Sunday, March 21, 2010

ringing my own bell...

I was six, maybe seven, and I had a red banana-seat bicycle with a bell.  I was an only child, and I spent most of my days quietly rambling around the little peninsula of my home--digging in the sand, climbing in the cedars, "discovering" secret pockets of lilies-of-the-valley, making up stories inside my head.  I talked to myself, constantly.

But every so often, I'd get a hankering to talk to someone new, so I'd ride up the dead-end road to the top of the hill--the limit of my solo territory. There, in a house I've forgotten and would probably drive past without recognizing now, lived a toddler boy that I  liked to play with. 

I think I was too shy to knock on their door, or probably my mother had told me not to because knocking on someone's door was being a pest, but instead of approaching their house like a normal visitor, I would instead ride my bike in little circles on the road, thumbing my bell.

Ring-ring.  Ring-ring.  I'd wait, and then try again, a little more quietly.  I knew that it was possible the baby could be taking a nap, and I didn't want to wake him.  But if he was awake, he would hear me out on the road and run to the door, shouting to his mother, "Lissa ring her bell!  Lissa ring her bell!" until she would take him outside to visit with me.

Thinking about this as an adult, I have to sort of cringe at myself, intruding like that on this woman's life.  I remember her being very kind to me, and maybe it was a nice break for her to have a visitor to occupy the little one, but maybe she was actually annoyed with having to watch two children instead of one.

This is leading somewhere, I think.

So I was thinking about this...about how difficult it can be sometimes for me to "intrude" in people's lives.  I hate the telephone, but it's not necessarily talking on it that I hate--I hate calling people because I feel like I have no idea what I'm interrupting in their lives at that moment.  There's a quality of self-assurance that I maybe lack, the assurance that no matter what they were in the middle of, of course they'll be happy to stop and talk to me.  I know this is ridiculous; if they're busy, they can just say so.

I was reading something recently (and if I were a good little blogger there would be a fancy link here or something, but I'm just a lazy writer girl, so sorry, you'll have to take my word for it) about how writers need publicists because they are, in general, a modest lot.  It's hard for us to go around tooting our own horns.  Instead (*tries desperately to make this post somewhat cohesive*), we'd rather ring our bell, quietly, while we make wobbly circles on the asphalt with our heads down, watching the ribbons woven into our own spokes.  We hope that the public will come running with a toddler's enthusiasm, but even that can feel like too much, can make me worry that I'm being intrusive.  I mean, I don't even like to friend people on facebook, as a rule, because I feel bad that I'm making someone else make the decision of whether to accept or ignore.  I worry that maybe they will have forgotten me in the stream of time or more important people and will wonder why they would ever want to read about the minutiae of my daily life.

I was thinking today about joining a local writing group.  This would require me to go to a meeting--to walk into a coffee shop and approach a group of people and intrude--to say, "Hey, can I join you?"  A difficult thing for me to do, in general.  But there have been several times in my life where I've pushed myself to take that kind of risk, to go beyond the quiet thumbing of my bell and the hope that someone will notice and instead have stepped forward bravely and introduced myself to a situation.  These situations usually involve some awkward moments (like when I went alone to audition for the Shakespeare play and nobody really talked to me), but they have usually resulted in really amazing things (like when the stage manager asked me for a ride home and promptly became one of my best friends who is still a part of my life).

Anyway, I'm failing at eloquence, but this tricycle my husband shot a picture of in our backyard reminds me of my seven-year-old self on my red bicycle, and it makes me think I should probably give that writing group a chance.  It was a bit of a stretch to go from there to facebook to phone calls to writing, and I never did manage to tell you the story of how Monkey recently invited himself and David right inside an acquaintance's house and how if it had been me there instead of David, I would never have gone back to the door and he would have cried and everyone would have missed out on a lovely little accidental visit, all because I would be worried about being intrusive.


Kate Hart said...

It makes me sad that this lovely post has no comments. :(

I know exactly what you mean. I hope the real life writing group works out-- I know my online group has already pushed me outside my boundaries, even though I kick and scream the whole way.

elissa said...

aw, kate, thanks for the comment and the compliment.

I have a terrific, amazing, awe-inspiring online writing group; I don't know how I would ever have written anything beyond my first novel without them, but I think it's time for me to reach out a little bit in my real world community, too, even if it's scary. it's so much easier in the online world to jump into the conversation, you know?

anyway, thanks for stopping by! :)