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.