There are moments when I want to be, I almost need to be the center of attention. However, most of the time I am firmly an introvert, and I will go to lengths to avoid overstimulation or even being around too many people. People who meet me at conferences when I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people don’t understand how it’s hard for me to go to lunch with more than three or four people. I’m not sure I understand. I’ve sung in musicals for filled auditoriums, but in a crowded room I want to run and hide. Even at small parties when I know everyone, I get drained by the activity, sound, and attention, both given and received.
On my birthday, which is today, I get caught in the turbine of wanting to be cared for and seen and the desire to be in a quiet, calm space. Fly fishing is one of the spaces I find I can recharge. Writing can also be that space. Exercise is less now but has helped me more in the past. I feel like those closest to me deserve me at my best, but when I get caught in a turbine, I close off and shut down. Even when those around me express care for me, I don’t always let it in or believe it.
I continuously gather information and analyze it with the mind of a scientist. But in the turbine, my assumptions get skewed, and my emotional foundation becomes shaken. I have used alcohol in some of these moments to shut off my conscious mind, but that is more than a little dangerous and is not healthy. I’ve tried to focus on being grateful and to use mindfulness to stay on my feet, but I still stumble.
After shuffling and stumbling around literally and in my mind, I took some time to go fishing this afternoon. The rituals, sounds, sensations, and need to concentrate soothes me and settles my nerves. It always helps to catch a fish quickly. The pressure of responsibility, the pressure of bringing my full self to every interaction, the pressure to clean the slate of emotional debris each day lingers with me. I can’t sweep stress or discord away or ignore it and I’ve already tried to bury it and emerged like a zombie to chase me down. I need a clean headspace to be the truest and best version of myself. I wouldn’t say I’m fragile, but I’m not stoic or impervious. To be the best me, I want to be aware and compassionate. Nicks and dings in my mindset catch the edges of others and cause me to hold on to the negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. That’s why I need to work to stay smooth.
There is always a way to bounce back and to find my feet again. At least there has been so far. It helps to be surrounded in a caring and supportive environment but placing my needs on others is a recipe for disappointment, especially when I can’t find the words that clearly connect. So, I try to leave it in the river. The pressure of water against my legs releases the pressure in my mind. The flow of the water smooths out the sharp edges. The concentration on the drift leaves no space for the negativity. It’s all stimulus and response, trial and error, fish or no fish. That’s why I love fly fishing.
This feels a little heavy for a blog about fly fishing and a blog I’m writing on my birthday, but I realize that holidays and celebrations can be hard for some people who aren’t sure they belong or feel entirely understood. When a real smile starts to leave my face and the pressure builds, sometimes I just need a hug or for someone to tell me to head to the river. Then I can get back to being the best version of me.