While I am not a four-year-old boy in a yellow t-shirt wondering whether I will be invited into the circle, I am acutely aware of the anxiety he must be feeling in that “in between” place. He is probably, in his naive/juvenile way, thinking that once they spot him, he’ll be waved over (naive) and included in their good time, or that they weren’t doing anything all that interesting (juvenile) so fine with him if they proceed without him.
Four decades separate me from that little boy, but the feelings of wanting to be included versus wanting to feel “just fine” in being left out are present. The other day I was in a situation where I was, objectively, not included. Had a drone flown over, the footage would have shown the adult version of the photo above–with me in the yellow t-shirt.
As I sat alone, with my “aloneness,” I began to evaluate my position (relative to the group) with a curious mind. I asked myself, “What do you think you’re missing out on?” This led to a some hypothesizing about what the group might have been chatting about. It was then that I realized that the group was, in fact, “chatting.” Although I couldn’t discern their words, the cadence and tone convinced me that their exchange was merely “small talk,” an activity that I long ago have deemed something of a waste of time.
“Idle conversations” surely have their place. I think that many people enjoy “shooting the breeze” as it serves them as a way to unwind–sort of like sitting in front of the TV and flipping channels. Since nothing really holds enough interest to put down the remote ad commit to a TV show, the channels keep changing.
It’s breadth over depth.
And much like shunning “chit-chat,” which I find to be unrewarding, I gave up on TV years ago. For me, there’s a better way to spend time, which as I get older grows shorter and shorter. When I take time to unwind, I do it either alone (read, yoga, nap) or with kindred spirits either relaxing in nature or in the sauna.
When I am left on the outskirts, those juvenile responses arrive without invitation or warning. Nowadays, I am able to tamp down that reactive anxiety and employ some analysis over the merits of belonging to that group, in that moment, given the variety of “nothingness” they are sharing with each other.
Some may say that Aesop wrote an on-point essay about a fox and some grapes to describe my coping method. On the contrary, while I concede that the grapes which were out of my reach were likely quite sweet, I know myself well enough to have learned that those sorts of grapes are simply not my taste: far too cloying.