Fifteen Favorite Feelings

A while ago, Hank Green of Vlogbrothers (a youtube channel he runs with his somewhat more famous brother, author John Green) did a video on his fifteen favorite feelings. He did it because in part because videos like “fifteen things that annoy you” were commonly requested, and despite their popularity, they always left him feeling bad. He wanted to do a listy video that was positive. It actually was a very popular post as well, and since then some other people have borrowed the idea, like Malinda Kathleen Reese of the Google Translate Sings videos. (She runs song lyrics through Google Translate until they screw up, and then sings them dramatically. It’s wonderful.)

I’ve liked all these videos, so I decided to steal the concept for my blog. I’m doing two versions; one here that for general good feelings, and one over on my writing blog for good feelings associated with the writing process.

  1. Seeing somebody’s reaction when you’ve just given them the perfect gift.
    I remember the first time I got this feeling. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was old enough to pick out presents for people on my own, but not old enough that I’d been doing that for very long. My Mom had said something about wanting a new watch, and I found one that I thought looked great, and it was just $20 (I was a frugal little kid, so I could afford that). Up until that moment my favorite thing about Christmas was the cool stuff I would get, but this year the number one thing I was thinking about was whether or not she would like it. The rush I got from the look on her face was incredible. She still wears the watch to this day.
  2. Going to a live performance with a friend.  There really is a special energy to live entertainment. The ephemeral joy of it really needs to be shared with someone, so years later you can go “that concert though,” and they can go “yeah man…” and you both know.
  3. Watching animals do nearly anything. What is it about animals that makes everything they do this peculiarly delightful thing to behold? It spurs some mixture of paternal tenderness and naturalist’s awe. Or at least, that’s how it feels to me.
  4. The excited fear that precedes the first drop of a roller coaster. I am, paradoxically, both an anxious person and a junkie for scary-type entertainment.
  5. Cuddling my boyfriend. I am a serious cuddleholic. I think I like snuggling even better than sex (I can reveal that to who knows how many strangers on the internet, right? Yeah, people do that these days).
  6. When a friend introduces me to some book or show that becomes an instant new obsession. Fandom is fun to share. When somebody introduces me to something, I have a built-in person to run to every time something squee or rant or flail inducing happens.
  7. Meeting somebody who is genuinely eager to hear about something I’m passionate about. I always have that problem of wanting to talk about stuff I like, for basically forever. While I’ve learned to hold off pretty well, it’s nice to let that side of me loose sometimes.
  8. Teasing with somebody when there is mutual liking and respect. Obviously teasing when there isn’t that camaraderie is awful, but I’ve always been a huge fan of friendly banter.
  9. Hearing something nice said about me, without any prompts. Sometimes you just need a boost. It’s great to get some reassurance that you’re a basically decent person and somebody likes you. Hearing somebody say it when you’ve dropped a bunch of hints that you need a pick me up is okay, but it’s never as good as when somebody says something nice just out of the blue.
  10. Going to a movie or museum on my own. In contrast to the second item on the list, I know this one is more particular to me. Sometimes when I’m with other people, even close friends, wondering about their reactions and keeping track of them can be exhausting. It’s nice to just quietly process things on my own terms, especially when I’m around other people who I can enjoy stuff with, but not actually interact with at all.
  11. Watching somebody else be happy. Have you ever stopped at a stoplight, and next to you somebody has the music on and is singing along and doing a little dance in their seat? Isn’t that just the funniest and most delightful thing? I don’t even care if it’s music I like or not. I just like seeing other people have a good time.
  12. Playing with kids. They’re just so fun. I love having the excuse to be silly and imaginative without caring what people think. They aren’t everybody’s favorite thing, and that’s okay, but I really like kids.
  13. Seeing somebody’s life improved in some way by something I’ve said. Look, I’m an INFJ. Sometimes nicknamed the Counselor. We are always trying to say something helpful. Sometimes we aren’t as helpful as we want to be. But when we are, it’s awesome.
  14. Reading. Turning words into a world in my head, and then just hanging out in that world for a bit. Reading. Yeah.
  15. Quietly noticing something beautiful. My Mom always loved to point out pretty sunsets and trees, and I’m glad she did. It really taught me to appreciate the world around me. Still, her style of appreciation was always so boisterous, and I often felt daunted by the desire to match her level of enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s just the difference between our personalities, and perhaps it’s partly my sense that no words I say can be equal to the experience of whatever it is. In any case, I really love just wandering on my own, noticing something lovely and taking a moment to observe it, and do nothing else.

Hope you enjoyed this list. Please feel free to copy the idea, or post a comment with some of your own favorite feelings. Thanks for reading!

Shy or Unfriendly?

