Tag Archives: social anxiety

Taking Back the Streets

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I was walking to work the other day when just in front of me I saw a woman handing out flyers to people who crossed her path. I wasn’t in the market for a flyer that day as I already know everywhere and everything I like so there isn’t any point in showing me a new thing or place because if it was that good I’d already know about it.

The thing was she wasn’t stationary like flyer people normally are. Instead she was sauntering up the street and then pausing to give a flyer to a person who was too mentally weak to say no.

Not me! I thought. I’m taking control. There is no way on earth I will take one of these bloody flyers because if I do I will have to hold it all the way to work and I don’t need that kind of responsibility.

I was catching up to her. Every time she stopped I got a little closer, and because I was walking quickly and she was walking relatively slowly I was making gains all the time. My heart was beating faster in anticipation of turning down the flyer. I practised my lines in my head, No thank you! Not today thank you!

For a while I walked not far behind her. She seemed to speed up and I thought I would be waiting for ages until I got to turn her down. She veered into my path and in order to pass her I had to step onto the grassy verge at the side of the pavement but finally I found myself walking next to her.

This is it! I thought. This is my moment.

I turned to her, NO THANK YOU! I said to the back of her head. She stopped and turned, a confused look on her face. I paused and looked her in the eye, No thank you! I said again, pointing to her flyers.

I started walking, faster than before, leaving her in my dust. Well we sure told her! I said to myself inside my brain. Yes but…my brain started. What? I asked it. Well, you kind of messed up the timing and it made us look like idiots.

I had to admit my brain had a point. But I found the whole experience very exhilarating none the less and with practice I am becoming an expert at saying, No thank you! to all those street people asking for things.

Spare a moment to talk about our saviour- NO THANK YOU!

Hello madam, would you like to try- NO THANK YOU!

Would you like to help children with cancer? – NO THANK YOU! Although you’ve phrased that in a way specifically to make me feel bad and I think that is a bit unfair.

This is a Step Forward for me. Until recently I have wrestled with these people endlessly. It has wasted their time and mine. Rhys once came home to find a strange charity man taking my bank details, drying out from the rain with one of our towels draped over his shoulders. Now I have found the power. NO THANK YOU! I can say. NO THANK YOU!


And the Silk Inside a Chestnut Shell

Ah, I am taking a deep breath of the autumn air because it is my favourite time of the year and I want to savour every part of it. There are many things to enjoy about autumn, the toffee browns and burnt oranges of the foliage, squirrels mucking about in the trees and the triumphant return of the pear.

A woodland scene in autumn. Lovely stuff.

A woodland scene in autumn. Lovely stuff.

But autumn also marks the beginning of a period of social chaos, where conventional behaviour is disrupted and we have to deal with Strange Things for a while. It starts with Halloween, where children I have never met before knock on the door and request food. I prepare for this in advance and by purchasing sweets to appease them on Halloween night. When I answer the door they greet me with the traditional expression, Trick or Treat. They do not pose this as a question, simply a statement, and we both understand that I will offer them sweets and they will leave me alone. Except before this there is an agonising moment in which I feel like I should say a thing like, Ooh aren’t you scary! or Are you a vampire? The thing is I am not a person who is able to say such things without sounding Weird and Insincere. Instead I say, …………Here you go. And I try to pull my lips up so as to smile in a friendly way but I can feel that my eyes are not reflecting the same emotion as my mouth is.

This exchange is not even half as bad as what happens in December. In December a knock on the door makes my heart freeze up. For in December children knock the door to sing at me until I give them Something to make them go away. The problem with this is twofold:

  1. I do not know what is the correct thing to give them. I often panic and get some twenty-pees from my purse. But it doesn’t seem fair to give them my money because I do not want them there in the first place. Also, to be honest I think their singing is quite poor. If I have to give them something then why not food? It was good enough for them on Halloween.
  2. What is the appropriate amount of time to face them while they sing and pretend to enjoy it? I am not even sure if it is intended for me to enjoy in the first place. Seeming to enjoy it might get me labelled as some kind of neighbourhood creep. As I stand there facing these strange children, accidentally making eye contact, I get a crawling anxiety in my bones, as if I were the one knocking on people’s doors and singing at them like some kind of madwoman. Sometimes I forego the watching part. Seeing their shape through the moulded glass I preemptively grab my purse, open the door and do a smile, immediately look back down and root through my purse avoiding any further eye contact, then give them a token amount and say goodbye.
Autumn themed bedding.

Autumn themed bedding.

During November there is bonfire night for the whole month. During this time the neighbours like to set off small explosions and set fire to things in the garden. The smells are very nice but the noises are too often and too loud. If they planned it properly only one person would need to do the explosions and everyone else could watch safely from their own homes as all the action happens in the sky which we can all see by tilting our heads back thirty degrees.

Unfortunately the fun the part for most people seems to be the lighting of explosives which is something I cannot understand as school assemblies demonstrated that this is how people get their hands exploded off. Maybe they haven’t watched the same public safety videos as we did because I am sure they wouldn’t like it as much if they had.

Henry's colouring is on point this time of year.

Henry’s colouring is on point this time of year.

Photographs of aspirational bonfire parties show punch bowls full of hot cider and barbecue food like hot dogs but the weather is so cold this seems to be a trick they are playing on us to make us look silly. No, when it is dark it is best to go back inside and enjoy the great variety of high quality television programs that premiere in the autumn. It really is the best time of year and I think that is why everybody starts to act a little bit mad, because they are so happy and excited and it is okay to be a bit strange once in a while. I am happy and excited too and I won’t let it get me down when I am nervous sometimes because it is all in good fun and I will make my mouth go into a smile to let the world know I am Okay.