I know many introverts. I walk on the edge of introversion myself, and most people who know me, scoff at the idea. “You? An introvert? What?” But those who know me well, know that yes, I am, actually, and happy to have come to grips with this aspect of my personality that I grappled with for years.
Thanks to the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I was able to have the ah-ha moment that I had needed since childhood. Since early days I have wavered easily and quickly from ‘the little show off’ to hiding behind a chair to read for hours hoping I was invisible.
My oldest daughter is a proud introvert. And, like me, put her on stage, in a small gathering where the spotlight might head her way, she can manage it with aplomb. Fearless, funny, engaging, memorable. But just a few too many minutes of such performing, and unlike me, anxiety takes over. Her eyes read, ‘get me out of here.’ And off she goes.
Even middle introversion makes going to parties difficult. I’ve always preferred the events where I know several guests well. Doesn’t matter the sizeof the gathering because I can typically find that friend, and great relief, in knowing they would also like to grab a glass of wine, move to a corner, and talk on our own, by ourselves and happily building the invisible wall of ‘oh, they must be talking about something important.’ Usually not, but breathing easier in the safety of that intimacy. And waiting for our exit.
Having parties is easy. I can fill the house with wonderful friends and acquaintances, fill the table with foodie go-to’s and less foodie standards, making sure each appetite is satisfied. I am a terrific hostess. Why? Because I can stay busy. Too often, I am sad to say, I may have offended guests because I didn’t talk to them beyond a bit of chit chat, greeting, and then mostly ‘can I get you another?’ To stay busy cleaning, serving, replenishing, greeting at a party, say for even 100, is a splendid way to be the active introvert. Parties always end. Clean up always quiet. My favorite time: pour a big glass of wine, put on favorite tunes, and gather glasses and pick up plates. Yes!
My all-time favorite vacation was the one where I kept the promise that I make every time I travel. Read the stack of books I make the effort to tug along. Fill the journal I bring. Write poems. Too often, the time off and time away can be run over with this museum or that historic site or this cafe. Fun yes. But this time, no. I lounged on a beach in Rocky Point Mexico for ten days. I read. I ate. I wrote. In the sun. In the shade. I was glued to my introversion and loving it. The girls were too young to drive. And the rental had cable. So they watched television or listened to music when they were not in the water. It was, after all is said and done, delightful.
Introverts, I have found, those who can’t put foot in both worlds, only their one, have a difficulty with even being friendly. Even ‘hello’ can be a struggle. Eye contact impossible. I work at a library and introverts abound. I learned quickly that no, I had not taken a job with what could be the world’s most unfriendly staff, just a wonderful group of introverts. Adults who have found their comfort level, as Susan Cain tells us, in this world by averting eye contact, chit chat, friendly greetings.
I am, much to their annoyance I fear (introvert speaking), the friendly introvert. I do love a quick morning smile, a greeting. No need to delve into conversation or commentary, just a hello, Then, at the end of the day, a goodbye with a wish for a nice evening or safe travel. I am probably known among them all as over-the-top, flippant, goofy. You name it. But then again, I can pretty much count on the fact that they are so quiet, they don’t even talk about it.
My daughters are opposite in this, too. My youngest has to dig, literally, shovel and pick through her life to find moments of quiet. And even those usually involve voices from movies. She is quick to boredom when she has low activity time on her hands. My oldest surrounds herself with solitude, venturing out often, but with no excess, learning her comfort levels, and how to cater to them, even if they mean short visits at parties, or none. Bridget thrives on the like. Another party? More people? Another event? No sleep? I swear she finds vitamins in each next thing, energizing her still, for the next and the one after that.
I live both ways, I can walk both lines, and while I am often present at gatherings with a bit of trepidation, I can do them, and do them well. Then that quiet night at home, with just me and a tad of guilt hovering for the ‘regrets’ I sent, arrives. Guilt subsides. Ahhhhh. I easily for get the monthly gathering maybe I should have attended, or the quarterly breakfast that I love, but I don’t mind skipping. It’s like reading behind the chair to read all over.
Simply knowing that there is the market or cafe available, hearing the summer afternoon festival music across the neighborhood, seeing the announcement for this performance or that poetry reading, I relish that I live in such a wonderfully active town.
Just as much as I relish, absolutely relish, my own company and enjoying those things and their existence, from afar.
No Vacation for the Moon
Moonlight through icicles
feeling jailed it seems
she’s been full forever
a globe sulking in the pines
maybe some times
she doesn’t want to be
in the limelight, maybe stars
tease her, talk behind
her dark side, center stage
inclines her to bow, take
the applause, admire the lines
of adoring fans. She really
just wants to go home
sip woody wine by the fire
read Sexton or Walker
heavy words rich
with dialogue and rhymes
surely a cat would curl up
in a crater, purr, wonder
how she got down
how did she get so down
quiet is not always low,
ice melts, makes