Okay, proper X words this week! So, Xeno is stranger and of course phobia is fear and philia is love. So this week I'm going to talk about strangers and the many ways we fear and love them.
When I was little, those personality tests were big, the ones that you take and they spit out a 4 letter code about what type of personality you have. I remember that the very first time I took it (I think I was in middle school), I got an X for the introvert/extrovert category...so exactly in the middle. And I think in a lot of ways that still holds true. I am definitely someone who likes my alone time, if I spend too much time always with people around me, I get a little crazy and have to wander off somewhere by myself. Which works out pretty good as I am a housewife, and my hubby works six weeks on days and then six weeks on nights, so I always have some time to myself, alone in the house.
But, if I spend too much time in the house without going out and being around people (other than my family), I get a bit twitchy too. As much as I love my family, I think that it's not really healthy to only spend time with a small group of people. And as it has been said, you can't be everything to everybody, and I don't think that anyone should be everything to you. So my family fills some needs for me, but my friends fill others.
Friends and family are one thing. Strangers are something else entirely. I think that we have a kind of xenophobic society. We are taught from a very young age to fear strangers, and we don't really outgrow that fear. We see on the media all over about serial killers, kidnappers, rapists and other nasty people out there. We hear the crazy statistics which are really horrible and rate our chances at being abused in some way pretty high. As a woman, we are pretty much taught to treat every stranger as if they want to violate us. It's kind of a horrible way to live.
I have always taken a more aggressive approach. I don't fear to walk around at night, alone, as a woman. I take reasonable precautions and I project an aura of not only fierce self-reliance, but also determination. I remember, when I was in high school, reading an article that was talking about women getting attacked while walking alone, and it said that the best things to do were very simple: walk as if you weren't afraid and had somewhere to be. Act like someone was waiting for you.
I take a page from the animal kingdom too. Act like you are bigger than you are. I am not a small woman, standing at just under six foot (so with shoes I'm just about six foot!), so that gives me a bit of an edge, but I definitely 'puff up' when I am anywhere other than broad daylight. If I feel threatened in any way, I start projecting more aggressive energy. Kind of the puffer fish approach: make yourself big and spiky so that predators will look for easier prey.
I haven't personally taken self defense courses, but I have heard that any sort of fighting back is really important, if the worst were to happen, and someone were to try to attack or grab you. Strangely enough, a lot of predators are kind of cowardly, and they trust in the fear factor to render their victims docile. Yell, fight, be a pain, and you are more likely to get away.
On some level, strangers terrify me. Even long distance strangers. If I have to call someone I don't know on the phone, I get nervous. I have to build myself up and kind of put on extra armor. When I know I am meeting new people, like people I know on the internet but have never met face to face, I have that same kind of fear. It's not fear of being hurt or attacked, I tend to believe that my instincts are good enough that I can get a feel for people, and I don't meet people I don't know at least a little. But I am sort of socially awkward at times....very much so on the inside at least. I worry about embarrassing myself, about being laughed at or being made fun of. Perhaps it is a remainder of being sort of nerdy as a kid (well and just children are mean in general!) but I always think that people aren't going to like me and that just makes me nervous.
Funny thing: I used to be scared about posting stuff in the same way. That my words would be judged and ridiculed. I have had some bad experiences on forums, and seen some horrid viscous personal attacks on other forums, so it's not completely ungrounded. One of the things I had to face up to, when I started this blog, was that people might read it (yeah, I know, people reading it is kind of the point of a blog). So it's a character building thing for me, to write and post, and I definitely find it's easier over time.
But I really enjoy people. I like meeting new people, and talking to people, especially people who are different from me. And it is those very differences that I sometimes find terrifying. But it is also those same people who can open our eyes to whole new worlds, things we might have never considered otherwise.
I think that we focus too much on the negative sometimes. That we let fear bind us. We stress over all the millions of horrible things that might happen, and we forget that there are even more wonderful things that could happen. If we only look for the bad stuff, we can be so worried that we overlook the magic. It's a matter of being observant. We need to look, without preconceived notions. Not only will this let us see the wonder in things, but if there is danger, we will see that too.
Every stranger is a new part of our life. It could be a good part or it could be a bad part. They all help us grow, some through giving us challenges to overcome and some by giving us blessings in our lives. Every person in your life, from family to friends to coworkers, they were all stranger at one time. Some people are forced into your life and you get to know them whether you like it or not. Some people we invite into our lives, and then have to figure out how to get rid of them. And some people we chase, always wanting to know them, but never getting close.