peeking out on the world

March 3, 2008


I had a good “faux extrovert” day yesterday. I pinballed from thing to thing, making small talk at church, catching up with friends, knitting with former coworkers, performing bass grooves on Rock Band with our young marrieds small group. On the way to the last “event,” I felt a bit of a slip around 4:30—a weird sort of drowsyness that hovered around my temples for a few minutes, then went away. None of these soirees were actually exhausting. I only did a third of the driving, and my most vigorous activity was clicking and clacking my knitting needles together. But I suspect the introvert in me was protesting a bit at 4:30, wanting to go read in bed.

I kept waiting for reluctance to go to any of these things, and I was surprised when it didn’t show. I felt good. I was looking forward to do all this social mingling. It makes me wonder at times why I’m an INFJ. I usually assume introverts are quiet people, but I realize that’s not necessarily so—introverts simply get their energy by being alone, whereas extroverts are energized by being with people.

So that’s why I’m calling it a faux extrovert weekend. I actually felt quite energized by all the “visiting.”

Contrast that to my weekend in Nashville. I felt shy around my sister’s luminous, artsy friends, women and men alike. I wanted to start conversations but my mind seemed to have collapsed into itself and just floated, peeking out with a periscope. I wasn’t experiencing anxiety or anything. I’m an observer—I watch people, I watch what they say, how they act, and construct the world around me that way instead of through ceaseless conversations. So my mind was busy. My mom told me once I was a gifted listener, and I think that’s true. I just wish I could balance that with gifted conversing. But I couldn’t think of good questions. I admire people who ask good questions, and who sincerely value your answers. Some of them tried, and I was pleasant enough, but there was another little Christy voice who wanted to speak too: “If I seem guarded, or fake, I don’t mean to be! Trust me! You’re cool!” I wanted to be around all these neat people, but I also breathed a sigh of relief when I could escape from a neighbor get-together with my fellow introverted six-year-old nephew. We went home and played Rock, Paper, Scissors for a half hour.

I’m frustrated with my approach to the telephone. I seem to have a distinct talk button, that switches my mood-to-talk on or off. All too often, the switch is not on. I can count on one hand the number of times these past six months where I have a conversation that sparkles with good stories and laughter and well-constructed sentences on both ends. I have this belief that everyone else has sparkly phone conversations all the time. That they know how to talk about everything and anything with grace and ease, without pausing too long to think of something to say. I feel I have a whole library in me of things to say, but I just stare at the shelves and don’t know which book to pull down and share.

On the other hand, that’s probably why I like writing. I feel I can express myself better. Marshall (and other close people in my life) caught on to that and it’s a relief for me that they understand. They wait till I’m ready to talk, whether in person or in paper. I tend to speak only when I have something to say. I always have something to say, but not always in verbal form.

But then again, I have a desire to feel close to people, and I feel close to people mostly through intimate conversations. Not necessarily heart-to-hearts every day, but just—talking. I wonder why this is a way I feel close to people when talking is sometimes an effort. And, with new people, I can desire SO MUCH to want to get to know them, but I don’t know where to begin. I want to pretend to be outgoing, because everyone likes outgoing people. Hell, I tend to like outgoing people more than my fellow introverts (no offense, guys).

Oh, okay, wow. I just googled “introvert” and came across this great article. Back from 2003, but has a timeless ring to it. I related to the author’s “formula” of two hours alone for every hour of socializing. THAT’S SO ME! I figured out some time in college that I don’t like to be alone for more than three hours, I think due to my personality and due to being raised in a big family and a tight neighborhood, where buddies were always close by. But place me at a dinner party—even a really pleasant, fun, comfortable dinner party—and in a few hours I’ll be fantasizing about watching The Office our living room, alone (well, with Marsh, which is just as pleasant and restful as being alone, except for those times when he wants to play Hug Tickle Me Elmo or Keep Me Standing Upright So I Don’t Fall on the Couch or Let’s Throw Around Apples in the Kitchen and Catch Them with Forks. Okay, so the games themselves don’t exactly tire me, it’s just they make me laugh so hard I cry and sometimes almost pee my pants and THEN I am exhausted and ready for bed).

Another thing this author notes—”The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself”—wow! I remember telling a friend on the phone that I liked hearing other people tell me about their life more than me telling them about mine. YET (there’s always a YET) if they don’t probe me and slowly open me up like a fruit and warm me up to the idea that they do want to hear about my life, I do sometimes get a little offended. What are my poor extroverted friends to do? They’re getting mixed signals.

So, to extroverts and introverts alike, I love you for who you are, and I appreciate you for loving me for who I am even when I may seem closed off, untalkative, or reserved. I really do like you, I just don’t know how to say it sometimes.


5 Responses to “peeking out on the world”

  1. Maren said

    Oh darling I relate so very much. Except I can’t write to express it. Every paragraph I was saying YEAH ME TOO! So thanks…you aren’t alone.

  2. Bethany said

    I needed to read this (oh so excellent) post. I constantly need reminders that Sam is like this. I get so mad that I can’t get in his head (which is mostly because he’s at about -1,938,203 hours for introvert recharging compared to his people time).

    I was so proud to introduce my beautiful mermaid sister to all my friends. You don’t need to say anything – your boticelli glow says it all for ya. And your laugh. And your smile. You were the PERFECT person for Julie Lee to tell her Karen Berquist news to – there was divine orchestration in a #1 OTR fan being there to exclaim with her. I’m serial.

    You’re my rikki and I am your boss. We go together well. I will be your mouth and you can be the ears.

  3. Brenna said

    I must remember not to read your posts during class. The entire thing had me cracking up and thinking “Me too!” And then trying to hide my smile, as civil procedure is generally not humorous.

    May I suggest that you grow close through intimate conversation simply because it is an action that doesn’t come easily to you? The things we fight the hardest for are all the more precious to us because of the struggle. That’s how it is with me, anyway.

  4. Ireney said

    but i never feel like you’re not talking enough. uh-oh i think that means i talk way too much. and i think our phone conversations sparkle! ok, so sometimes i have to shut up and sometimes you have to speak out, but i’m not THAT loud and you’re not that quiet—-

    and i KNOW you’re more eloquent in your conversations and topics of speech then you realize.

    i’m on a christy kick today! i even kind of like yellow, and i never like yellow. i xx

  5. cjpb said

    dear friends, you are all so sweet. Thanks for taking the time to type thoughtful comments. Y’all are AWESOME. Cuz, that y’all is for you, and also, I think you’re right–what we fight hardest for is all the more precious to us.

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