Thursday, March 18, 2010

Keeping up and fitting in

I went to a bible study at my church that my church mentor, M, recommended to me. It's specifically for women in their 20s. She put me in contact with the woman who runs it, and the woman hooked me up with the book they're using. The book is called Everybody's Norma Till You Get to Know Them." Because I tend to see practically everyone else as "more normal" than I am, I thought the book would be a good one for me to read.

So I dove into the book, being 6 chapters behind the rest of the group. I mostly agreed with the author's ideas, except for the chapter about reading people. It was one of the two chapters we were going to discuss at the meeting. The author suggested that those who are bad at reading people come across as rude, offensive, and uncaring. He said that no one wants to be around someone who is bad at reading people. I took offense to that. While I'm hopeless at reading people and their body language, I don't think I'm almost ever rude or uncaring. I absolutely hate rudeness and I try really hard never, ever to be that way, to anyone. So I was frustrated at the prospect of being called rude. Maybe this guy had forgotten that some people truly can't read people. It's not always a choice.

I went to the meeting on Tuesday night and found myself there 15 minutes early. I like to be early everywhere, so that I can adjust to my surroundings before everyone else gets there. It gave me a chance to talk with the woman who leads the group. Slowly, the other members of the group came in and started to talk. I could feel the confusion build, with multiple conversations happening at once. We sat in a circle, and everyone laughed and talked. I absolutely hated the feeling of being in the middle of conversation without being able to follow it or participate.

I thought that once things settled down and focused on the book, it would be better. We went around and introduced ourselves. I said that I'm Lydia, and I love animals, especially cats. Everyone else did the same. I found out that the other girls all lived on their own and had "real" jobs (a nurse, a physician's assistant, an accountant, and a teacher). I didn't feel like I was somehow less than them, I just felt out of place, like we didn't have much in common. As we got into the book, everyone stopped talking. I was hoping for a close-knit group that would want to discuss the deep topics in the book, but that's not what I found. Instead, the more difficult the topics got, the quieter everyone became. No one wanted to open up.

I was frustrated. I would have been able to talk more about the stuff in the book, because I had already planned my answers. But no one wanted to talk about that. I couldn't participate in the social conversation, but that's the only conversation there was. I spent the whole time sitting in silence.

The whole experience just reinforced how different I really am from my peers. I can't keep up with them when it comes to work, social lives, boyfriends, husbands, conversation... I feel like I'm stuck in childhood or adolescence while they've all moved on to adulthood. I think I'll go back to the group, but I definitely haven't found my niche in the church yet. There's a "ministry to the disabled" that meets twice a month that I'm looking into. I'm not sure if it's meant to be for severely disabled adults or for people, well, like me. I'm working on finding out more about it. Maybe I'll fit in better there.


  1. Sorry Lydia, I've had the EXACT same experience though.

  2. The important word is "come across".

    People who are good at reading people also can come across as rude and uncaring. They just are able to hide it better.

    And it's what you do with your assumption that people are "normal" (or the reality that they're not) which matters.

    And actually people do want to be around someone who is bad at reading other people, but for other qualities that they might have. (If they aren't around them to fix or control them).

  3. Lydia and others:

    Here is a really cool blog on small groups and what they might accomplish.

    Small Groups

  4. And one more thing:

    Markers of adulthood in the (secular) world do not necessarily equal maturity in Christ.

    While you may feel stuck in childhood in the world, some people may be stuck in a spiritual childhood.

    (And probably not realise that they are stuck! I hope the women in your group are more intelligent than that: that is probably not the word).

  5. That's a good point, Adelaide, although I don't think I'm spiritually an adult yet either. For some reason that prospect doesn't bother me as much, as long as I continue to grow. But the idea of being a secular adult seems so important. I guess I have some rethinking to do. And thanks for the link... I sent it to the small group leader.

  6. I'm sure M will enjoy the Small Groups link, and have more ideas.

    On spiritual childhood (and maturity): I thought of Therese of Liseux, who lived to be a couple of years older than you. Her sister Pauline was the one who first used the phrase, and it's generally held (now) to be a mistranslation of what Therese meant.

    And probably one of your gifts is humility.

    Do do the rethinking.