Social Club for Hermits is a recurring feature where I talk about socializing as an awkward, shy introvert. Hopefully I do so in a way that is also helpful to fellow awkward recluses. Tune in the first and third Sunday each month. Unless you don’t want to. Who am I to tell you what to do? I’m so sorry. (cowers in corner)

Last Friday, one of my coworkers met the new tech support guy, and reported back that he was very unfriendly. In this case, the justification had to do with him being focused on his work and not taking the time to meet her until he was forced to, and only then being very cursory. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I always feel awkward hearing that. As a shy person, I often have trouble talking to people and worry, frequently, that I’m being mistaken for being unfriendly. First impressions are my worst enemy.

I’ve worked with this particular coworker for about two years now. I consider her a good friend by now, and I’ve even gotten comfortable talking to her about my awkwardness and social anxiety. So I decided to broach the topic with her. I was going to be sneaky. First I was going to bring up my post and ask if I seemed unfriendly to her at first. I was going to talk about what had caused her to form her initial impressions of me, and what I could do to seem friendlier. Most importantly, I was going to try to guide her into a less judgmental attitude, and make the world better for awkward people everywhere. Yay me!

What happened instead was a pleasant and encouraging surprise.

The first thing I learned is that she hadn’t thought for a second that I was unfriendly. Her husband is shy, as is her daughter, so she feels she is pretty good at picking up on the difference between shy and unfriendly. When I asked if she thought that was common, she brought in a lot of my other extroverted coworkers for their perspective. Afterwards, when I got home, I asked my (highly extroverted) boyfriend about the issue.

Everyone agreed. People who are shy and people who are unfriendly look and act very different. They all had thought that I was shy, and been willing to suspend judgment on me until I got comfortable enough to open up, and once I did it was pretty clear that I was nice. They were actually surprised to learn that being mistaken for unfriendly was an active worry for me.

One thing that came up frequently was eye contact. Shy people have trouble looking others in the face, especially at first. They tend to look down at the ground instead. Unfriendly people don’t have the same issue. The coworker who started all this said that unfriendly people often try to stare her down. My boyfriend added that when they look away, their eyes still don’t go below eye level. Some people even tilt their chin up a bit, as if to raise themselves above the other person. All these things suggest snobbery or disdain, rather than shyness. They create that bad impression.

Body language is also a part of it. My boyfriend went on to describe how shy people withdraw; turn their shoulders in, keep their elbows close to their sides, or hunch over. They try to make themselves small and hard to notice. People who hold themselves upright, or seem to be trying to make themselves bigger, aren’t going to be read as shy. When you combine confident body language with smiles and greetings, the impression is “friendly,” but when you combine confidence with tight expressions and minimal greetings, the impression is “asshole who thinks I’m not worth their time.”

I have a bad habit of assuming the best about people, except for my tendency to assume they will always think the worst about me. The reality is that not everybody’s rudeness is due to some failure on my part, and my anxieties about other people’s judgment is often unfounded. Furthermore, just because someone is extroverted and socially confident doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t understand that not everybody is. They have their own insecurities, they more than likely have friends or family members who are a bit shy and awkward, and if they are nice, they are perfectly willing to give a shy person a second chance to make a first impression.

Reviewing Veggie Tales as an Atheist; Josh and the Big Wall, Part 1

Originally posted on The Writerly Blog of Lane William Brown:

This episode  opens with a letter from a kid who was told not to beat people up, which he thinks sucks, because sometimes other people are mean and he just wants to give them a pounding. Scary kid. Larry and Bob turn this into a lesson on why its important to follow God’s directions even when you don’t want to. That way this kid will understand that no matter how much he wants to punch people in the face, he shouldn’t, because God doesn’t condone violence.

So they tell the story of the destruction of Jericho, where God commands the Israelites destroy an entire city and slaughter its inhabitants.

Interesting choice, but okay.

Now, understand, when I say slaughter, I don’t even mean a slaughter by ancient barbaric Biblical times. Back then, at least there was a decent probability of women and children being spared. The elderly and sick might…

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Beautiful Characters

Originally posted on The Writerly Blog of Lane William Brown:

I just came back from a party I went to, mostly to keep my extroverted boyfriend happy, but I ended up having a good time. There was a guest there who I hopefully didn’t stare at too much. I’m bad about staring at people. I blame it on being a writer; often I notice things about people that trigger some writerly thoughts. There’s something about the way they are dressed or carrying themselves that gives me an idea, and I want to stare to imprint the idea into my head, to fully process it, sometimes even to consciously understand what is unconsciously appealing about them. Of course, at the same time I  don’t want to make them uncomfortable, so I keep finding my eyes drawn to them when I’m bored, catching myself and looking away in a way that I’m sure people notice. In this case I felt particularly awkward…

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Reviewing VeggieTales as an Atheist; Lyle the Kindly Viking

Originally posted on The Writerly Blog of Lane William Brown:

This is the thirdepisode on the general topic of not being greedy (fourth if you count The Toy That Saved Christmas, which I’m saving for Christmas). I remember this episode not being my favorite as a kid, so I was curious to see what adult Lane’s reaction would be. This one is specifically about sharing, and just as Bob and Larry are announcing the topic, Archibald runs up to them, begging to have a chance to run the show. He points out that Jerry and Jimmy Gourd got to run a show, so why can’t he? Bob and Larry clearly aren’t comfortable with this, but they decide that it would be pretty hypocritical of them to announce that they’re about to teach kids to share and then, you know, not share. So Archibald gets to take over the show.

