The Real Me

Gina Butz culture, transition 3 Comments

It happened yesterday at the dentist. I was myself. I mean, really truly, like just how I would be if I were with someone I’d known forever. I was chatty. I made witty comments. They laughed. It felt comfortable, and normal, and I thought, “Hey, I’m being me! With people I just met!” This is progress.

You’d think I’d always be me – isn’t everyone? – but I’m still getting there. A friend of mine here reminded me lately that when someone has gone through a major transition, you should assume for the first year that you don’t really know the real them.

Ah, how true.

It was good to hear that again because I know that my traditional transition stress reaction is withdrawal. I usually don’t realize I’m doing it until people make comments like, “Gosh, I thought you were so reserved and quiet, but . . . ” (It’s ok, go ahead and finish that thought, “but you’re actually kind of goofy and don’t stop talking.”)

The first time I did it was when I got married, and everything in my world changed – new city, new job, new home, new roommate, new church, new friends. I met one of my good friends that year, and she thought I didn’t like her the whole year. Meanwhile I was saying to my husband, “I really like her! I hope she’ll be my friend!” Sigh. I had no idea.

Since then I’m at least aware of it (the first step is admitting you have a problem). I think I am doing better here, but I think it’s partly because there are people I am myself with because they already know me. Or people who are just so inviting they make me want to show up all at once. There are others though who still think I’m the quiet type. Just wait, I want to say. A person who has just gone through transition is a bit like a new house plant. You can give it the best environment, but it’s probably going to wilt a little at first. Give it time. It’ll perk up. Pretty soon the real Gina will show up and the “I just played Dizzy Lizzy* with my life and I can’t walk quite straight” Gina will fade away. I’m still just a little shell shocked and not so sure of myself here so I shut down the non-essentials and just focus on getting through. I’m triaging. But as we say in the middle kingdom, “yue lai yue” – it’s coming gradually.

Like at the dentist. The prospect of major dental work somehow drew me out. Who knew?

*Dizzy Lizzy, for the uninitiated, is a game in which you place your head on the top of a baseball bat, spin around several times while maintaining contact with the bat, and then attempt to walk toward a destination in the distance. It seems like it should be so easy but it is hard. Very, very hard. Like, “walk sideways until you fall down while your friends laugh hysterically” hard. But oh so fun.

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