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Friday, August 20, 2010

The diaries of an introvert

Sometimes, my phone rings at home and I don't answer it. Once, a neighbour knocked on my door and I hid behind my chair, much to my chagrin that my neighbour (who happens to also be my friend) could see my silhouette through my chocolate brown, yet sheer panel curtains. This is the diary of an introvert.

There are two types of people on the spectrum of social interaction. Jane, for example is a sales person by daylight. After a long day spent driving from one location to the next, probably making phone calls during the commute from Client A to Client B, Jane goes home to unwind. She picks up the phone or sends an email to make plans for her friends or acquaintances to meet her for dinner and drinks at a lounge downtown. Her energy feeds off the dynamics of her surroundings, whether it's her present company, other patrons or wait staff. When some of her friends pack it in for the night, she accepts other plans to continue the party at another location the same evening.

Mary is an I.T. analyst. She spends her day in her office with the door mostly closed and crunching numbers. She does not sit on the social committee at work or volunteer to host jewellery parties at her home. Mary unwinds with a good book in her backyard or a drink somewhere low key with one friend, her sister or spouse. On the weekends, Jane bartends to make some extra money. Her high energy levels attract many paying patrons. Mary takes her dog for a long walk on a Saturday night.

This is not to say that Mary and Jane's worlds don't ever collide. Jane may crash and burn one weekend from exhaustion and Mary might decide to turn it up a notch and go dancing.

Meet Wendy. That's me if you're new here. What is interesting about me is that people are usually surprised to find out I am more like Mary than Jane. Because of my people pleasing nature, I always want to make sure everyone is good, happy and comfortable. For some, that comes easy. For me, sometimes it does, and sometimes not so much. Growing up, I preferred reading books to playing with the neighbourhood kids outside. In high school though, my mom had a hard time keeping me home. I went out with friends to parties and dances and participated in all sorts of activities from baseball to dance contests to school trips. In my 20's, when I lived in the big city, I was never home. I lived right downtown but often wondered why I started staying home and declining or cancelling invites. Then one day, an older friend informed me that she thought I was a homebody and that there was nothing wrong with that. For some reason, personally speaking, when something about myself that I don't like or understand becomes labelled or assessed, I feel a sense of relief. After all, if there is a term for it, I must not be alone.

Lately, I have heard a lot about the expressions extrovert (Jane) and introvert (Mary). I decided to do some research. Like anything, not every situation is an extreme of the definition itself. For example, introverts are often referred to with a negative connotation. Words like "recluse" are used to describe someone who spends weeks worrying about and dreading a party they are to attend, and weeks after that analyzing everything they said that night that was wrong or stupid.

Although I've never been to that extreme, I did mention to you that I once hid behind a chair; not entirely normal behaviour.

For me, after a day of interaction with staff and clients at work, I enjoy coming home and spending some time alone. My husband is a huge conversationalist by nature. He also has a career in sales and does very well at it. He could come home after 12 hours of talking to customers, and then spend 3 more chatting to neighbours. Then, he could grab 4 guys and go out and converse about anything or nothing at all, over wings and the hockey game.

Sometimes, like tonight, he'll ask me "What's the matter?" In actual fact, there is nothing wrong. I just regroup and recharge my emotional batteries we call energy, by taking in the sound of absolutely nothing at all. The water fountain trickles, the birds chirp and I write. I watch a bit of t.v., go to bed and wake up with a full battery life the next day. The world is full of a vast mix of personalities but for some reason, the introverts seemingly need to justify their personality.

I've been told I am fun, hilarious and even the life of a party. If I feel comfortable with you and rested, I can be. This confuses people when I'm in shut-down mode and just don't have my usual energy to properly contribute. I suppose if one was always like Jane or Mary, you would take them for exactly who they are but for me, it really depends on the day or my mood. I'm also a very sincere person which is why I was never any good at sales. Bullshit is written all over my face and if I don't agree or believe in what's being said, I find it hard to fake it. Quite bluntly, sometimes I just don't like you and in many cases, I'm sure you don't like me but I am bad at pretending. I find pretending to be exhausting. The good news is though, if I stand around chatting to you or continue to make plans, I truly enjoy my time with you.

I find it hard to say no to people, but over time realized it's better to be honest when it comes to making plans than to make up some feeble and weak excuse. It's not fair to your present company when you're not putting your best self forward. Fortunately for me, my husband and very close friends love me for all of who I am; negative and positive, quiet or loud, sad or jovial.

With age, I've gotten better and told myself to grow up. Is it really such a bad thing that people want to knock on your door or talk on the phone, when you consider the alternative of total solitude?

I however, apologize in advance if, on a Friday night at 6pm, you drop by unannounced and my smile isn't as wide as it usually is but hey, at least you got my face at the door and not my ass under the chair.

Ahh. Evolution.

Have a great weekend!

p.s. I found the below introspection interesting when doing some research.

I have a problem. I'm an introvert. I'm not shy. I'm not afraid of being in public. But I am horrible at chit-chat and gossip. If I spend an evening at a social function with people I don't know or don't like, I get home and feel like I've spent all day at the ocean. It's that fighting-the-waves and drained-by-the-sun kind of tired. I would rather spend four hours with my head stapled to the carpet. I would be more comfortable that way.


carson_rees said...

Wendy, excellent writing, you had me wanting to read more

Rosemary said...

Wendy, you definetely have writing talent, excellent piece

Lisa said...

Hey Wendy..
Very interesting article... I am neither an introvert or extrovert- I am some where in between. Rather than label people - maybe we should marvel at how creative God is in creating such fascinating personalities. Love ya - on your happy days , quiet days and sad days!

Jean said...

A few years back TWG did a Myers- Briggs workshop which showed our personality types and how to work and benefit from having a team with different types. We should look it up on Monday and see how everyone else ranked. I think I was a dolphin (so cute).....

Michael Lewicki said...

My wife is so talented! One of my favourite entries yet, darling.

Robin said...

I love this piece, Wendy, and I can relate :)