The entry into my 59th year wasn’t as auspicious as I had hoped. I had flu, a broken premolar, mouth ulcers and perioral dermatitis (which I only discovered, and started treatment for, when I saw a dermatologist a few days later). I was, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. I’m not sure why this was the case and thankfully I am now on the mend, although the tooth still needs to be capped. Fortunately my friend, Judy, was visiting at the time. She kept me company while I languished in bed watching telly and Peter, bless his cotton socks, made us endless cups of tea (during the day) and kept our wine glasses full after sunset.
Growing older is one of life’s great ironies. We’re so fucking relieved to have made it this far, but as we thankfully receive each additional year on earth so we degenerate a little bit more. I’m not complaining though since I don’t have any major health problems or any real aches and pains. What I have is down to just normal wear and tear – touch wood. I would go so far as to say that as I get older, I feel like I am a better person; more intuitive, less judgmental and all round more happy.
It’s a strange thing. Ever since I discovered that what I thought was socially inept behaviour on my part was actually a consequence of being an introvert, I have stopped being so self-critical and become much more relaxed in situations that previously I would have run a mile from. It definitely helps knowing that one is not alone, nor odd, in feeling alienated in certain circumstances where everyone else appears to be in their element. It’s a bit like having a disturbing recurring dream. Once you fathom out the message that your subconscious is sending you, the dreams stop.
When I was a child, many a Sunday evening was spent playing games around the dining room table. We played board games like Monopoly and Scrabble and my dad also taught us card games, like poker, chase the ace, sevens and pontoon. As a result, I love playing games, not from a competitive place but for the sense of togetherness that it creates. However, I have never felt comfortable playing games with people other than my friends and family. But last year, in an attempt to be more sociable, I signed up for bridge lessons in Nottingham Road and landed up playing club bridge once a week and social bridge twice a week. I often find myself marvelling at the fact that I’m sitting at a table with people I don’t know very well, playing a game that I haven’t quite mastered, and I’m actually enjoying it. I was fortunate to join a class at the same time as Margie, who is a delight to play with and has now become my regular partner in the club (and when she is not available, Peter steps in).
I think that bridge is quite a good game for introverts because chit chat is discouraged, except of course when one plays social bridge. Ironically, now that I feel more comfortable being quiet (after reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet) I seem to be joining in the general natter more easily.
It never ceases to amaze me that a simple discovery about one’s personality could result in such a monumental mind shift. Discovering this has, in effect, changed the way I live my life. What I’ve always thought of as flaws I now think of as strengths and I feel more confident than ever that it’s okay to just be myself. I just wish I could have learnt this sooner rather than later.