I get myself into all kinds of messes. All the time. For the few of you who know of this specific incident, prepare yourselves because I’m now going public with the banana story. This is only for the hope it might offer others.
A couple of years ago, I uncomfortably attended a large, professional conference. The conference was great and the people seemed generally lovely, so the issue was with me and not with the seeming billions of people intruding upon my introverted soul. I just become so awkward in these settings and then do ridiculous things.
Arriving early, I took the escalator down from the conference ballroom to the coffee shop. Bought a coffee. At the last second I grabbed a banana and then headed back to the conference room to establish a nest in the back corner of the room. This gives me a vantage point that reduces the number of spontaneous conversations or least allows me to see them coming. Anyhow, back to the banana.
As I am precariously balancing my coffee, conference materials, and the aforementioned banana, I began to panic at the prospect of navigating the upward escalator without a free hand. Knowing me makes this part self-explanatory. So I naturally stuck the banana in my pants pocket and boarded the elevating escalator. I stumbled, unsurprisingly, and did not spill the coffee, surprisingly. However, the stumble caused the banana pocket leg to be a rung above the non-banana leg. And the banana began to squeeze and smush and spread, creating a sensation impossible to adequately recreate in words.
I get to my corner to assess the situation. I insert my hand into my pocket to try and extricate the mostly flattened banana. It turns out that smushed banana and panic-induced leg sweat make quite a paste. Now I can’t get my hand out and am realizing I should have attempted this part of the rescue mission in the bathroom. With a not so swift motion, I yank and banana paints the conference wall, creating a fruit graffiti situation. My hand is disgusting; the table is a wreck; banana is dripping from the wall; I smell like laffy taffy.
Fast forward a few minutes and I simply must settle in to hearing someone teach about something profoundly professional. At this point, I see a friend sitting three tables in front of me. She is a lovely and expressive extrovert who tolerates well my quirks. In a moment of verbal vomit, I text her my best effort at explaining this self-created situation. It was an impulsive attempt at seeking some removal of my aloneness. I don’t even know what I needed other than someone to be in this with me. I watch her pick up her phone, place her head on the table, and begin to laugh in that way that shakes your shoulders. Her attempt to control laughter brought me to laughter. I cracked up at the absurdity of it all.
Her laughter spoke acceptance, and even appreciation, of my quirks. I didn’t feel judged by her enjoyment because everything about my prior conversations with her had informed that she was safe enough to know about banana-induced problems. This now shared experience shaped my perception of the experience.
In my first blog article, I mentioned I wanted my posts to reflect on the lessons learned from interactions with people I enjoy in the world. That day, I learned from my shoulder-shaking conference-mate what helps me move from self-judgment to self-acceptance--the acceptance of another. However, I couldn’t experience acceptance without first risking vulnerability. Thanks to my friend for the lesson…and honorable mention goes to the banana.