I’m not feeling well today, so I’m not good for much, but I can manage to journal, and am grateful for the chance to do it. Even if I have to be nauseated in order to get the downtime.
I have to say, my introversion epiphany of a couple months ago was possibly the very best thing that’s happened to me in a long time, even though, as I keep exploring this, it’s bringing up some things for me that are kind of a bummer.
For instance, I’ve been feeling like this is yet another place where I really got a bum deal by not being able to live full-time with my father before I did, the introvert of my two parents. I’m scrolling back in my life to even the weekend visits we spent together, and realizing what a great model they were for managing introversion well and not feeling like I had to conform to extroversion. Of the couple days we’d spend together, there was always just as much, if not more, quiet time as time spent out and about. Even the out-and-aboutness usually involved just the two of us or small groups. I’ve been thinking about the days where sometimes almost for the whole of a day, we’d hang out at his favorite deli, both of us with a book, where we’d read for a while then talk for a while, where people could stop, visit and chat us up and then move on, and if I wasn’t feeling open or chatty, I was never told to put my book down so as not to be rude.
At my other home, there really wasn’t room for being introverted. About the only time I really got any kind of acceptance, or was even just left alone for a little bit without conflict was either around achievement or performance, and ideally, both. If I did some kind of dancing monkey routine, then I was marginally acceptable. But most often, my introversion was framed as rudeness, or trying to hide from people, or hide things from people; a need for privacy to refuel was often presented as a need for secrecy. Sometimes my need to be alone was framed as my not liking or loving people. Or, my desire to be slow in conflict or step away from it before reacting instead of quick and reactive was framed as not taking conflict seriously (when really, it was quite the opposite, and is still: it’s taking the time I need to react thoughtfully and well instead of getting caught up in a tidal wave of upset). Of course, in the worst of the worst of conflict, I tend to do what my Dad does when people won’t give him space, which is to just vanish altogether, which then winds up being seen as abandonment when all we are really going for is some space to ourselves so we don’t implode or explode or just get utterly lost in someone else’s drama.
Suffice it to say, the wound around being way too separated from my Dad during a lot of my life is always one that stays a little bit raw, so more salt on it basically blows. It’s clear he would have done a bit better if we’d been full-time earlier, and in so, so many ways, I would have, too. This may be the least of them, really, but still.
I’m sure this is something other folks who survived a lot of serious trauma can relate to, but it also always feels so strange and surprising to me to identify smaller — per my perspective, anyway – things in your life and upbringing that have messed you up or just steered you the wrong way. I feel like it’s so much harder to see them, hell, even to remember them, through the thick fog of much bigger trauma. That’s not helped, of course, by the cultural narrative we have around certain kinds of trauma that paints those of us who are survivors as, of course, so, so super-messed up by X-thing, with everything that isn’t right for us or okay as automatically attached to that trauma. But the big trauma itself obscures the smaller issues that sometimes maybe aren’t so small after all.
In some weird way, it kind of makes me feel more connected to people who have NOT gone through some of the horrible shit I have, and who I’ve often had awkward conversations with when they feel bad about things like this having been traumatic for them, versus things like my living through rape or other abuses. I never felt like anyone needed to compare that way, or that there was any need to feel bad (and heck, I’m nothing more than happy when I know people haven’t been through the mill so badly in their lives). But I have always felt a little disconnected, like we weren’t quite living in the same worlds, and these kinds of realizations make me feel a connectivity I really appreciate. I think this kind of connected feeling around the smaller stuff may be what people are actually seeking when they’ve been through The Big Awful and say they “just want to be normal.”
I’m recognizing a lot of seemingly-smaller things around all of this. I don’t want to do that thing people do where they latch on to this One Big Thing to Explain Everything, but you know, this does explain a lot. Also? It’s really kind of col to be learning brand new, shiny things about myself. As someone who has done a lot of reflection, got counseling way earlier in my life than most, I confess that I’m often a bit hungry for new growth.
For instance, the more reading I do, the more I become aware of why friends with ADD have expressed that maybe I’m ADD: there are a bunch of introvert things that are a lot like ADD things. I’m starting to understand more and more why I sometimes feel so daft when I’m overstimulated, and how at times when the pressure is on to be so smart so fast it often IS in the context of overstimulation, and that just can’t work for me. That’s awesome for extroverts: a recipe for disaster for me, especially if I’m not doing that I can to dial everything down so I can step up.
