There is always some trepidation when going into a new community. I don’t think it particularly matters whether that community, is a new work place, a new club, a new city or any place that requires you to exercise your social skills, bring your whole self and begin to connect with other people. Cycling towards Braziers Park in Oxfordshire I had this feeling that I was going too fast, I didn’t want to get there too soon as I had only (2 hours previously) set out on my bike on my little adventure and I needed some time to reflect and mentally prepare for arriving at this first community.
Ever since I was very small I have had a problem, like so many others, with shyness, or as I have come to call it out of respect for the disabling effect it can have on a person’s life, Social Anxiety. With help from many people and a good deal of mindless optimism that this strange affliction would not stop me from forming deep, meaningful connections with people, I have started to gain the upper hand in this battle. All I really mean by that is that I have learnt to recognise, understand and redirect patterns of thought that lead me towards an anxious debilitating state; in essence, being mindful of individual thoughts and flows of thought and exercising control over which ones dominate my head space. I would be lying if I said that it works all the time though!
I write about my Social Anxiety problem because it is an important lens and filter through which I am experiencing Community and Connection. I believe it is something many people deal with even if only mildly at certain points in their life and it is mostly hidden to the casual observer. My hope is that readers of this blog will personally relate to how I describe certain experiences and perhaps more so with this filter in mind.
So, a short distance from Brazier’s park I decided to stop and have a rest by the side of the road. I wanted to collect my thoughts, reflect a little on why on earth I have decided to embark on this crazy journey…mostly so that I have an answer when someone asks me that obvious question! I tried to meditate a little but my head felt like it was hosting Notting Hill Carnival! I don’t know how long I might have stalled there by the side of the road, but fortunately something got me moving again. A car pulled up and a lady was asking me if there was a way to get to Checkendon village without going up a steep hill or along a main road. I grew up close to the area so I was able to help. I made the point that Checkendon was on much higher ground than where we were so she would have to go up a hill at some point, but there were a few options. This simple exchange with a stranger needing help from me calmed me and without further ado I rolled down the hill to Braziers Park, my first community, and knocked on the door.