May 142008

I have been thinking a bit more about the feeling of not fitting in I wrote about the other day.

A day later I went to another one of Rhiannon’s fabulous improvisation workshops for singers. (I’ve been to quite a few and have written about a few of them in these posts). I was early. (That’s the beauty of going by train, you’re either too early or too late.) By the time the workshop was supposed to begin there was a small cluster of singers standing around in front of the building. Since this was a different location than usual I didn’t know anybody. The other workshops I had attended were all held in the big city, and over the years I have come to know quite a few of the regulars. So, there we stood, nobody quite sure what to do or say. Then Rhiannon arrived by car. She emerged from the car, carrying a basket full of strawberries, greeting me enthusiastically. And that was the first moment where I found myself both in the situation, inside myself, feeling slightly lonely and a bit scared about the workshop and my singing, and outside myself, seeing the scene through the eyes of the other singers who hadn’t met Rhiannon before, who probably were feeling even lonelier and more scared. What they saw was that I was the only one getting a hug. That I was the only one whom the teacher knew.

It didn’t stay that way though. Later there were more singers who had been to workshops before. Most of those I knew. And they knew me. And I’m still surprised when that happens. I’m very used to not being recognized by people. Maybe it’s because I changed my look so much, I don’t know. The workshop itself by the way was marvelous. I had had my doubts before because I have been to so many of these workshops but I went home inspired and much clearer about what I want to do.

A few days later it happened again. I went to the concert Rhiannon gave with two other singers. I was very early because I wanted to have something to eat there before the concert, and I wanted to write the story I had to finish the day after for a writing group assignment. That I went there alone is nothing unusual for me. When I came to the venue I was greeted by a woman coming towards me from the other side. (I think that maybe singers are especially prone to greet people from something like 20 meters away.) It took me about 15 meters of going towards her to realize that she hadn’t greeted somebody behind me. And that I know her. (I’m sorry, she used to be blonde, and now she’s brunette. Also I couldn’t see her face at first.) But the same thing happened to me three or four times in the course of the evening. Somebody was saying hello to me and every time I’d think they meant somebody behind me.

I entered the jazz club where the band was doing soundcheck. As I went down the stairs I heard, “Hi! It’s Susanne!” from the stage. Amplified. I sat down, I had my dinner, I wrote about half of the story, and I met a lot of singers that I know. It was the same thing over again. I knew about a third of all the people in the room. But to me I was there alone, spending a lot of time sitting at my table with nobody to talk to. To the other people sitting at my table I probably was part of the “in-crowd”. Going here and there, hugging people, and talking. Telling stories of other concerts and other workshops. This seeing myself from the inside and the outside at once confuses me. The images don’t quite match. What’s the truth, me being part of a group amidst friendly faces, or me sitting apart, taking something to read with me because I’m on my own with nobody to talk with?

Two days later I went to a meeting of my writer’s group. Again, a group that I know, people that I like. And then there were the many nice comments on my blog. And I realized that though I feel as if I never fit in I am part of this friendly little corner of the blog-world nonetheless. And I had another moment of seeing myself from the inside and the outside at the same time again that week when I stayed in front of kindergarten to chat with another mother. I suddenly realized that I looked like those mothers I had seen standing there before, the ones of whom I thought they were big friends and had known each others for ages. Well, it seems that if you just stay somewhere for a bit of time you’ll get to know people and then you look like you have friends.

So, I’m not as lonely as I often feel. But then I still don’t have many friends. I’d still love to find a friend who loves the same things I do but that might be a little difficult. Even my husband has interests different from mine. When we first met we were pleasantly surprised about the similarities (of course). We both love Brazilian music, jazz, and the same piece of Anton Webern that nobody else loves. (Op. 22, you know, the saxophone quartet. What, you don’t know? Well, never mind, nobody does.) Even other Webern-lovers – of which there aren’t that many – regard that to be one of his inferior pieces.

I remember, back when I still studied musicology, how much I longed to have a friend to share everything with. Webern, classical music, Brazilian drumming, jazz, rock music, science fiction novels, and baking. But now I think that maybe that’s a bit too much. (And in all this I really shouldn’t forget to mention my real life friends who are reading this blog. All they hear me yammer about is how I don’t have friends. But they aren’t living nearby. And our interests only intersect so far.)

This whole thing might be a case of unrealistic expectations. But then I really long to find people loving the same things as I. And through the internet that has become much easier by the way. These days I’m spending quite a bit of my time over on ravelry (where I’m creativemother, by the way) discussing various aspects of sock knitting.

So I learned two things: 1) Other people might feel as lonely and isolated as I even if they don’t look like it, and 2) my quest to find people interested in the same things as I has been more successful than I thought. Only there weren’t any interested in exactly the same things or in all of them.

And now all of a sudden I feel the urge to make a list of the things I’m interested in. It might be a long list. And a bit unfocused.

  9 Responses to “From within and from without”

  1. I loved the list you did of things that make you angry, so i look forward to the list of interests.

    Third possibility, you don’t look like you feel lonely and isolated, even when you do.

  2. I suppose it is okay to stand slightly to one side and a bit apart.

    Then you are a part, but distinct from the whole.

  3. I think it is fascinating to meet people who have no similar interests t but where you are interested in the things they do… that keeps the conversations interesting …. so I just like drawing creative people into my circle of friends… we may have different interests but we are all trying to express our creativity and by talking to them, I get energized and more interested in developing new outlets for my creative energy.

    I liked the way that you wrote about being alone… I never feel alone when I am by myself but I do feel uneasy in a crowd of people.

  4. I really enjoyed this post and I suspect this is a feeling many of us share. I often find myself curling up inside when in social situations.

    I have many wonderful friends yet I never get to see them. Life gets so busy and the time never seems to be there. I’m trying to change things though. Next semester I will drop one subject – hopefully that will give me more time.

    For what it is worth, looking on from my side your life looks rich with creativity and self reflection. I think you will make an awesome friend.

  5. Such an interesting post, and so true. I’d really like to see your list of interests, and feel like doing one myself.

  6. have you been reading Chani lately? (I just noticed she has the same orchid colored background on her blog now) Anyway, read or re-read her post from May 3.

    I have not formed a comment yet because I’m still thinking about this.

    In your last comment to me, you wrote: “The main problem is to act on what I know.” Are you referring to changes you’d like to see within yourself, or changes you’d like to effect in the world? Interested in elaborating?

  7. i think you fit in nicely. you’ve got lots of good things going on. it rocks.

  8. this is a lovely evolution, Su.

  9. This is the first time I have read your blog.
    I am a “creative” mother of two very small children and I come from a large family of extremely talented and artistic people. I have recently moved cities and I have the same feeling you mention. I have few friends nearby and I do not seem to be able to find people who share my interests (No crafters). I live in Spain and I am Spanish born, however, I lived for quite a number of year abroad and sometimes I can’t quite shake the feeling that I am a foreigner in my own country. It feels good to know that I am not the only person who feels that way (incidently, the new friends I’ve made I have met at the park where I take my kids, mothers have a tendency to stick together!).

    Lovely blog, keep writing and being creative

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