I have often felt awkward in social situations. Sit me down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine with a friend or a small group and I’m happy, comfortable, at ease. Put me in a room full of strangers at a party and all of a sudden I feel that prickle of fear run up the back of my neck. My eyes focus on items around the room or on my feet so that I don’t accidentally meet someone’s eyes and have to think of something to say. I fear that I won’t know how to start a conversation or how to keep one going. I fear that I will have nothing of value to say and no one will want to talk to me. I fear that I won’t be able to retrieve the words that I need when I need them.
Of course, only that last fear has any basis in reality. I do have trouble remembering names and often I have to describe the concept I’m trying to talk about rather than use the word created for it. It’s stored in my brain somewhere –it’s just that the card catalog doesn’t work all that well on demand. The rest of it, the fear of talking to strangers is just fear.
So – what’s the plan? I don’t want to live with this anymore. I want to be free to feel comfortable with new people and in groups.
The solution is to change my attitude. I want to take my fear and turn it into curiosity. Rather than dreading the beginning of a conversation with someone that I don’t know, I want to wonder who that person is, what are they interested in, what makes them uniquely them. Honestly, all this talk about the weather is boring. I want to know what makes people tick (or tok, or jump for joy) – I’ve just been too afraid to ask.
The same idea can be applied to my art and how I approach working. Do I walk into the studio nervous that I might not be able to work today or that what I do may not be any good? Do I walk into the studio with the expectation that it will be a great day and that I can do no wrong? Or, do I walk into the studio with an attitude of curiosity? Do I wonder – what will happen today? How do I feel? What does it look like when I try this color, this shape? No expectations; only curiosity and attention.
By using my curiosity in the studio, I allow myself to play with my ideas. I can try new combinations and techniques without giving that little homunculus named Critic the power over my day. I can float on the joy and power I have when I walk through the door feeling fabulous without the disappointment at the end of the day if it doesn’t go well. By paying attention to myself, I can use my curiosity to see how I am feeling. I can acknowledge that I am excited or bored or that I just need a glass of water.
I can take my fear and expectation and turn it around into wondering and inspiration. What a way to start the day! What a way to meet new people! And you know, if I forget a name, I can always ask…