to no concern over whether that was acceptable social etiquette or not.

Painfully shy when I first went to school, oh god, I can still remember how torturous it was turning so very bright red, “cherry girl!  Cherry girl!”  I decided the only way to cure myself was to confront my shyness head-on.  Talk through the blushing humiliation, throw yourself into awkward social situation after social situation, and force yourself to be a part of it, enjoy it!  It wasn’t long before I was only happy with people.  Time to myself was like being locked in a dark cupboard.  Frightening and unsettling, never really sure of what I might find.

I don’t know when the group dynamic started to lose its appeal.  Perhaps it was after Duncan and I broke up, perhaps it was when I started my writing course, perhaps it was training for the triathlon, or marathon.  It doesn’t really matter – all I know is that there came a point when I accepted that there are some things that you just have to do on your own, and the more time you spend with the yourself, the less frightened you are.  In fact, it was quite a happy relief to find that myself wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined.  We have quite a laugh as it happens.

Having said all of that, I don’t necessarily want to start concocting imaginary companions again.

I suppose, much like everything else in life, it’s about finding the right balance.  Learning when to trade in a night at the reggae bar for an appointment with Hilary Mantel.  Recognising when surfacing emotions need to be felt, and when you need to be pulled out of them.  Not being afraid of letting people down, being confident enough to have dinner in a restaurant by yourself.  I do that a lot now. Don’t even need a book anymore – just gaze out into the gardens or street.

Tonight I’m going for sushi with a friend.  The perfect balance- quiet and genteel, but not hermitville.

And just to clarify – her name is NOT Charlotte.

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