When I was growing up there was a conversation that happened repeatedly between my mother and me.
“Why don’t you go talk to so-and-so (call them, go to a certain place, do a certain thing)?” She would ask.
I would shrug, “I don’t want to.” I would tell her.
“Because I’m shy,” I would say and go back to reading my book.
“You’re not shy!” She would declare, and she was right. I’m really not. I’m not timid. I was always happy enough to raise my hand in class or take a part in the church Christmas program.
I was probably 35 years old when I finally found the word I was looking for. Not “shy,” but “introverted.”
Thank you Facebook with all your silly little quizzes and pop culture therapy for explaining this word to me!
Introverted people are not necessarily timid or frightened in social situations, but they do find social interaction to be work. For an introvert, to be around people is to be constantly giving of your own mental and emotional energy. An introvert doesn’t get charged up in a night club full of people. They get sucked dry. That doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the great music or good food or stimulating conversation. It just means that there is a limit to how much of that type of situation they can take before something inside starts to feel withered and weary.
The same is true if you’re with just one person, it just happens more slowly.
The only way to “recharge” is to be alone. Totally alone. I’m talking solitary confinement: locked in a room with no phones or social media kind of alone. After a while the internal balance is restored and we introverts can crawl back out of our cave and rejoin polite society once again.
So, finally, I had a word to explain the way I felt and I came to understand that being an introvert is not better or worse than being an extrovert any more than having blue eyes is better or worse than having brown eyes. It just is. Some people are one way, some people are another way. It takes all types to make this big beautiful world go ’round.
I understood that when it came to interacting with the world at large, but it actually took another couple of years to figure out that it applied at home as well.
Somehow, the great cosmic soup ladle stirred the ingredients of Handsome Hippie Hubby and my children and, from two fairly extreme introverts, produced two obvious extroverts.
You know those kids who will sit happily coloring in a corner for hours, serving tea to their teddy bears and humming a little tune? Yeah… my children are pretty much the opposite of that. They want to have someone over to visit or they want to go to someone’s house. “Let’s go to the mall, the store, the park, the library!” they beg. We are often busy every single day and evening of the week. We’ll get to Friday night and the only two things I want in the whole entire world are space and silence. Do I get space and silence? Not so much. What I get are two children literally climbing all over me, physically in my space and peppering me with: “Let’s play a board game, read a story, go for a walk, ask someone over for dinner…”
I have, at times, done what any rational person would do: Locked myself in the bathroom. Of course, then they just stand outside the door and continue the litany but at least there’s a buffer zone.
I share all that to get to this: being an introverted mother can be a really guilt-ridden experience.
I have had moments where I think, “I just want them to go away and LEAVE. ME. ALONE.” Instantly, I’m repentant. Please, God, don’t take my kids away and leave me alone! I don’t really want that.
Except I do. Just for a little while.
A friend of mine recently said, “I can’t imagine sending my kids away for the weekend. I just love them so much I don’t want to miss a single moment.”
Oh, the guilt!
I WANT someone to take my children for the weekend! Someone I know and trust and love, of course. I want to know they are safe. I know that I would miss them. I’m sure that I would, every few minutes, all weekend long, have that, “Gosh, I hope they’re OK,” feeling in the pit of my stomach. I love those little people so much it hurts my heart! But… 2 days and a whole night without anyone climbing onto my shoulders or pulling off my glasses or asking me what the meaning of life is?
Ahhhhh…… just the thought of it makes the knotty muscles in my shoulders relax.
Another friend recently confessed that she’s thrilled that her 20-something kids still live at home. “I can’t imagine them ever leaving. What will I do?”
I just smiled and nodded politely while my brain painted a picture of me, stretched out on the sofa – the whole sofa, one end to the other – reading an entire novel, cover to cover without being interrupted. That’s what I would do. And when I was done I would stretch and smile and send a text (introverts will avoid the phone as much as possible. I can’t exactly explain why but every introvert I know feels the same about the dreadful things.) to my grown children and tell them, I miss you and I love you with all of me and I hope we can get together for dinner tonight. And I will mean it. Because after the whole day alone I’ll be ready to exist in community again.
A third friend said to me, “After a whole morning of homeschooling and then going to the grocery store I’ll come home and go straight to my room and lock my door and not come out for half an hour.” I looked at this woman who loves her family with an obvious, tangible, fierce passion and I was so relieved to know that I was not alone. You know… philosophically speaking.
And that was a good thing.
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