I’m an awkward person.
I often respond with a “You, too’’ when the waiter says, “Enjoy your meal.” When we celebrate someone’s birthday at work, I’m the one who coordinates their birthday lunch. The birthday person will thank me and I’ll say, “Thanks for having a birthday.”
Really. I say stuff like that.
I don’t always say the right thing the first time. Heck, I don’t often say the right thing the second time either.
Maybe it’s because I have a hard time accepting compliments. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time receiving thanks.
Maybe that’s something I need to work on.
Grace will never be used to describe my movements or my speech. Neither one of them glide easily. My thoughts sound so good in my head until they exit my mouth. They often come out in need of untangling, especially when I’m nervous. And I often have trouble with movements that require grace and coordination, like swing dancing.
If my heart is stitched on one sleeve my awkwardness is pasted on the other.
A month or so ago I was on a video chat with someone. We matched on a dating app but hadn’t met in person yet. He was cute. He looked good. He said how much he liked my profile’s vibe then said I looked a lot different on video than he thought I would.
As I looked at myself on my screen, I saw how poorly my kitchen lighting illuminated my face. I saw bags under my eyes. My skin appeared washed out. I looked like I’d been on the run for a few weeks and the law finally caught up with me.
His comment triggered my sense of beauty in who I am. I felt awkwardness overtake me and didn’t quite know what to say. My words stumbled out.
But here’s the thing. When I’m alone or with friends, I feel confident. When it’s just me and the people who know me well, I can accept myself, the way I look, and how goofy and awkward I can be.
But when I’m talking to someone I’m just getting to know–especially a man I’m interested in getting to know better?
My self-doubt creeps in. It’s at those times when I feel the weight of awkwardness.
It’s heavy and it hurts.
I know people who always seem to say the right thing. The words they form in their heads always seem to make their way out of their mouths with grace and beauty. I know people who always look great on camera. I know people who picked up swing dancing quickly and can move through the steps with ease. I know people who look amazing after they’ve just finished a game of pickleball.
I am not one of those people.
At times, I wish could remove the parts of me that feel awkward and unkempt. I wish that words could flow from my mouth without effort. Without awkwardness. I wish I looked better on a video screen. I wish I didn’t always turn the wrong way when I practice swing dancing. I wish I didn’t look so ragged after a game of pickleball.
After I finished the video chat with that guy, I sat feeling awkward and wishing I were different. Then a few days later, I came upon these words spoken by Rabbi Zusya a short while before his death.
“In the world to come, I shall not be asked: “Why were you not Moses?” I shall be asked: “Why were you not Zusya?”
These words gave me pause. I’m the only one on this planet who gets to be me. I get to be Karin. These words also remind me of the trouble I have with perfectionism. The person I’d like to be often bumps up against my limitations. But when I focus on perfection and what I lack, wishing parts of me were different, I fail to embrace who I am and the gifts I bring to the table.
I’m a good listener. I’m thoughtful. I’m playful and laugh easily. I’m a damn good free-from dancer. I try my best and put my all into every pickleball game. Writing is quickly becoming an excellent method of expressing myself. Within me exists a beautiful combination of depth and lightness.
And when I think about these gifts they help me see that awkwardness is a feeling and that feelings come and go. Feelings of awkwardness may be with me at times but they aren’t me. Awkward isn’t who I am. It’s just what I’m feeling.
At times, I may say awkward things. Certain circumstances may cause me to look and feel awkward. But it’s important to not let how I’m feeling define who I am — to not let how I’m feeling get in the way of me being me.
Because beneath the awkwardness I may be feeling lie the gifts and goodness of me being me.
a curious firefly, © 2022