I don’t know how good my social skills were before Noah. Back then I did consider myself an extrovert though. Since Noah’s passing I really don’t like interacting with people, especially strangers and even acquaintances. I’ll do it if I have to. For example I’ve attended weddings, professional events, birthday celebrations and other gatherings. I’ll go. In fact I genuinely want to go to support the friend who invited me. However at these events I try to balance between being in the present and in a celebratory mood with shielding myself from conversations about babies, work, really anything that would touch upon my life over the past 22 months. I feel that everything that happened during this period is very personal. I don’t want to share this with strangers and acquaintances. Also I don’t want to be a downer at a celebration. And of course these topics are most likely to cause triggers.
I had to interact with a lot of people at Honu 70.3.
Right away during athlete check in, I dealt with a trigger. The volunteer reviewing the waiver for me to sign joked that the document says I have to give over my first-born if anything happens. I didn’t say anything at all and worked really hard — lots of times it’s truly an effort — to focus on completing the simple task at hand. (Of course he didn’t know about Noah and was just being friendly. Before Noah, I’ve made similar jokes.) Then he looked at the volunteer to his right and said, “I guess I shouldn’t make jokes like that with a lawyer around.” (Perhaps the other volunteer is a lawyer.) And then I blurted out, “and my first-born died so it’s not a relevant comment. Hence my reaction. But you didn’t know.” I immediately felt bad because the volunteer felt bad. Yes, it was awkward.
A couple of times I grabbed lunch at the hotel pool bar. The first time there I managed to get away with not talking to anyone. The second time I found myself talking to the woman next to me. (Her husband was talking to a couple on the other side and she was just sitting there, so we ended up chatting.) We talked about triathlons. She’s been racing triathlons for 30 years and raced Kona (the Ironman World Championships) nine times! We talked about the crosswinds on the bike course. We talked about all of the other Ironman races she’s done – she’s raced a lot. I actually enjoyed talking to her.
I joined my coach and other members of his group for a swim in the ocean on Friday morning. I briefly met only a few members when I swam with the group in March so leading up to this Friday group swim I mentally and emotionally prepared to meet people. I tried hard to be social and easy-going. I think I did ok. We pretty much talked about the race, training and bikes. My coach has quite a large group at this race, and many of them wore team clothes during their stay in Kona. I saw them everywhere – on the race course, at the finish line, the next day at breakfast. I felt bad for not reaching out and introducing myself to them but I knew I hit my limit for socializing.
I know I’m less of an extrovert now. I don’t know if I’ll stay this way or if at some point I’ll feel more comfortable interacting with others. Because I work hard to avoid triggers and talking about almost anything that occurred over the past 22 months, I find myself experiencing awkward moments. I often feel socially inept.
I also know I prefer being around only MLH and my close friends. I’m not up for meeting new people which isn’t good since we’ve just moved to a new town.
I’m thinking if I have to meet new people, I can focus on meeting other athletes. I have a better shot at talking about just training and racing which are safe topics.