Some of the nursery mums asked me to join them for a coffee the other morning, that was nice of them wasn’t it? I mean that kind of situation is pretty straight forward: Are you free? Yes or no; do you fancy it? Yes or no? Easy peasy.
Well this kind of simple request always throws me into a total tailspin, On this particular morning I had other plans so politely declined, feeling massively relieved that I had a genuine reason to say no. But very quickly I felt bad; guilty, scared they’d never ask again even though I didn’t actually want to go in the first place, then paranoid they’d talk about me behind my back, that I’d find myself targeted by them… Funny how being bullied at school can affect you decades later.
On top of that I can usually add a fear of saying yes into the mix too; of doing something I hadn’t planned on doing that day, of spending time with people I don’t know well enough to be comfortable around. having to make conversation, remember social rules etc. I’m also scared of getting involved with new people because my urge to please everyone and inability to say no essentially means I risk handing over control of my life and time to another person, I end up getting dragged along on someone else’s coat tails, doing things to please them and win favour, going places I wouldn’t chose to go, all because I can’t say no to them for fear of offending them, getting ditched by them etc, I then feel trapped and ooh, it’s messy!
So, it was one simple question, just a coffee for crying out loud, and my head becomes a mass of muddled turmoil that is totally and utterly over the top. I recognise this, but it takes hours to untangle to a point where I can think sensibly.
Because fear of saying yes aside, I still always feel like I have to accept any invitation going, I’m not allowed to decline or something terrible will happen, I’ll be left out and end up lonely and I’ll only have myself to blame. I might not want to be part of a particular social group, we might not have anything in common (I feel this is the case with the nursery mums in question) but something in me cannot bare the feeling of being left out and on the outside. I feel ridiculously hurt, even when I was given every opportunity to join in.
I do know why, I’ve just been trying to bury it and forget for years. But I think I need to shed some light on what’s in the (unconscious) driving seat behind this entire thing, see if it holds up in the light of day. I know it doesn’t.
It stems from being an extremely lonely teenager. I remember vividly all the kids on my cul-de-sac hanging around on the street outside my bedroom window at night, having fun, doing what teenagers do, and how achingly lonely I felt watching them from the darkness of my bedroom. I couldn’t join in, I was on the outside, I was the weird one, I was bullied mercilessly at school and had no self-esteem left, people were embarrassed to be seen with me. I’d played with these kids when we were younger but sort of got left out at some point. It hurt. A lot. I had no one at that time, the odd “frenemie” as they’re now called, but no one I could trust, no one I could talk to. It lasted for years.
And obviously it still has an impact on my life. I think when I see groups of friends now doing things together and enjoying themselves and I’m looking in from the outside, it reminds me of the feelings of isolation and rejection and pain and drives me to feel I must accept any invitation I get to become part of a group, no matter who that group is, no matter how incompatible. I can’t afford to be choosy, I want friends right? Don’t want to be lonely right? Right! So I should be grateful for any offer of friendship I get and take it. Beggars can’t be choosers as my mum used to say. If I don’t say yes to everything then I’m dooming me and my children to a lifetime of loneliness.
It all stems back to that time doesn’t it? It’s all driven by a fear of being alone again.
But that’s not my life anymore, I think when those situations arise and I see a group of mums doing things together I think I need to remember that my reaction is more about the past than the present. I’m not alone anymore, I often seem to forget that. I have friends, and actually saying yes to them is easy, because we have things in common and the things they want to do are the things I want to do, so I don’t feel trapped. I don’t need to say yes to groups of people that don’t “get me”, who I can’t be myself around, who would bitch about me behind my back. I don’t need them or their approval.
Still, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have the odd coffee with the nursery mums, (radical thought of the day here), it is just a coffee after all and it might make potential future playdates slightly less awkward. But really, so long as I’m not rude, me not becoming best friends with all the other mums in the class will not stop their kids being friends with mine. It’s fine, we’re good, I’m good…
Now let me re-read all that until it all sinks in!