May 2, 2017

Nerd Trust

Because we haven’t lived in Vermont long, I don’t really know anyone intimately. There are friendships forming, surely, but we’re a ways off from the deep trust that shatters my continual paranoia that people are just being polite and do not want to be friends. Do other people have this? The constant feeling of being an overeager puppydog? I do not have any identifiable disorder and I’m otherwise not a particularly anxious person—other than the obvious low-level existential crisis that pervades every moment of my life. But when it comes to people, I live in a state of self-doubt.

Like, if I’ve ever asked you to coffee, to go on a hike, to… wait, those are the only two things I ever do. If I’ve ever asked you to do those things, I promise you that every single time I thought it over a minimum of 47 times and spent the whole time until you responded worrying that I had imposed myself on you.

Note: If you are the same way, could you please let me know? I’d totally appreciate some company on the freak float over here. Or is it just me?

This is why what I did last week is so extraordinary. It’s a story I’d like to tell you. Well, not rising to the level of an entire story.

Last week, I looked at someone and said, “Bring me a book, and I will read it.” I offered no parameters, no caveats. Just, “I will read it.”

Granted, this happens to be someone who has recommended several excellent books in the past, but this was not a book recommendation. This was a trust fall. “Bring me a book, and I will read it.” Whatever you bring me, whatever you want to share with me, I will go there. I trust you to treat my mind, my emotions, and my time with care. I trust you enough to walk into a room without knowing what is in there, and I will stay in there until it is done.

This was blind faith for the nerd set.

He brought me Little, Big, a book I’d never have sought on my own. It is deep, dark, and winding. It is captivating, yet unsettling in ways I’m not yet able to describe. I am grateful for him treating my offer with such care.

I want to keep doing it, work my way through my community. Find what they bring me, learn them through the books they choose. If baked goods smooth the way to community, I want to see what happens when I ask people I don’t know all that well to bring me a small piece of what matters to them, promising to treat their offering with respect and gratitude.

Can you do this? Can you go up to someone—not a spouse, not a best friend—and commit to reading whatever they hand you?

Bring me a book, and I will read it.

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  • Reply nicole May 2, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    I read that book in Swampscott – I think it was too soon. Maybe I’ll revisit it.

  • Reply Catherine McNiel May 2, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Same. SO much the same that I used to ask people to give me their top book, and I kept a list, and read them all. (Then, I drowned in the list, so I don’t now, but maybe again someday).

  • Reply magpie May 2, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Funnily enough, I am right now reading a book given to me by a friend from the internet. Four of us met for a weekend at one friend’s mother’s house – and we all brought things to share. Cheese, cocktails, Cards Against Humanity, and one friend gave us each a copy of Dexter Palmer’s Version Control. I feel confident that I never would have picked it up otherwise – but I am reading it, almost more to find out what makes my friend tick. So – I didn’t ask for it, but I am reading what she handed me.

    I came home from that weekend with another book – a biography of the friend’s mother’s third husband’s grandmother. (I think I got that right.) There were a lot of copies floating around the house, and she’s rather an interesting character. It’s next in the queue.

  • Reply Sara May 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I think this is a very cool idea– both community building & a huge sociological experiment put together! I am only beginning to understand my social anxiety. Coming up on age 48 & by all outside markets, both socially & professionally, I would be labelled as an extrovert, someone comfortable talking with a wide range of people, speaking in public, making connection. However, I am beginning to question that extrovert label & recognize that my constantly churning brain is telling me something. If I have a social interaction that goes ‘wrong’ or I don’t hear back from a friend or a number of other scenarios, I perseverate about it with an intensity that is just exhausting. And in my mind, Always. If you asked me to bring you a book right now, at this exact moment, without me thinking about it too, too much– I would bring you Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star. Happy reading! Happy community building!

    • Reply emily May 2, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      Oh, good. It’s not just me.

  • Reply Jennifer May 3, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    I am the same way. Which makes getting to know people in my new town a slower proposition than it might be for someone more extroverted. That feeling that I would be imposing myself on another…Wish I could shake that. (Maybe someday.)

  • Reply De May 3, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Sure, I’d commit to reading a book that someone chose for me. The way I read this, the person taking the trust fall is the one providing the book.

  • Reply Amy B May 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I have the awkwardness. Indeed.
    I thought it interesting you used the phase “mposing myself.” I’ve come to realize, sadly late in life, that I tend to prattle on and on about myself, probably imposing myself on someone. But what I really fear is asking them about themselves. I really fear imposing on their personal boundaries. And so I come off as self-centered in some way I think, when really I’m just petrified to intrude. Awareness has helped and now I make a point to ask simple questions; to try and be quiet
    The perseverating though, oh man. I do it over social interactions for days. Painful.
    Love your idea of ‘bring me a book’

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