Interpersonal Skills - Strongly associated with emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills are the behaviours and tactics a person uses to interact with others effectively.


“Are you sure you'll be okay alone?”

Her mother asks her this for the fifth time, pursing her lips at her reflection in the mirror. Her mother touches up her lipstick, rolls her mouth around, before turning to her daughter. There's that look in her eyes again, the same look her mother always has when she glances at her before going out. It's a mixture of contempt and worry, maybe pity, and it's asking her why can't you be normal?

Her mother runs her fingers through her hair, styles it back to the way it was before she rearranged it twice before, and asks her daughter which shoes she should wear. Her mother goes with the black ones, even though she says brown, because her mother knows best and only asks when she feels she has to, not because she cares.

“I'll be fine,” she tells her mom, “I always am.” And it's the truth. She enjoys her solitude, her peace, and the way the world seems to flow alongside her when she's alone. She likes being alone, though she admits she doesn't like being lonely. She's not good with loud people or crowded spaces, not good with wolf-like smiles and beady eyes. It's almost as if everyone is out to get her, even though she knows they're not.

Still, she practically bathes in caution. She doesn't want to be hurt, doesn't want to live outside of her comfort zone, even though she knows one day she must. She figures there must be ways to overcome her trepidation and fear, but they have yet to fall from her mind into her waiting lap.

She wants to be able to go out and make friends. She wants to make connections, breathe in amicable conversations, bond over shared idiosyncrasies, and that one show everyone is always talking about. But to do this, she realizes, she has to...try. When her inner world screams at her to take flight, she needs to fight.

But she almost always chooses to run.

She had tried to make a friend once, when she was younger. She had managed a small hi before her heart felt like it was going to leap out of her chest, before she felt invisible fists wrap around her throat, before her knees buckled and she was face-first in the snow that was previously beneath her feet. The young boy had merely looked at her weirdly and didn't bother to help her up, and the next day she was heralded as if she had the plague. Which, if she thought about it, wasn't necessarily much different than before.

And she went back to being alone.

She isn't sure why human interaction causes her so much anxiety. Her mother has no issue with it. In fact, she's regularly out with any number of her friends, sipping wine and spinning tales. She's secretly jealous of her mother—of her ability to let herself be truly seen, even at the price of her sanity, to let others in when they seek to destroy. It's absolutely maddening and incredibly enlightening at the same time. She knows she could never do it.

But recently she has been overcome with desires. Simple, innocent desires. Like walks in the park with someone who enjoyed the same books she did, for example, where they could giggle over characters and dissect them as if they were real people with real hang-ups. She wanted to crack them open, figure out their flaws and their strengths, their motivations—figure out how they dealt with the things they found intimidating at first, but then ultimately conquered in the end.

She had hoped to be able to draw parallels to the life she was living. But literature only ever supplied her with one solution: do the thing that scares you. She doesn't want to do the things that scare her; she doesn't want to be cut open, doesn't want her secrets to be revealed, only she actually does, and it's frightening.

She knows she needs to learn how to be vulnerable. That, she realizes, is a skill that she doesn't have. People will not try to knock down one's walls forever. They give up after a while, and then they leave. She knows this well, and wants it to change.

But as she looks at the door, closed and locked behind her mother's departure, she can't help the curdling of her gut and sharp gasp for air. Suddenly it seems that her inner world is right when it tells her to keep running. It's the easiest thing to do, the safest.

She shakes her head, frown heavy on her face as she unwittingly stumbles down the same road she's always been on. Sooner or later there will be a fork in the path, and she's going to have to take the one marked with hazard signs and yellow tape. She'll have to say no to those comforting wings she's come to rely on.

She wants to be brave. Bold and courageous like her favourite heroins. But it is so incredibly hard to be like them when she isn't them. Vulnerability seems like a double-edged sword. She could wield it, create the bonds she so desired, but then consequently could be struck down by it, left bleeding and hollow and she wouldn't have it. Not again.

The door however, now seems inviting. It would only take a few moments of bravery to slip on her shoes and zip up her coat; to call after her mother as she heats up the car. Wait for me, I'll come. Somehow, those words stay lodged in her throat, and her form is still on the couch, and she's not any braver than she had been previously.

There are old wounds in her heart. She had known how to be vulnerable once, and been hurt by it. It's actually an old skill that needs to be polished; to be picked up off it's shelf and given a good dusting. But then she'd have it stored again, so what was the point?

She thinks back to all the times she's seen her mother's face crumple. She thinks back to the moments she herself would drown in tears. Tears made her eyes sting and her heart burn and she never, ever, wanted to claw her way out of that abysmal darkness ever again.

But she remembers the times her mother would glow. She's seen the happiness radiate from her, watched her face light up and eyes crinkle when her friends reached out to her—the same friends that had once caused her pain. Relationships must have been like that. She knows that her mother's emotions have always been...erratic, but the joy she gets from a simple a phone call is hard to replicate.

It seems she is tired of being lonely.

And now, she reasons, maybe any undue consequences would be worth her tentative actions. Maybe she'd master the art of vulnerability, hone it as one of her greatest skills, and be able to live a life in which her heart could be broken but subsequently put back together again.

So she's by the door, boots on, coat done up. Her mother is in the car, wipers scraping across the ice on her windshield. She can see her daughter peer out the window in the foyer. Her mother honks once, twice, and raises her brows when the other holds up a gloved hand.

She wants to run again. Her throat is closing up. But she's warm and brave and she's out the door, watching white snowflakes dance in the cold breeze.

The snow crunches beneath her feet, and the crystalline world around her seems to hold its breath. She holds hers, too, as she reaches for the door handle.

The heat is welcome as she slides into her seat, and her mother stares at her as if confused.

“Why the change of heart?”

She shrugs, “Figured it was time to try something new.”

Her mother puts the car in reverse and backs out of the driveway, only hitting the brakes once when a cat scampers its way across the road. She sees herself in its fleeing form.

But she also catches her reflection in the side mirror. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are bright and she looks open, for the first time in a long time. She figures that vulnerability looks good on her, even if it might paint her skin with tears later on.

Baby steps. This was her first baby step out into a rather intimidating world. But it was a beautiful world, too—one ripe with her own untapped potential. Vulnerability is a skill she needs to brush up on, she knows, but she's sure that somewhere down the line it will become her source of strength.

She squirms in her seat. Her chest is still tight, but now, it seems, that her heart is ever the slightest bit hopeful.

November 11, 2019 20:16

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