Socialising Takes Practice…

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October has arrived, and as the leaves on the trees have changed from their vibrant green to earthy browns, I too feel like there has been a metamorphosis of faces in my life.

Some were more meaningful and some less so, but strangely, I only experienced fleeting sadness in seeing each of them drop off the horizon. Instead, I repeatedly marvel at how life can be as rich and diverse as those very colours of autumn, and am grateful for the multiplicity of experiences it keeps offering me.

When it comes to friends, I am traditionally a shy creature of habit, preferring to hide in the shadows of my known and trusted, rather than opening up to new people. My close friends were always my oldest friends, and I could count the number of close friends I had on my fingers. As mid-life approached, I found that old friends began to drift, migrate, become eccentric or frequently turn into hermits. I suddenly woke up one day finding that I only needed one hand to complete the inventory, and started to wonder whether or not this should constitute a dire situation.

Luckily there was a concurrent process of evolution going on within me. When I passed my mid-thirties I decided to take life by the horns. I started to meet many new people and it has been a great learning curve. It was indeed an effort to crank up the long decommissioned factory of social graces, but a fun one at that. Socialising takes practice, and when out of practice, the awkward moments are memorable. Seconds can seem an eternity when you are racking your brains for something to say after “I am fine, thank you”, and it is debateable which is worse – the silence, the pretend toe inspections, or the internal struggle to stop yourself from saying something utterly stupid in the moment’s panic of trying to fill the silence. I remember one fine example of a hermitised old friend telling me how he had struggled for something to say in one of these awkward moments, and ended up asking the friend he had bumped into having lunch, whether he was having lunch.

However, after a few months of warming up and narrowly avoiding mishaps such as the example mentioned above, I managed to dig out my once social self that had gone into hibernation after my teenage years, and have met a handful of special people who have become very dear friends. I used to think time mattered in building relationships but it does not. When you find that connection with someone it just happens, and the laughs are effortless and endless.

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Interestingly though, I found that where time does matter is what happens afterwards. Sadly, some newfound besties fall by the wayside as quickly as they appeared, and I realise that this is where the time taken in building a relationship counts. Something that burns so brightly at the start can just fizzle out when the wind changes direction, and short though intense experiences with these people become like a dream – the memories are there, but you do not miss them because they were so transient in your life that it is as if they did not really happen.

You wonder why you are not sad, and can only conclude that it is all part of the masterplan. With the disappearance of new faces comes the knowledge of what did not work, and therefore the wisdom of what to look for in the future. And when you least expect it, the tide washes up old faces who remind you of what you enjoyed, and you find yourself in an even better place with them than ever before. But above all, with each surprise that awaits around the corner, you realise that life has an acute way of making you happy, if you just let things happen. When you overcome the fear of letting go of a bad friendship, something better comes along before you can blink, whether it is an exciting new face, or a comfortable old one that crawls out of the woodwork just in time to catch you when you fall.

One quiet evening, I googled Feng Shui predictions for my birth element for 2017, and found that indeed this year was meant to be excellent for us, with plenty of opportunities to meet new people and tipped to have especially bright energy in love. It is almost scary that I cannot find more truth in this, and not something I would ever have believed if I had read it at the beginning of the year. A prophecy of meeting new people may sound quite generic for most, but for me it is very out of the ordinary considering how my measly ten fingers have sufficed in taking stock of my friends for the past forty years.

Whatever it is, I am in awe yet again of how things fall into place when you do not ask them to, and with my Feng Shui prediction saying that things will get better and better, I cannot wait to see what the rest of this year has in store for me now that the autumn leaves have fallen to the ground.