I am not a morning person.
It’s not that I’m angry or sad or upset (my morning thoughts are usually pretty upbeat in fact), it’s just that it takes some time for any social skills or an ability to express emotions to kick in. This is not something my poor neighbor across the hall knew about me when he met me one morning.
Here is the ensuing conversation — the parenthetical statements are what my brain was thinking, the regular text is what my mouth was saying. You will notice grave differences between the two, unfortunately. Keep in mind that my dialogue is said extremely deadpan.
The set-up: We were both standing on the landing locking our facing apartment doors. It was 7:30 am on a weekday. He was dressed as if to go to work, as was I. He smiled and commented on all the rain we’d had recently.
Me: (Yes, it has been rather rainy lately. I hope you remembered your umbrella!) Yeah, it was coming down so hard when I woke up this morning I was thinking of showering out on my back porch.
Unwitting Neighbor, with concern in his eyes: Hah, uh, yeah, but I bet those pesky public decency laws stopped you, right?
Me: (Yes!. . . No! I would never go out in public naked. I blush when someone says the word “Cockney.”) No, it was the pigeons that stopped me, actually. I thought once it stopped raining and the sun came out all of those suds from the shampoo and soap would make the porch all sticky. . . and then I thought what a pain it would be to have to go outside every half hour or so and pluck the pigeons from the roof. Or what if they liked the taste of the suds?
[Pertinent sidenote: My back porch was also simultaneously the rooftop of the video store underneath us.]
Unwitting Neighbor, no longer smiling: Huh. Well. I’m glad you didn’t because I wouldn’t want to look out one day to see you rinsing off. No offense.
Me: (Oh my god! I’m sorry! I have gone way off the tracks here, but I just don’t know how to stop the awkward now.) Come on now, it’s not that bad. I work out. You could do much worse. [Yes, I actually said that.]
Unwitting Neighbor: Are you hitting on me?
For the next 2 weeks, I worried and worried about what I would say to that guy if I saw him around again. My partner had to talk me down a couple times. Thankfully, he is rather used to my awkward morning conversations and, occasionally, he even finds them charming.
Here is basically what my partner said to me during one of the said talking-downs: I’m sure that guy is telling that story to all of his friends at parties. And if you run into him again, he’ll either avoid you completely or he’ll ask you how the pigeon-plucking business is going. Either way, he will never ever forget meeting you.
I love him for that — my partner, not the neighbor. He reminded me that my morning awkwardness is just a side effect of having a personality. It’s really not that uncommon.
In this blog class I’m taking, we were challenged to comment on four new-to-us blogs, then write a post expounding on one of the comments we’ve left. I read Crystal’s funny account of forgetting to buy pepperoni for a birthday dinner and the mental fall-out that ensued. I read Andy’s lament of reading Hemingway and being subsequently ruined on writing anything ever again. And then I read about Meg’s defiance of a cranky (and absolutely wrong I might add) hipster who commented unkindly about something she’d written. I found a very common theme.
And that leads me to my point in sharing my mortifying neighbor story and its aftermath:
I call it the “Needless Obstacle Courses We Put Ourselves Through In Our Heads”. It’s acronym is unwieldy and despite its length, its effects make us short-sided. Crystal and I sweat over the small stuff. Andy, Meg, and I (along with about 95% of anyone who writes) are insecure about our writing abilities. Those two obstacle courses make us focus on the miniscule and forget to acknowledge the big picture. As Crystal said, her husband wouldn’t be upset by a missing pizza ingredient. What mattered was the thought. I think Andy, Meg, and I just needed to be reminded that writing isn’t a contest. What matters is that we enjoy doing it.
In all of our articles we move forward. Crystal goes on to remind herself not to beat herself up. Andy opens up to the possibility of revisiting some of his work despite the scars Hemingway lashed upon him. And Meg continues to write her blog. Together they remind me that all of our misgivings, beatings, and worries are self-inflicted. They’re all in our head.
Perfection isn’t the goal; simply trying to get out of our own way is the goal.
And, maybe for me, avoiding that neighbor I inadvertently hit-on for the rest of my life.