Monday, December 16, 2013

The I's Have It

It’s a blank page I’m staring at this morning.

My fingers roll lightly on the keyboard waiting impatiently for the typing command to begin. Which way to take it today? The domino story part deux? Maybe the Christmas collision between romantic tradition and strict fundamentalism? How about the late breaking confusion over whether or not to celebrate my healing scars with an outrageous self-inflicted scar called a tattoo?

Speak to me, blank pages.
I sit here alone with my techno-typewriter and let my heart breathe on cyber paper. Writing is lonely, but writers are usually loners, so it’s a good fit. I’m not famous for being a party animal. I know that’s a shock. Try to calm yourself.

I need people, but I also need time alone—a lot of it. Turns out I need large doses of solitude in safe surroundings. And, strangely enough, fifty-five years into life, I’ve only learned that about myself this year. It clears up a lot of confusion for me, though, let me tell you.
Did you know it’s not acceptable to be an introvert?
The word doesn’t even look nice on paper. Let’s break it down.  Intro—is that short for introduction or latin for belly button browser? And how about vert? What’s a vert? I can’t imagine anyone calling me a vert and wearing anything but a sneer on their face while they do it. Put ‘em both together and you’ve got yourself a problematic label.
“Aspire to be an extrovert!”  should be our American motto. Because some people think introverts have “I” problems.
Let’s be honest here.  Everyone wants to be known as an extrovert, not that other vert. That’s because everyone likes extroverts, and most of us want to be liked. Recently, author Susan Cain wrote a book entitled, “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking.” She describes The Extrovert Ideal as a widespread belief in Western society that we should all aspire to be the charismatic, outgoing, take-charge type—in other words, an extrovert.” (1)
I gotta read this book. For the first time ever, introverts, who make up nearly half the world’s population, have a cheerleader. Finally, it’s not only okay, it’s normal for people like me to prefer the company of one person at a time instead of sitting at a table with ten other people all talking at once.
When I’m the token introvert in a crowd like that, I shut up. It’s not that I’m either shy or stuck-up like some people think. It’s just that no one listens when I try to talk, and I already know what I think. What’s the point of saying anything if I’m the only one listening? That’s why groups of people are draining to me and, in the end, social events can be boring.

It’s not that they weren’t energetic. They just weren’t personal.
Maybe I should clarify right off the bat here that I have no titles attached to my name except for “Mrs.” I’m proud of that one and I earned every single letter of it with commitment and hard work and the partnership of an exceptional man. I don’t have a degree in anything. Okay, well, I did earn a blue belt in karate once, but that’s as far as I went because I really like the color blue. And it’s not a degree, anyway, it’s just blue.
So, most of what I’ve learned in life has come from self-imposed reading, the School of Hard Knocks, and a fascination for research. I thank God for the internet, which is faster and lighter than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Take my word for it—information at your fingertips is a ton better than driving to the library and carrying heavy books back and forth for hours.
Where was I?  Introverts.
So I googled introvert. Actually, I binged it. And Wikipedia, which is the source of all light, truth and opinion, blamed the tension between extro’s and intro’s on a nineteenth century Swiss psychiatrist named Carl Jung. I repeat—nineteenth century.

Now come on. How much could he possibly know without the wisdom of the internet? Jung defined introversion as a subjective attitude which focuses on one’s self. An extrovert, on the other hand, concentrates on the outside world.
This does not sound complimentary. Unless you’re an extrovert.
I know none of us are truly one type of personality with only one kind of character trait. We’re a combination of many factors. For example, are you a firstborn, a middle child, or the baby? Were you raised in the South or the North? What kinds of trauma have you lived through?  And once you’ve narrowed all that down and educated yourself on what they might mean, then somebody will hand you at least fifteen more personality tests which will analyze everything from your study habits to where you should serve in the local church.
It’s amazing we ever figure out anything concise about ourselves.
Still, at the end of all the psycho-babble, it seems to this under-educated Mrs., that every one of us will eventually wind up on either Team Extrovert or Team Introvert with all the fans in the exuberant stadium cheering for the home team while the other half of the crowd scatters in the parking lot.

Maybe we loners need our own slogan. Something like, “Introverts Unite!”
Right. I forgot who I was dealing with.
So, that brings me back to this not-so-blank piece of cyber paper. When I write, I have the floor. I have the talking stick. I have the microphone. And I am seldom interrupted, except by the phone or my menopausal bladder.
In a world that won’t stop talking, I have a chance to be heard when I write. There are no competing voices when I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. At last I can finish a sentence and even edit out the things I didn’t mean to say. It’s cathartic, my daughter commented today. It’s an emotional outlet, my cousin told me yesterday. It’s healing, my counselor friend said.
Hey! Look at that!
Somebody is listening. 


  1. I recently saw a cartoon that explained introversion and extroversion betyer in 6 square frames than any psych class I ever took. It was written on behalf of Introverts, and as such was a smidge biased if you read the whole thing, but one overviewing sentence stated the following general difference between the two. Extroverts gather their energy from being around other people and Introverts gather their energy from being alone. Simple, yet profound.