Tinwen, I knew you weren't arguing
I just can't always correctly judge how my posts come across to others, so wanted to make sure I identified that one as thinking and processing, rather than arguing. Same thing with this post.
I understand better now what you meant. Part of my issues/awkwardness is that sometimes I am very, very literal, so when you said I could meet people with shared interests by going to groups that are about things I'm interested in, I saw it as "you and these people will have things in common because you're interested in the same thing." Now I understand that you meant "these groups are a place where you could meet people, and you might have more in common with some of them."
I haven't joined any Wicca groups yet. My seeing it as more regimented than I can get into is from the reading I've done and some conversations with Woody. There were some very nice people at the retreat Woody and I went to, and I would enjoy spending more time with some of them, but reaching out, as I posted in my blog not long ago, is something I'm still learning to do. None of them have reached out to me about hanging out or even chatting online, and I don't quite know how to bring up the subject.
Hanging out is another issue... I don't know what people do when they "hang out" together. Like... if I were to contact the woman from the retreat who told me how special I am and thanked me profusely for taking care of Woody, and wanted to ask if she wanted to get together, I would not know what to suggest for "getting together." In my adult life, the only friends I've had who I've "hung out" with have either been guys who understand how confusing it is for me (so we sit on their couch and chat), or guys I'm dating (so we sit on their couch and chat, or occasionally take off our clothes and have sex), or people who live with a guy I'm dating. So I don't know how it works for people who have friends that they get together with and hang out.
Tinwen, no, it doesn't really get easier when I know people better. I still catch myself tensing up and overthinking things even during casual conversations with Woody or Hubby. It is a little bit easier with them than with most people, but that's because they love me and have taken the time to listen and clarify when I've explained my difficulties to them, so I know if I say something wrong or can't get the words out, or take longer to speak than someone else would because I have to compose the sentence in my head first, they'll be patient and understanding.
I wish having someone connect me with other people was an option, but the only one I know well enough to ask for something like that is Woody, who alternates among "Well, I try, but you never seem to want to meet anyone" and "I don't know who to introduce you to" and "I'll think about it."
Dagferi, I recognized the negativity in my post. (Yesterday was a rough day, so some of the negativity came from things not part of this thread.) In some cases, the "I can't" are things beyond my control. Unless someone sits down and gives me an intensive course in "humaning", I think it's going to be difficult if not impossible for me to gain an understanding of how social situations work and what I'm supposed to do in them. I'm 45... I haven't gained that understanding yet, and not for lack of trying. And other than taking the meds I'm on, there is nothing I can do about the anxiety and depression, or the hypervigilance I have when I'm out in public.
But there are things that are within my control that I do need to work harder at. Woody and I were talking about some of that last night and this morning. I've asked him to do for me what he does for Mouse, i.e. flat out teach me how to interact with people in social situations, including roleplaying and giving me a "script" I can fall back on if all else fails, rather than telling me over and over that people like me and I need to be more social and talk to them.
He does the latter every time we go anywhere or talk about going anywhere, and he doesn't comprehend that to me, that's the equivalent of a movie director telling him "Go in front of the camera and do what your character's supposed to do and say your character's lines" without telling Woody anything about the character or giving him the lines and actions to learn. That was the analogy I gave him the other day, and I think it started getting through to him, at least.
Worrying about what people think in group situations... You're right that in general, their opinions don't matter, and I have let go of caring about the opinions of people I've met who I know don't like me (which I know about some of them because they've flat out said so). But in a social group where I'm meeting some people for the first time and want to make a good impression so they'll like me and want to hang out with me or whatever... I feel like the little girl standing at the edge of the playground waiting for someone to invite her to join the kickball game, while being terrified that if someone does invite her, she'll screw up and lose the entire game for her team. I am 45, but at times like that I *feel* like I"m about 7, because that's pretty much my social functioning level. Which is something that can maybe be fixed with practice, I don't know.
It's also hard not to worry about what they think if I'm perceiving the *entire* group as disliking or ignoring me....If it's just some of the people, I can dismiss it, but if it's everyone, then I start wondering why I'm even there and what's wrong with me, and end up leaving. Or having a panic attack. That's something I need to figure out how to work with... if I'm in a group where I connect with at least a few people and can have a conversation, that's good, but if I walk in and no one talks to me and I can't think of anything to say to any of them, and feel no connection at all, that's when it really becomes a problem.
Dagferi, thank you for what you say in your last paragraph. That made me get all sappy-weepy... but seriously, thank you. Woody said almost exactly the same thing (minus the part about people on this forum) to me last night.