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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Posted in Musings | 13 Comments