My name is Taya! Nice to meet you guys. That’s what I wish I would have been able to get out my mouth. But, I couldn’t. I’m the socially awkward one that brought the banana pudding. Glad everyone enjoyed it. I can’t take all the credit though; my mother is the best baketress that I know and I’m just her sous chef. I was the one that came in and kinda spoke to everyone with a general room greeting. I’m not usually so weirded out in casual, social settings. Socially awkward is not a title that anyone would give to me, yet last Sunday, I was just that.
I had begun to build anxiety over this gathering and I didn’t really understand why. I was going to the home of my oldest friend. No, really, I mean that. We’ve been friends since we were about 7 years old. Our parents were besties and by default, we were thrown together, whether we liked it or not. Almost every Friday and Saturday night for YEARS. There were times that we were ok with it and times that we drove one another crazy. Since I’m a tad bit older, a fact that he likes to rub in my face, I often took great pleasure in bossing him around. Anyway, we lost touch after our college years and finally reconnected a couple of years ago thanks to the book of faces. Although I didn’t know anyone else that would be at the cookout, I decided to attend. I invited a girlfriend along and prepared to have a great time.
This is no indication of his hosting skills – the brother has got it going ON! Nice home, whole crabs, ribs, shrimp kabobs, great music, the NBA playoffs, open bar, etc. My bad experience was totally of my own making. As I thought about it a bit prior to the event, I realized that this would be the first time I was surrounded by people who didn’t “know” me. The first time that I wouldn’t have the scarlet “w” on my forehead. I’d be in a room surrounded by people who would not realize that I was floating around without a partner. I still take comfort in wearing my wedding rings. I spin them mindlessly throughout the day, gazing at them when a happy memory floats across my mind and tearfully turning away from them when a wave of pain surfaces. The people that I encounter in my normal day to day “know” my story. I don’t have to say or explain anything. People tend to tiptoe around conversations that might make me uncomfortable or require me to directly mention my loss. But, inevitably at a bbq or other social gathering, there will be small talk and questions. Where are you from? What do you do? How do you know the host? Are you married? Is your husband here too? **sigh**
Learning to answer that question is a hard, hard thing. I’m not good at it. I don’t WANT to be good at it but I must work on it. Every time some variation of, “Are you married, what does your husband do, where is LittleTDJ’s dad” crops up into a conversation, I freeze and fumble the ball. I make seemingly routine and innocent encounters very uncomfortable for all parties involved. And that’s on a small scale. This cookout would be big.
It didn’t help that during my drive to the DC suburbs, a Prince George’s County ambulance merged onto the highway just in front of me. ***deep sigh*** The sight and sound of ambulances is a very big emotional trigger for me, especially Prince George’s County ambulances. My mind still wanders daily to the day my husband passed away but I don’t relive each moment in the same detail that I once did. Now, things play out more like snapshots in a scrapbook. The moments are frozen in my brain and there isn’t a second that I will ever forget about that day, but my mind has finally taken a little pity on my heart and stopped making each nanosecond repeat. However, when I see an ambulance, I kinda lose it. I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles were white. I had to put on my flashers and make my way to the shoulder of the highway. I could NOT ride behind that ambulance as it traveled to potentially change the trajectory of someone’s life for the best or for the worst. I composed myself after sipping some water and continued on to the cookout. But at that point, my mood was negatively impacted. I wasn’t in a bad mood, I simply wasn’t in a “hey, let’s meet some strangers and have a great time” mood.
I arrived, smiled, gave a general greeting to the mass of people, found the host for a hug and got a plate of food. After finding a seat, I barely moved for the remainder of the evening. Definitely NOT my normal personality. After my girlfriends arrived, I shared a laugh or two with them, made sure they met the host and really didn’t do much else. I was stuck in my own mental chains and I couldn’t enjoy the bbq like I wanted to.
So, to my friend JB and his seemingly awesome friends, my apologies for presenting as an anti-social, quiet, awkward, uptight chick in the corner. I hope that I get to meet everyone again under better personal circumstances and I promise that you will all love me. Or not.