Have I Always Been This Awkward?

A beach with a small wave rolling in. There are lots of stones on the beach.

Here in Southern Ontario, things are opening up. We’ve been meeting up with friends on porches and restaurant patios, trying to catch up.

And it’s unbelievably hard.

After a night out of conversation and pauses and me feeling like I’m talking way too much and saying things I shouldn’t, I say to Alan, “Was it always this hard?”

Or, worse, “Have I always been this awkward?”

He assures me cheerfully that I have and that he sees it as a good thing, but, oh, my! Awkward and difficult.

I’m starting to realize that we’ve all been traumatized by the pandemic in ways that will take a while to begin to understand. Even those who didn’t get sick, didn’t lose anyone to the virus. Even if we kept our jobs or our businesses, we’ve all suffered losses.

We’ve lost so much time together. We’ve lost the ease of our friendships. We’ve become awkward and shy with each other.

Honestly, what do you say?

It seems pointless to tell people about the books I’ve read or the hobbies I’ve taken up when so much time has passed.

Do I admit that I’ve spent the past eighteen months learning about climate change and becoming more and more terrified? Wouldn’t that be a total downer when I’m so happy to see my friends again? But not talking about it seems wrong, too.

How do grown-ups say to each other, “I’ve missed you SO MUCH!!!!!” without it being embarrassing?

I can’t seem to say it in person, so maybe I’ll write it down here and send it out like a message in a bottle and see where it washes up.

I’ve missed you. I’ve missed our easy camaraderie and friendly arguments about books. I’ve missed your helpful tips for cooking eggplant and the way the light catches the crinkles around your eyes. I’ve missed mending together and chatting quietly or being silent together.

When I see you, I want to know what you’ve been up to, all the quotidian details that used to flow so easily.

But more than that, I want to ask, “How is your heart?”

What are you afraid of? And can we face that fear together?

Who have you lost? What do you miss most about them?

What have you kept in your life? What have you cast aside?

These aren’t usually conversations had on restaurant patios. These aren’t conversations most grown-ups have with each other ever. We keep things lighter, not so deeply personal. We don’t want to burden each other.

But, honestly, friends. We’ve been through some shit. So maybe it’s time to change the rules.

If you’re ready, please: How is your heart?

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13 Responses to Have I Always Been This Awkward?

  1. Sacha says:

    For what it’s worth, I lived every second of our dinner together. And this is my new favourite eggplant recipe https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/eggplant-adobo

  2. Terrie says:

    What a wonderful question to ask. Much less superficial and more real. For me, missing my family over different periods was difficult. But my heart is thankful to live in Canada where the well-being of each other seemed paramount. We will try to enjoy the simpler things going forward, a real lesson for the times! Take great care everyone ❤️

  3. Carol MELLANBY says:

    ❤️ As always Barb I enjoy your stories beyond my heart at times felt so empty I longed to wrap my arms around our children & grandchildren ❤️‍My biggest fear is not living to see our son daughter-in-law & our precious granddaughter the good Lord willing they will be home for Christmas on the other hand now we can do that & when that time came many many tears flowed I am forever blessed & I’m so thankful for my beautiful loving caring husband that has always been there we really are a great support system for each other ❤️

  4. Margaret says:

    This made me cry, dear friend. You’ve always been very good at connecting with my heart. I cherish our friendship in the midst of being sad, terrified, and filled with grief. Because you always remind me of the beauty in life in spite of all that. Beautiful words, Barb.

  5. Bethany says:

    My heart is still broken and sore from my husband’s death last summer.
    I’ve become reclusive and don’t know who I am. I too am awkward in social situations now and crave more alone time. But I’m hopeful, I think, in the midst of a pandemic, climate disaster and the creep of authoritarianism. Sigh. It’s a lot. Thanks for asking.

  6. Barb says:

    Oh, Bethany. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Grief is a hard road to travel. I’m here, if ever you want to talk about it. Or anything else.

    Look after yourself. xo

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Barb, I loved every word of your post. It reflects so much of what I’ve been thinking about, and said so eloquently. I look forward to going back and reading your catalogue of posts, and to perhaps having dinner one day soon!


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