Wednesday, December 9, 2015

On Being An Introvert

Heh heh... I know some of you are laughing.  "LORI?  An INTROVERT?  Not even."  

For the bulk of my life, I would have completely agreed with you.  I've surrounded myself with family and friends for as long as I can remember.  When I lived alone my freshman year, I was so desperate for human contact that I joined a *gasp!* SORORITY.  And those women are STILL some of the best people I know.  

When I lived above the tattoo parlor my senior year, I didn't spend a whole lot of time there.  I was out and about, mingling.

By being around other people, it meant that I didn't have to be by myself.  I was scared of being alone with my thoughts, because my thoughts weren't all that comforting.  Alone, I'd distract myself with books.  Lots and lots of books, being more comforted by the thoughts of writers rather than my own.  With other people, I was distracted by the thoughts of other people rather than my own.  

What was I so afraid of?  It's rather hard to explain if you don't innately know what I'm talking about, but I will attempt to explain.

You know how you can be sleeping in your bed, alone, and you hear a noise?  A rustle, a bump, a creak?  And then your mind goes down that hole of "OH MY GOSH WHAT WAS THAT?  Was that a ghost?  A robber?  Oh my gosh, I'm not ready to die...  Where is my baseball bat?" and then you realize it was a branch/the house settling/the damn cat.  I'm sure we've all had those moments in our lives.

Thing is: I'm like that all the time.  I'm easily distracted by my own mind, weaving these horrible scenarios.  

In the office?  No problem.  I just dream up workplace violence and plan about what I'd do if a terrorist somehow worked his/her way into our secured building.  Could I hid under the desk?  Could I lock myself in that weird room in the bathroom with the creepy, old Lazy Boy?  Would I be a hero?  Would I be a coward?

Walking on the street?  Gotcha covered.  I think that person is following me.  Bob and weave, Lori.  Bob and weave.  See if that person is really following you.  If the person is, make sure you have your keys in the shiv position so you can cut the attacker.

Eating in a restaurant?  Oh, EASY.  Someone is going to rob the restaurant.  I need an escape route with G.  If bullets start flying, what I need to do is cover G.  Not enough to smother but enough to ensure my bulk will protect her.

Walking around with a wine glass?  Tricky, but doable.  DO NOT TRIP WITH THE WINE GLASS, HAVE IT SHATTER, AND STAB YOURSELF IN THE NECK, ACCIDENTALLY KILLING YOURSELF.  DO NOT TRIP WITH THE WINE GLASS.  DO NOT TRIP....

And so on. 

When you portray yourself as an extrovert out of fear, that doesn't mean you are an extrovert.  It might mean you have severe anxiety issues and an overactive imagination, but not necessarily an extrovert.

I recently read/heard somewhere that to be an extrovert, you are energized by being around people.  When you are an introvert, you are energized by being alone.

This rings true for me. 

I love being around people.  I like to host dinners, go out for girls' nights, being with family, playing games with friends.  (I tend to enjoy doing things in relatively small groups and in relatively quiet places because I'm losing my hearing and cannot, for the life of me, understand any conversations in crowds/loud restaurants/anything with moderate ambient noise.)

But after the socialization comes the need to LEAVE ME ALONE.  

I spend 5 day weekends with family on both sides.  We spend the hours mingling, chatting, whatnot.  By the end, I really just need to be in a place where no one is talking to me or touching me.  For the longest time, I thought this just made me a huge bitch.  But now I realize that all my energy was (happily) depleted and I need to reload.  G is getting to the age where she understands that sometimes, mommy needs a half hour to herself, especially when daddy is around.  When daddy was off on his business trip, I got all the alone time I needed without sacrificing time with G.  When he's home, as soon as I'm done snuggling with the kiddo, I come downstairs and have about an hour of quality time with him before I go to bed.  When he's away, that hour is all mine to recharge.  

For example, Sunday I was at the vendor fair where I was talking to the vendors, playing with G, engaging the people who were making donations and all that  for 5 hours straight.  By the time we got home, I left home almost immediately to go shopping by myself for an hour or so, despite being utterly exhausted.  Why?  Because I needed the quiet.  

