Last March, I joined a poetry workshop conducted by the Book Council. There, I met a Chemistry classmate whom I have not been in contact with since leaving NUS. Otherwise, like so many social functions I attended, I would leave the event without much impression of the others present. (I really do have face/name recognition disability.)
The workshop facilitator, Nila, was an enthusiastic teacher who wanted us to continue writing poetry after the event and invited us in a group email to submit and share our poems. I did and one was selected to be published in an anthology with nineteen others. It was decided that Nila would apply for NAC grant to get it published, to be distributed at future Book Council’s events.
NAC rejected the grant application with the helpful suggestion that the poetry collection needed to be edited further. (I only discovered the back story last night.)
So to carry the project further, a chat group was formed to organize a social gathering with Ethos (publisher) and Book Council.
I had declined to be in the group chat. I had no intention to even attending the gathering where I did not know anyone. But I was advised my poem needed to be edited by the publisher. And so with reluctance, I was added into the chat group, expecting that the editor would help me edit during the gathering.
So yesterday, the day of the gathering, filled me with dread. I wondered how I was to survive the two hours (my own time limit) there making small talks with strangers at Nila’s house, where many of them were familiar with each other, judging from the chats. I had only met Nila twice, once at the workshop and another at a SWF reading. But she is a very friendly lady, which is a mitigating factor to going.
To be comfortable at being out of comfort zones – that’s one of my goals in life. Among my most uncomfortable zones are speaking in public and in a social gathering with strangers. I usually try to be as inconspicuous as possible. If I can fade into the furniture, that would be fine. But things usually turn out to be not as bad as the anticipation of it.
Upon reaching Nila’s house, I met Kim, who is president of Singapore Writers Group. She offered to read my poem and gave some helpful suggestions. Then editor Kah Gay from the publisher arrived and he dominated the discussion during dinner. After he left, Prema from Book Council arrived and briefed us further on the way forward. Then it’s nine o’clock and my cue to leave. They were disappointed as we had yet to begin poetry reading. By then, I was reluctant to leave too but I needed to pick the family from in-laws. I was surprised I actually enjoyed the interactions with the group, plus the diversity of fabulous food served at dinner, reflecting those present – an exotic array of Indian and western, was delicious. So it wasn’t that bad in the end. The thoughts prior made it worse than it seems.
Incidentally, my participation in a acro partner fitness class is probably the best training ground to bring me out of my comfort zone. Never one comfortable with touch, the close proximity with another during practice took some getting used to initially, as feet and hands are placed on my back or abdomen, or having my armpits clasped my partner’s feet in a supported L-hold and vice versa. Recently, I learned a new exercise where I had to tuck my head in between my partner’s raised thighs to executive a headstand.
I find myself not only placed in unfamiliar positions, but also supported by a wobbly base and then told to trust that I would not fall. How’s that for being out of comfort zones?
So the self training to bring me into my own perceived uncomfortable zones continues and really, it can be quite fun in the end, once I banish any negative thoughts associating with all of them.