The evening began easily. We admired their lovely second floor apartment with distressed wood floors, high ceilings, an exposed brick wall and an original stain glass window. We all agreed it was good to finally get together. Being new to the area, we asked how they liked Pittsburgh.
Conversation moved to their upcoming trip to Paris. We shared with them our favorite Parisian museums, parks, and markets. We agreed the best way to experience Paris is to start walking and see where you end up.
As we exhausted this topic quiet moments began to fill the space between us. I knew what was happening in the silence, an unspoken choice was being decided. What was the evening going to be? We could deepen our interest in one another, ask probing questions and offer self revealing answers, or we could talk about, what we think about, what we know about, topics of interest?
I always lobby for the former. Being interested in others is my forte. I am good at it. I know the questions to ask that invite others to share. I am interested in what makes people tick, what we have in common and if this a possible on-going relationship to nurture.
The collective opted for the latter.
So we supped on generalities of economics, politics, and current events. These are not my areas of interest or expertise. I don’t understand economics, although I am a wiz with our family finances. I have strong opinions about politics, but they are not steeped in the facts because I can never figure out what is the truth. Current events are, I suppose, the best of the three, but I still found myself seasoning my contributions with, tell me more about you and I will tell more about me. I asked them if they had siblings? I know it had nothing to do with Russian history, but I was curious.
By the beginning of dessert I began to feel tired. I tried to stay with the conversation du jour, but was struggling. I felt self-conscious, withholding comments for fear I wouldn’t sound smart. I got overly interested in how efficiently the husband sliced the almonds to sprinkle on dessert. After asking him every possible question relatable to precision almond slicing, I fell silent.
I couldn’t get my brain and my mouth to cooperate. My verbal contributions seemed to be swimming in the shadows but refused to be pulled to the surface. I hoped this fugue was menopausal and not early dementia. I began to stare at the seat cushion on the chair next to me.
I wasn’t enjoying myself.
On the ride home I was bothered. What had happened to me?
I realized I had tried to fit-in, versus show-up. I had withheld my vitality, my interests and my emotional intelligence to dine on the conceptual knowledge that was being served.
What if I hadn’t? What if I had offered-up my, albeit different, relational angle into the evening? What if I had seasoned the conversation with relational tidbits?
I became astutely aware that it was me, not them, I wasn’t enjoying.
I suppressed myself and when I do this, I don’t enjoy me. Go figure…