"But, Lori?  You were saying that you are scared to be alone with your thoughts."  Ah, excellent point, dear reader.  However, through the glorious invention of modern medicine teamed with the hippy dippy ways of the far East, I have quieted the voices in my head.  I'm on antidepressants, which keeps me from spiraling down those useless holes of "what ifs."  And I've learned how to meditate on the fly.  Even when G sees me get all worked up, she goes, "Mama, remember to breathe!  Deep breaths, Mama!  Deep breaths!"  And hearing her little voice remind me to pause, just like I do when she gets all worked up, and brings me back to the present.  When alone, I practice deep breathing.  I engage in mindless Internet reading.  I play a game or two on the phone.  I listen to the fan whirl, the fireplace crackle, my dog heavily sigh with sleep.  

My thoughts still veer into the absurd, but I really enjoy being me now.  I genuinely *like* myself, and I am a great friend to myself.  The voice that I speak to myself is kinder, wiser, more patient than when I was a teenager or a 20-something.  

Moreover, I understand that nowadays, my need to be alone is not a flaw, does not make me a bad daughter, friend, mother, or wife.  It's just who I am.  My family recognizes this now and lets me do what I need to do.  My husband hears the change in my voice or that look in my eye and sweeps in to have quality daddy-daughter time with G.

And I disappear for an hour or so, to take a walk or have a hot shower or sit on my porch and just be.

Now as for my planning for the imminent zombie invasion and the calculations on how fast I can get G to safety?  Hey... you never know.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Orchid

Let's just be to the point: sometimes I feel like writing, sometimes I don't.  Lately, after being swept away by some truly fantastic novels, I've started to write my own. 

Out of nowhere, I was completely inspired to write my own original story.  I've gotten further with it than any other story before, which means that I might actually have something in the coming years that I'm willing to let out into the world.  

I did this project a few years back, a sort of serial writing experiment involving movie star Phil Brickland, a sassy former spy and geriatric sidekick, and her faithful companion...  Bruinhilde?  An Anatolian shepherd.  It was fun to write about them, but I found out quickly that, lacking inspiration and passion, a story dies out quickly.  For me, writing isn't about forcing something.  It's about noticing a seed that's beginning to sprout and gently nurturing it.  

I've approached a lot of my writing like a typical, hard to kill houseplant.  Watering it when it starts to look droopy, throw it in front of a window, and know that, 7 plants of out 10 (at least in my house) will live.  And I've been doing that wrong, as it pertains to writing.

Writing is more like caring for an orchid.  One cannot take the same approach.  Can't hose it down with water once a month (ish) and throw it in front of a window and hope for the best.  My husband got me a glorious orchid for our 9 year anniversary.  It's quite possibly the most beautiful specimen I've ever seen.  It has close to 20 blooms on it!  But when he brought it in, I was awed and disappointed.  Didn't he remember the 3 other orchids I've systematically assassinated in the last 9 years of our marriage?

Of course, he said.  That's because you've been doing it wrong.  The fact that he was right did not keep my feathers getting all puffed up with indignation.  *I* was the plant expert around here.  The expert that was expertly killing off orchids left and right.  So what was I supposed to do?  Something my mother even mentioned to me many times.

1 ice cube.  Put it on top of the soil.  1x a week.

That's it.

NO.  Surely not that?  Yes.  Surely.  Just that.  1 ice cube once a week.  And only 2 blooms have dropped.  It's healthy and happy in our dining room.  Every day I resist the urge to give it more water, more nourishment, because THAT'S WHAT LIFE NEEDS.

Not for the orchid.  A little here, a little there, and almost 2 months later that plant is still looking as beautiful as the day he gave it to me.

I haven't written substantially for my novel for over a week now.  Instead, I'm letting ideas fester in my head.  Would the protagonist do this or that?  Where will he go?  Who really is the antagonist of this story?  How does the wind feel, the sunrise look, the autumn leaves underfoot smell like?  Who is his family?  Why is he pursuing this adventure?  

How does it all end?

So instead of telling myself "THOU SHALT WRITE 30 PAGES TONIGHT" and then instead avoiding the work by pinning the hell out of potential front doors to our home, I wait.  I think, and I think, and then I think some more.  I pull out my trusty notebook, scrounge up a pen, and water the idea just enough to nourish.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Forgetting Who We Were

Back in the day, some family members (A) stopped smoking but other family members (B) did not.  Very quickly after the A's found success, they started to chastise the B's for continuing the habit.  Pestering.  Shaming.  As if all it took was to simply put down the pack of smokes and quit.

I'm glad it was easy for the A's.  But shame on them for expecting everyone else's journey to be exactly the same: Easy.

