Yesterday I went to see Thornton Wilder’s Our Town with a couple of friends. We first met during a production of the same show so it was especially fun to re-visit it with them. And I had honestly forgotten how much I like the play.
On the way home, one of my friends accused me of “pulling away” from them, emotionally. No, accused isn’t the right word. She said with more sadness than anger.
I denied it. Of course I wasn’t pulling away, I just wasn’t doing as much theater and so we had less interaction. We still kept in touch.
But the more I think about it, the more I understand why she feels that way. Although I prefer “growing away” to pulling away, since you can’t help but grow and change while “pulling” has a violent, or at least forceful, connotation.
My life and priorities have shifted over the past few years and I am a different person now.
A while ago I assumed a lot more responsibility (and a new job title) at work, but a new office didn’t come with the promotion.
I’m still share the same small space and have with the same distractions I’ve had to deal with for the past ten years. Phones ringing, customers, people popping in to say hi, folks asking for directions to the welfare office, the department of motor vehicles, where to get a paternity test (a real question we got this week).
Even though it’s no longer my responsibility to handle these people directly, I still have to make sure they are handled. And l can still hear them.
On top of that I have to worry about profitability, programming, fundraising, marketing, a board of directors and human resources.
As a defense mechanism, I find myself focusing more intently, not paying attention to what’s happening around me quite so closely. I need to do that in order to get everything done and avoid a nervous breakdown.
I’m often deliberating work challenges during non-working hours too and use my new-found ability to block out my surroundings even when I’m not at my desk.
I find I have less patience with trivialities. I need people less. I’m quieter, and I wasn’t all that talkative to begin with.
I’ve drawn inward.
In addition to these necessary changes in order to succeed at work, I’ve started writing.
Not only is the process of writing very solitary, but I look at the world a little differently. I’m taking things in, processing them and then turning my responses into written words instead of spoken.
I also find myself writing in my head all the time.
At a recent writing workshop, one of the participants told a story about being in the car with her spouse.
As they were riding along, he commented about something on the radio and asked her opinion.
She didn’t know what he was talking about, barely knew the radio was on.
He said, “You’re writing in your head again, aren’t you.”
I get that. I do that.
So between become adept at tuning out the world because of work and spending more time in my head because of writing, I probably am changed, different.
I can see how these changes might be interpreted by my friends as “pulling” or growing away but I’m still here, still me.
I’m just quieter and more contemplative. And in a world of full noisy, thoughtless people, those are qualities I’m proud to posses.