We've covered some of my favorite parts of Barley's identity over the last few weeks, but today's element of Barley's Barleyness is probably the one that pushes me the farthest out of my comfort zone.
When I was 11, my dad was transferred to a new plant and we had to move. My parents started looking at houses and after one house hunting trip, my mom asked if I would prefer to live in a house next to a field with horses or a neighborhood with a lot of kids to play with. Without giving it any thought, I said the horses--we got the neighborhood with the kids. When given the choice, I will always choose hanging out with animals over other people. I'm a total introvert, but Barley is definitely an extrovert--she gets her energy from being noticed and being around people while those situations make me want to hide in my house for a few days. Even after socializing with people whose company I enjoy, I still need a nice long nap.
|A person who isn't my mama wants to take my picture? I'm so excited I can hardly sit still.|
My whole life, though, my closest friends have been extreme extroverts. I made my first (human) friend when she ran up to me at storytime at the library and screamed, "Hi Beth!" (or at least that's what my mom says--I have no recollection of this interaction) and she was my best friend until I moved away. In middle school, my closest friend was an outgoing cheerleader. In college (and still today), my best friend became the face of our college--he was on all of the publications sent to prospective students, he gave tours of campus, he knew almost every professor on campus as well as every member of the cleaning staff, admissions staff, and student life staff. All of these friends are/were great conversationalists and I could tag along, occasionally participate in conversation, and then spend the rest of the time doing what I enjoy most, watching other people.
With Barley, though, she clearly can't talk and carry on the conversations while I sit back and observe. Without Barley, I'm pretty sure I would yet to have met any of my new neighbors. (I'm torn on whether that would bother me or not.) Usually, if I see a neighbor outside, I'll wait a few minutes to take out the trash or to start mowing the lawn to avoid having to make small talk.
But Barley has ensured that I have met the neighbors in the four closest houses on our side of the street. Usually these introductions have gone something like this: Barley and I are out for a walk. A neighbor starts walking down the driveway. It will be obvious I'm avoiding them if we turn around, so we keep going and I hope we can escape with just a quick "Hi, how are you?" Barley smiles at the neighbor(s) and wags and wiggles. They ask, "What kind of dog is that?" Before I know it, I've learned their names (which I quickly text to my mom because for some reason I forget people's names seconds after walking away even though I can remember their dogs' names no problem) and a little bit about them. Barley continues to wag and wiggle--as best she can without breaking the sit I require when we stop walking--until she's pet and I answer a few questions about her and then the neighbor says, "Well, we won't keep you from your walk any longer." It hasn't been too painful.
When Barley's at my side, it's a lot easier to meet new people because we can skip the awkward small talk as they keep asking questions about Bar. Now, if Barley could just develop the ability to talk, I could go back to observing while she did the hard work.