I have to admit, I’m pretty darn bubbly. If you meet me in person, you’re likely to think I’m a people person who loves being around loads of my peeps. And on one level, that’s true. But I’m discovering something very interesting on my book tour for What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend. Although Monistat is footing the bill (bless you Monistat!), I intentionally chose to stay with friends along the way because I DO love people. And I figured my friends would be a grounding force for me as I navigate a process that makes me very spinny.
The down side of this brilliant plan is that I am never alone. When I wake up in the morning, my darling friends are officiously brewing me tea. When I arrive home at 11pm after a college talk, my friends want to talk until 2am because I’ve been so busy getting ready for this book tour that I’ve been a sucky friend --and they miss me. And I miss them. So we’re like kids at a slumber party -- without the Mommy forcing us to shut out the lights and go to bed. Even my normally solitary hikes have been with friends, rather than solo.
All day, I’m surrounded by people. I’m interviewed by journalists. I’m doing speaking engagements in front of crowds of people. I’m signing book after book after book. I’m on busy trains, in long lines at airports, and sitting in big restaurants where my knees are bumping up against the people next to me. Everywhere I go, I am in the company of others.
All this company, while wonderful, is getting to me a bit. Now keep in mind that I live in a really small town, where there are only maybe 100 houses in my neighborhood. I share my home with deer and coyote and raccoons and wild turkeys and maybe the occasional bobcat or mountain lion. I realize I left the big city for a reason.
I always considered myself an extrovert because I love people. In fact, spending two years as a full time artist/writer almost made me crazy. Until I did it, I never realized exactly what that means – that you are alone, in a studio or in front of a computer, that you might still be in your pajamas at 7pm unless you rally to put on exercise clothes and go for a walk. And that it's very easy for life to become all about YOU, rather than being about service. While there are some advantages to this life- and I'm totally not judging it for other people- I realized that it wasn’t completely authentic to who I am.
But is this life authentically me? Now I’m living this life surrounded by people where I’m the center of attention everywhere I go. And it’s making me a wee bit batty.
I always thought that an introvert was someone who didn’t like being around people and an extrovert was someone who did. I love people, so I always considered myself an extrovert, until someone asked me how I recharged. She told me that introverts recharge alone, while extroverts recharge in the company of others.
It got me thinking. Today, for the first time, I’ve spent four hours basically alone. Given, I’m sitting on a train with hundreds of people. But Lauren is four seats back, and Jayne is six seats forward and the seat next to me is empty. I have my iPod on, playing meditation music, and I’m sititng here writing, while the people around me are sleeping or listening to music or reading their books. So for all practical purposes, I am alone, for the first time in two weeks. And I feel rejuvenated!
Some go to workshops to recharge. Some attend church. Some join support groups or gather with girlfriends for happy hour or visit family. Not me. I go hiking -- not with a friend, but all by myself.
Big groups make me a little squirrely. I have a tendency to make a splash when I’m in a group. I haven’t quite learned how to fade into the woodwork, so I wind up being the center of attention, and that triggers all this weird shit in me and makes me shrink inward to deflect the attention. I’m learning how to handle that better, but the truth is, as much as I put myself out there in the world with my writing, I’m still kind of shy in real life. I like my solitude. The truth is that I recharge alone. Does that make me an introvert? I’m not sure. Maybe.
So I’m learning, on this book tour, to set boundaries, to kiss my friends goodnight earlier, to make time for ME, and to own what I need. Sure, my friends won’t like this very much. They want to be with me when I see them for the first time in a year. They want to stay up late, reminiscing and sharing stories and holding hands and laughing. And part of me wants that too. But I’m also learning to honor what I need. I’m learning to find my juice.
What about you? Do you love people? Do they deplete you? Do you recharge alone or in the company of others? What do you think defines an introvert vs. extrovert? Do tell….
Relishing my private time,
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