In the story of the country mouse and the city mouse, the country mouse is continually amazed by the wonders of life and the bounty of food available when he visits his cosmopolitan cousin. He is also terrified half to death by cooks, cats, and mousetraps, and decides to return to his less exciting, but more peaceful home in the country. I have an Inner Country Mouse.
Country Mouse comes out sometimes when I'm in a new situation, usually when there is a crowd of strangers or a lot going on. For example, I really felt like Country Mouse the first few times I went to the Pentagon - it's a big, intimidating building, with lots of security and an unbelievably complex floorplan, so you better know where you're going. And allow plenty of time to get there. Now that I have a weekly meeting there, however, I've become accustomed to the security drill and know exactly how to get to my meeting room.
Country Mouse came out twice today here at General Assembly. The first time was this morning, when I entered the Rio Grande Room of the Renaissance Worthington Hotel to attend a Meadville-Lombard breakfast. I was there at the invitation of my minister, but had expected a much smaller affair. Seeing nobody I knew (and nobody else in shorts), Country Mouse got scared and off we went. Cereal back at my hotel seemed preferable to a crowd of strangers.
Country Mouse made his second appearance today when I entered the Convention Center right before the program on UUs in the Military in which I participated. I was very nervous entering the building in my Marine Corps uniform. This was the first time I'd worn it around such a large gathering of UUs, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Well, nobody threw rotten vegetables at me or shouted "babykiller" at me - in fact many came up and wished me well. Country Mouse got a little less scared with each interaction. My old friend Karen and my new friend Cynthia also helped, and by the time I had made my way back to the room where our panel program was going to be held, Country Mouse felt much more at ease, so I was able to let him go.
I've never been an extrovert, and I think that's one reason why GA and its crowds take their toll on me. Interestingly, last year (my first GA), I didn't feel quite this way - I felt more like all these people were friends I hadn't met. This year, however, I find myself seeking out more direct, personal contact with people I already know.
It's rewarding to give myself (and Country Mouse) permission to be anxious or uncomfortable, and to care for both of us by saying "no" when the time is right, or saying "yes" when we can work through our discomfort.