A while back I found this article about teaching kids…

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Inside Out’s Defense of Sadness

Originally posted on The Writerly Blog of Lane William Brown:

Last weekend I went to see Inside Out, finally. Pixar movies are generally good, but this one was more than just good as a story. A lot of stories claim to be out to teach kids important things, and often this is somewhat true, and even more often it’s the writers puffing themselves up or advertising themselves to concerned parents. This story actually teaches kids about their emotions, in a way that isn’t cloying or condescending and is genuinely fun.

Spoilers ahead.

The story is about Riley, eleven year old girl, goofball and hockey lover, who has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco and having difficulty adjusting. But Riley isn’t the protagonist. She’s the setting. She’s a genius loci, inhabited by her own mind, which includes imaginary friends, little mental construction workers and, running the show up at headquarters, her emotions; Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness.

The protagonist…

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Social Skills

For the past few months, I’ve been running a blog called Social Club for Hermits. It was advice on navigating the social world as an awkward, shy and introverted person. I liked doing it, but I felt like I was stretching myself too thin. I was trying to post four times a month there, work on a big writing project that will be launched in September, post to and promote my writing blog, and still do stuff here now and then. To consolidate things a bit, I decided to leave that blog and start posting bimonthly here. So from now on, Social Club for Hermits will be a recurring feature on this blog, every first and third Sunday.

I remember when I was growing up, I kinda felt like social skills were a bad thing. For one thing, in my home I was declared to Officially Not Have them. For another, a lot of the people who struck me as socially skilled also struck me as mean and/or conformist. I’m not sure if this is one of the quirks of my homeschooled upbringing, or a mindset that’s common among quirky awkward people. As I learned to deal with people, one of the obstacles I had to face was unlearning this aversion to social skills. Did you know that you can have people skills and not be mean at all? Being nice is sometimes even a bonus! Blew my little uncomfortably late in my teens mind. Plus, while mindless conformism is sucky, sometimes lots of people do a thing because it’s generally a good thing to do. I have no regrets over jumping on the Hunger Games bandwagon. They were popular because they were good books.

On the other hand, I think there was a nugget of truth in my former aversion. Social skills are just skills that help you get along with people. Not all of them help you in a good way.

For example, I have a coworker who I don’t think I’ve ever say anything nice about anyone. Funny thing is, she doesn’t even say anything mean most of the time. She just makes a comment observing something, like “his parents sent him in wearing that?” and then laughs. The meanness is all in her expression and her tone of voice, which disappear in a moment. You can never call her on what she has actually done, because it was too subtle and you know she’ll just laugh it off. And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if she also said nice things about people, but she doesn’t. She’ll make fun of people absent with whoever is present, and then when they are absent they get made fun of. Thus she asserts her dominance with everybody, makes them too complicit in her mockery to call her out on it and gets to be everyone’s friend without being nice to anyone. I’m sure she mocks me when I’m not around.

But you know, it does help her get along with people. People become so quick to laugh with her, because god, that kid’s outfit is pretty ridiculous and we were trying so hard not to say anything, but rhinestone wings on the back of a tank top? Really? And maybe they like to fool themselves into thinking that they’re part of her “in crowd,” which makes them motivated to be nice to her, even though she isn’t nice to anybody. So it’s a social skill. It’s just a sucky one, and I’m okay with not learning it.

I’ve decided there are three basic social skills that matter. First is developing your self. It’s easy to be genuine and get people to like you when who you really are is a good person. Lots of people I know talk about how they try to be real all the time but nobody likes them. Mostly I’ve come to realize they really are at least slightly an asshat. Second is being nice to people. There are ways to be mean and still get people to like you, as described above, but mostly that also requires some trickery and misdirection, also as described above. The quickest, most direct route to making friends is to actually treat people decently. Third is setting boundaries. I’ve learned the hard way that some people will see niceness as a reason to be nice back, and some people will see niceness as an invitation to take advantage of you. Dealing with the latter doesn’t actually require stooping to their level. You don’t have to learn their mean, manipulative social skills. All you need to do is recognize them, and cut them off.

For example, recently I realized that a really good way to deal with that coworker is to just not laugh. I really want to, because sometimes I agree with her and want to let off steam. But there are better people for that. There are people who will let off steam and then stop, and start acknowledging nice things about people who aren’t around. They’re not going to make fun of me behind my back, because they’ll be making fun of me to my face and I’ll be laughing along. When I’m friends with them, I don’t care much what she thinks of me.

To be honest, I still am learning all of those three skills and especially the last one. This is part of my learning process; putting things I’m learning into words helps me process them. So, you know, tune in next week to find out what else I’m trying to figure out.