|My first time in Grand Central Station. Looking down while Roberto looks up through the lens.|
Several weeks ago Roberto and I went to New York to visit my cousin Anders. While there we went to this shop called, well, SHOP, a hyper-colorful, heavily curated concept store that changes its theme every season. Full of clever gift items, there was also the occasional show stopper, like the giant unicorn pool floatie that was in the middle of the space when we visited (the theme was Out of Office, an ode to endless lazy vacation days).
Anyhow, while at SHOP Anders bought a pack of cards that is supposed to generate ideas for small talk, improving your conversational skills, or simply getting to know people better. Later that evening we pulled random cards from the deck over a midnight snack of leftover donuts. Some of the prompts were pretty predictable (What did you want to be when you were a kid?) some were amusing (What's a guilty pleasure?) others were deep (Do you value mercy or justice more?) and a couple were downright cringe-worthy (What relative do you like the least?).
One of the cards I found strangely difficult to answer was "What circumstances make you shy?"
My initial reaction was silence, because I'm not at all a shy person and it took me multiple minutes of thinking to even come up with some candidate scenarios...and even then, not really! Like I am reluctant to ask strangers for directions when I'm lost because I don't want people to know that I'm disoriented or not "from" a particular place. I'm reluctant to interact because the information I'd share makes me feel vulnerable, not because I'm timid about the approach. The other scenarios I came up with were also one-off from shyness, like not wanting to talk about certain accomplishments (modesty), occasionally being quiet at dinner parties (paranoid about being a motor mouth), or back in the day deciding not to get gelato because I didn't know the words in Italian for 'scoop' and 'cone' and the embarrassment I was sure to suffer because of that was greater than my desire for ice cream (stupidity - now I get gelato despite any linguistic limitations).
My friend Hilary is perhaps the most shy person I know. We were in jewelry school together and bonded over a mutual love of running. We've been meeting for weekly runs for over 6 years now, and the funny thing is that while we run we talk nonstop - both of us! There's nothing like chatting to make the time and the miles fly by, especially when training for long distances. I believe that being side-by-side while we run (as opposed to face-to-face) takes the pressure off and makes it easier for a shy person to chat. In my case it makes me talk less because Hilary is in better shape than I am and so I reach a point of huffing and puffing and not being able to hold a conversation much faster than she does, so it's a good balance!
What made me think of shyness was the realization that the place I quiet my voice the most these days is here, on my blog. Sometimes I long to write and will spend hours composing in my head and feeling the itch to get my fingers on the keyboard, and yet I hold back. It's not writer's block - the instant I sit down the words pour out. Rather it's censorship, fear of oversharing, a questioning whether my current stories truly belong in this place so rooted in the past or whether I need to find a new home. I miss writing, be it about unremarkable daily routines or major stuff like marriage, miscarriage, and how to crack the code of living 6 months in California and 6 months in Italy (current conundrum). I know the way forward is to keep writing, be it here, in a private diary, on scraps of paper, whatever. Doubts about where to write shouldn't be an impediment to writing. So here I am, despite my shyness, showing up to say hello.