While others are painfully shy

When Melissa and I were first becoming friends, one of the things that we ran into was that I have this need for physical space. I am not a very touchy person. I couldn’t tell you why that is, but I have never been one of those girls who plays with other girls’ hair or snuggled up to friends on the couch. Melissa and I have now worked through this issue. This means I let her touch me occasionally. Look, here is an example of how far I have come:

I am practically couch-snuggling with Kelly in that picture. I’m a whole new woman.

I am like this with my emotions, too. I think I can be pretty open when I share how I am feeling, but you have to let me be the one who makes that decision. When I feel like my emotional boundaries are being assaulted, I kind of freak out. Sometimes I accuse Mike of being hard to pin down, but then I will be in a conversation with someone and realize that I am doing exactly the same thing that he does to me . . . wriggling and squirreling my way out of having to give details.

A lot of it is that I am so afraid of being laughed at. I think I’m better at that than I used to be, much more confident, but . . . I fear I will never get over it completely. I cannot handle being made to look stupid, or being thought the butt of a joke. If there’s something I think you are going to use against me or, worse, laugh at me about, I will do everything I can to keep from telling you about it. And if you turn me into the butt of a joke, especially if you do it in a room full of people, I am not going to forget it.

So one of my buttons definitely has to do with that. I see people (like my husband) navigate similar situations without it being stressful for them, and I can’t understand it. How does he just let that sort of thing roll off his back? Why doesn’t he mind all the questions? Of course, I could also ask: Why does traffic make him so uptight?

When I think about other people and situations that have pushed my buttons, a lot of it has had to do with disrespect. Disrespect of my opinion (or, you know, anyone’s but your own), my intelligence (hey, I’m a reasonably smart cookie), my emotions (perhaps you shouldn’t publicly insult me merely weeks after my dad died), my effort, my boundaries. These aren’t bad things to oppose, but when they happen, my fears of looking stupid and being laughed at, combined with the disrespect, make it hard for me to function. I shut down. I get abrupt or even surly. I can’t make eye contact. I practically will my body to curl into itself. I do believe this is the worst version of myself. Unfortunately, there are some people who only know this version, because I feel belittled to the point that I completely lose the sense of who I am around them.

Lately, much to Oprah’s chagrin, I have not been living what I consider to be my best life now. My buttons have been pushed, and in some situations, I am functioning at a level that is considerably lower than normal.

The advice I have been getting is to pray about this, to pray about my responses and trust that God will move. And I do believe that he can help me make some changes, but this is a McDonald’s culture, and I want change to happen now, even if it’s never really happened that way in the past, and how in the world is it reasonable for me to expect character flaws to correct themselves in a week’s time?

So I am relegated to patience, to taking my temper on one phone call, one risky emotional situation at a time. At least I know that when I lose hope, I can sit on Melissa’s couch and let her put her arm around me. To be able to take comfort in that is a reminder that, from time to time, I do actually make a little progress.

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