Social events like today tend to provide me with a fair amount of stress. There are a variety of reasons for this. For one, I tend to be relatively busy, as I was today, with various responsibilities to keep the event going as well as possible. For another, such events usually lead some people at least to want to show off in some fashion, and that usually bodes poorly for me. There are also usually a great deal of people I do not know very well if at all, but who know a lot of other people, so it tends to highlight my frequent status as an outsider, with all that entails. More than anything else, though, such days provide a great deal of stress because they are filled with all kinds of awkward interactions, and nothing makes my life more complicated than these, even if they are fairly common in my life.
And today had no shortage of awkward interactions. Some of these actions were guaranteed. For example, my roommate had spent a few hours in the hospital yesterday after one of his vehicles was totaled in an accident where someone rear-ended his car. Being thus without transportation, at least for today, I had to schlep him to and from church, which meant that he was in my car and instead of being able to listen to audiobooks in my usual solitude, I had to interact with him and deal with his occasional snarky comments, and his tendency to take any sort of conversation as a hint to launch into a small set of predetermined subjects. To be sure, there are far worse things than this, and it was not too irritating, but as someone who can remember what people say, it is somewhat irritating when people have a very small range of things that they like to talk about because it means I have to listen to the same things over and over again, which gets pretty monotonous and irritating after a while.
There are some people whose awkward interactions are at least creative. After the potluck, while I was chatting a bit and drinking some water before going up to have dessert, I was waylaid by one of the deacons of our congregation who asked me if anyone had commented to me about the closing prayer I gave last week. I commented that no one had, and then he mentioned that some people (perhaps only himself) had been a bit taken aback by my commentary on the sermonette message, which had been about dreams. He apparently did not think dreams an appropriate subject to bring in sermonettes. Admittedly, it is not one I tend to speak of in the context of messages, but in my own conversation and in my own scriptural research I find a great deal of worth in the subject of dreams, and do not think it an inappropriate subject to be interested, as dreams form one of the characteristic ways in which God can communicate directly with believers. He also seemed a bit irritated by the fact that I tend to summarize messages in my closing prayers, which puts a great deal of pressure on other people to do the same thing, when their memories are not as good as mine. I commented to him as politely as possible that I did not think that the way I gave prayers was necessarily meant as a challenge to others.
Still other interactions are awkward because of the presence of observers, and would not be awkward otherwise. For example, when the noisiness of a young person whose family used to attend our congregation regularly before moving a few hours away drew my attention as I was standing and waiting for our choir performance today during services, my sensitivity to what was going on around me led someone else to feel awkward. Likewise, being a Nathan tree or having one of the congregation’s more adorable ragamuffin children respond to my comments about her supposed fear of goats into acting like a goat and charging repeatedly into my leg led to my fair share of awkward moments where other people looked at me strangely. It is difficult to even acknowledge such matters, since one is left with the impression that people want to say something but are perhaps a bit too afraid to do so.
Nor does this exhaust the awkward and uncomfortable interactions that one can find on a day like this. But it does at least set the context in which such conversations occur. As someone who tends to think about conversations and be frequently lost in thought, there is often a bit of a delay in conversations that I have. Also, I have found that many people, myself included, often have things that we are thinking about and that we would like to broach but perhaps don’t know how, and that sort of thing tends to lead us to have conversations that are less fulfilling than we might wish. To be aware that other people have the same difficulties certainly does make it less frustrating to deal with, because one realizes that the discomfort of conversations that do not flow very well is not necessarily limited to myself alone, or necessarily something that one has to view as a matter of blame, but at the same time it does mean that long after the social interactions are done there is still a great deal to think about and to ponder over before one can sleep peacefully.