Fictions We Tell Ourselves
June 16, 2009

I have always had a relatively easy time making acquaintances when I gear myself up for it. What I have always had a difficult time with is making friends. Sure, everyone has this problem to some extent - that's why most folks have more acquaintances than friends and it's why the one line from "The Body" and Stand By Me gets quoted so often: "I never had friends later on in life like the ones I had when I was twelve - Jesus, does anyone?"

But I always struggled making friends. Maybe it was because we moved seven times to six cities before I started kindergarten. And then I went to 3 elementary schools, moved towns once more ... and did 3 semesters at one junior high and 3 semesters at another. It could be that. But I think it's something more fundamental to my core personality.

Invader Zim the alienAs a child, I could chat with adults quite comfortably. Other children, on the other hand, confused me. I felt a bit like Invader Zim in his human suit - except I had no plans to actually take over the world. I was an alien surrounded by real people and I could never quite figure out how they worked or what so many of their gestures or phrases or looks meant. I could hang around with a bunch of different groups of kids ... but I was always on the periphery.

As an adult, that's not really changed - I'm constantly misreading cues from others and misinterpreting things. At the same time, I can generally tell you someone's motivations for actions.

When I first started going to a certain activity as an adult, I didn't expect to like it or to make friends. I'd long since learned that I suck at making friends. I tagged along at first because my partner enjoyed going to this group activity and wanted me to come as well. I was quite surprised to discover I enjoyed the hell out of it. I hoped that I would be able to fit in and to make friends ... but I was unsurprised to have this not really happen. Don't get me wrong, there are several folks I've met there whose company I really enjoy and would love to call friend - but seems like it's mostly a one-way relationship and frankly, I get tired of trying so hard to keep it going.

You can only invite someone over so many times before you get the message, you know?

Eventually, I joined a subgroup in this place - love every minute of it. It's an activity that stretches me and terrifies me and the folks there have been wonderful. No one has judged me, no one has told me I suck or I'm not talented or any of that. They encourage me - it's great! But I also feel like I've never really "broken into" the group either. I still don't feel included, I suppose I'm saying.

And then, a few weeks ago our subgroup has a party. And the "owner" of the main group is also a member of this subgroup - just a member of it though, someone else leads this subgroup. The "owner" says "something came up" and he can't attend the party. I'm disappointed, but I get that. The "owner" is a very busy person and shit does come up for him all the time.

So we're all at the party having a grand ole time ... and somehow the whole thing changes from a party to an impromptu meeting. And the subject appears to be how some folks are thinking that the "owner" isn't a good leader. Parts of this meeting are really good - we needed to do some thinking about our budget for next year and to see if we could do some fundraising or something. We had great discussion around this. But there were these odd moments where everything would shift and grow dark and bitter ... and people told how unhappy they were with the "owner."

I was shocked.

I had NO idea.

None. It was to the point, apparently, that some have thought about leaving the group because the "owner" isn't the kind of leader they understand. He has a legitimate leadership style, but it's one in which the power is NOT vested in one single person, but instead is supposed to be shared among members in various capacities (capacities which are open and transparent, by the way). What he doesn't really do is stand up and say "And now our group is going to do X because I said so."

Ummm, I thought that was a good thing?

I listened. Spoke up now and again. But it seemed like people needed to vent, so I tried to let them do that. They were upset that for the first time ever, the "owner" had not shown up for a group event. They said he was avoiding conflict.

I just had a feeling that he didn't even know there was a real conflict.

And when it was all over, I emailed him and said, "We have to talk."

We did that ... spent two hours telling him everything that I could remember from that gathering/meeting. Not because I'm a tattletale. Not because I thought it would garner any kind of favour.

But because there was a serious problem going on and the people who needed to be talking to each other weren't doing it.

There was no indication at the meeting that anything was said that wouldn't be said to the "owner's" face. There was no indication that this was a closed discussion or that there was any kind of implied privacy or confidentiality.

The "owner" thanked me for having the courage to come forward and let him know what was happening. He'd only heard the vaguest of mutterings and that had only come very recently when apparently this had been going on for quite some time.

He wrote everyone in the subgroup a letter and asked if it was okay if he named me as the one who had come forward. I said it was fine - and it is. If I misspoke or gave him any wrong impressions, the others should know whom to correct. I don't do the crappy behind-the-back shit. That's just cowardly.

A part of me expects that the subgroup might feel betrayed anyway. I knew when I first went to the "owner" that doing so might cost me my membership. So be it. It was the right thing to do. I didn't carry tales - I let there be known what the problems were. I didn't engage in any he said/she said - my memory is not that good.

The owner sent me a copy of the letter before everyone else to make sure that I was still comfortable being named as the one who'd come forward. That what he'd written was a fair interpretation/recounting of what I'd said (inasmuch as it even covered that - really there was only a small section that came from me). And then an invitation for people to please come forward and talk with the owner - to get this worked out.

That sounds like someone who is good at handling conflict to me - not someone who skips a social event because he's avoiding conflict.

Ultimately, I hope this all works out. That all the issues are brought to the forefront and dealt with and we come back in the fall as an even stronger group than we were this year.

But I will never understand why some folks seem to have gone at least a whole year harbouring issues until they festered into wounds and expected the owner to just magically know there was a problem, what the problem was and how to fix it.

And people act like I the alien.

Posted by Red Monkey at June 16, 2009 6:47 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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