I'm finding this a lot on the pages and blogs that I follow regarding weight loss.  All these wonderful women who have accomplished my ultimate health goal: lose a tremendous amount of weight and keep it off.  Some of these women have lost over 100 pounds and look and feel fantastic and constantly post about how wonderful they feel and come on, America!  Let's do it!

It always starts out like that and I'm lured in.

Then, many of those women start to dole out the tough love posts, the "get off your ass and move, and stop stuffing your face" posts.  The posts that say that that is all you need to do.  Just do it.  Stop complaining.  Get up and run 5 miles, I do it, so why can't you?

And that's when I delete them from my favorites or stop following them on Facebook.  Why?  Because it is clear to me that they've forgotten what it's like to be fat.  They only show how much they can lift right now and how many miles they put in per day and show me selfies of their now taut tummies and how they get up at 4:30 a.m. to drink raw egg smoothies and have so much energy!  and then turn around and flaunt on how easy it is.  Or how hard it is, but because they want it, they can do it, and if you can't find it in yourself, you deserve to look the way you do.

Some of that is great.  I'm glad people have found whatever it is to keep themselves on track and to truly embrace a new lifestyle.  But I have no room in me for stories like that.  I don't want to hear stories from people who never learned to love themselves as a fat person.  Sometimes the love comes after you get skinny, and you can look back on your fat self and say to yourself, "You know what?  I was a great person.  She was awesome, and I'm awesome now.  I just had to work through some stuff."  Sometimes, like me who is still quite tubby, you learn to love yourself as a fat person.  That what you look like on the outside cannot snuff the glow that comes from within when you do love yourself.  I'm pretty awesome.  Being fat does not erase that fact.  But for some of these women?  It's like dealing with downtrodden, hopeless fat people is a curse, that if they would only want it like they did, they'd have success.  It's like they are talking to their former, fat, lazy, awful selves.

Being fat like me is not just a simple case of being lazy.  It's just not.  I wrote a few days ago that I believe that being morbidly obese is a mental disease that wreaks destruction on the body.  To be clear, it IS my fault, ALL my fault that I'm this fat.  No one gives me ice cream by the gallon, no one buys me McDonald's by the dozen, no one chains me to my chair so that I can't get in exercise.  Like an alcoholic or a drug user, my binging is a symptom of a greater problem within my mind.  People who use things to cope with life/pain, it's true that they do choose to use to numb, but the problem is up here, in the head.  I'll never be truly healthy if I don't approach this thing holistically.  So telling me to put down the damn sandwich doesn't help at all if I don't understand why I'm picking it up in the first place.

You don't say to someone who is depressed to just lighten up.  You don't say to an alcoholic or a drug user to just stop.  You don't say to an anorexic to just eat a sandwich.  These conditions are recognized as something more than a physical addiction to shake.  Remission/cures do not simply happen by just stopping what you are doing.  The mental addiction is the true war to be won.

And the people who used to be morbidly obese who either miraculously didn't have to deal with  the mental aspect or conveniently forgot about all that other work?  I don't have time for you.  

I know it is hard work.  I've been trying for 20 years: if it were easy, I would have been skinny 19 years ago.  Don't tell me about the obvious parts of weight loss: eat less, move more.  Got that.  Read that, old fucking news.

Tell me about that one night three months in that you sat alone in your apartment and ate a half gallon of ice cream and what helped you brush yourself off the next day to keep on trucking.  Tell me about the vacation you went on and you ate all the things and came back and discovered you gained 10 pounds and how you found the courage to not give up.  Tell me about the time you didn't want to go for that walk at 300 pounds but you did anyway and it was only to the end of your street.  Then tell me about how at 250 you found yourself walking a mile at a time and it took you 8 months to get that far.  Share with me your pain and how you got through it.  

Truth is, I don't want to know anything more about losing body weight.  I genuinely know all about it.  We all do.  What I want to learn is how you shed your soul baggage to make everything in your life possible.  Provide empathy.  Give me the reality of your journey.  Tell me that it's possible.  Tell me that you were able to embrace a new lifestyle.  Tell me you understand where I am and how hard it must look like from where I stand.  But that I'll find my way someday.  That we all have it within us to find that spark to achieve what seems not achievable.  

In short: be a real, compassionate human being.  And for those bloggers and weight loss Facebookers who have shared their story and have found a fan in me: thank you.  Thank you so much for your inspiration, your compassion, and your honesty about your life.  

You haven't forgotten who you were.