Longtime readers may recall that a bunch of years back, I felt utterly crippled by a sudden. inexplicable anxiety about public speaking. I’d never really liked doing it, especially with big groups, but I always could do it, but from outta left field, I suddenly really, really couldn’t. I’d get sick to my stomach, have panic attacks, the works. I could never figure out why it got so bad so suddenly. Then I took a look at that timeline, and noticed that happened at a time when I was so, so very exposed on the whole, had so many people and so much work I was juggling, I was so visible, and it was all utterly nonstop. It didn’t even occur to me at the time — nor later, when it calmed down some, also fairly inexplicably — that it might have been about much too much happening all the time, with me having to be on almost 24/7, and was just to do with that business of straws, camels and their backs. In retrospect, now, it seems really obvious.
Also? I had this idea that because so much of my work life anymore doesn’t have me with people in-person, that a breakneck pace, so long as it wasn’t face-to-face could work just fine. Now I’m starting to see how marathoning direct service still isn’t so great, even when I don’t have people right in my face. In fact, I think what can happen is that I miss the cues I’d otherwise pick up in in-person interactions to know when I’ve hit a limit and need to recharge, so with online work, I need to create breaks and downtime in built-in ways, rather than only realizing I went over my limits once I am utterly wiped out.
Anyone who knows me very well and has stayed talking with me for hours and hours and days and days has probably heard me go on at some point about my (apparent) very strange non-reaction to dopamine geekouts. Now, I can’t tell exactly how well studied the neurochem around introversion I’ve been reading about it, but it seems that being introverted, all by itself, may be why I’m just all yeah-reward-neurochem-hit-that’s-nice-whatever-moving-on around dopamine, because the word is that that’s how interoverts are with dopamine, and it’s acetylcholine we need and crave instead. Oddly enough, my nutritional deficits usually are also acetylcholine-related, and I’ve also had low blood sugar and low blood pressure all my life, which it seems may have something to do with it, too. Who knows how useful any of that may be, but more to geek out about, always fun.
Unsurprisingly, a bunch of this involves Aha! moments for me, that when I bring them to Blue, is all “Umm, I know.” I suppose it never does fail that all of us are often so much more aware of the behavior of those around us than of our own. I think that’s one of those things we’re supposed to magically outgrow with the wisdom of age and a lot of meditation. And yet. That said, my sweetheart has been beautifully patient with my process in this, making extra room for me to have extra room, when I’m already someone who errs on the side of more-time-alone than most as it is. Those “Umm, I knows” also are delivered with likely less boredom than I’d expect from someone has who has already seen a lot of this from their side of the screen already.
I still, I’m sorry to say, have yet to come up with the miracle plan of how to change the world as it is right now so that there’s more room in it for introverts and for what we need to be who we are. I know, you’re disappointed. Me too.
But my own plan for right now is to just keep reminding myself that when I feel like there’s no room for me and I need to conform that that’s not the deal: the deal is that I need to conform to this no more than I ever have with anything else in my life, and instead carve out the space and place I need and ask for room to be made. I’m still barely just starting with that, because it asks for quite a bit of revamping and revising, but I’m getting there. This includes asking myself for that space and place, or, perhaps more to the point, the part of myself that — quite counter to almost every other part of myself through my life, so I’m resistant to even acknowledge it sometimes — really bought the bill of sale that said I had to be a person in some ways I not only am not, but a person which often obscures the uniqueness of who I am and my best ways of being me.
For that matter, it obscures a whole kind of people who’ve always had a lot to give the world, but who the world has to quiet down to hear, and slow down to see and really take in, people who I’ve probably appreciated most in my life far beyond the mere fact of having a mere temperament in common.
P.S. Holy bananas, do I know how out of date some of the supporting pages of this journal are. Updating them is on my to-do list. But since that’s been on my to-do list for, oh, two years and change, I’m seeing if stating that intention where other people can see it — and thus, I’ll feel really embarrassed if I don’t get to it soon — helps.