I’m an introvert. Ever since my toddler days, I’ve experienced individuals who tend to make introverts feel as if they are weird, wrong, or incapable. My preschool teacher used to address her concern to my mother that I would sit contently in the corner and work puzzles rather than interact with other kids—the horror! Even today, at age 47, still enjoying puzzles, if I explain to somebody why crowds exhaust me and I prefer solitude to a gaggle, or a few close friends to a drove, I hear the same phrase, “Keep working on it, you’ll get there.” My reaction is often silent, yet in my head I ask, “Get where? I’m already here.” There is such a misconception about introversion, even more so today in this extremely extroverted culture. Introversion is not a social anxiety or disease that one needs to get over or improve. It’s a personality trait. Introverts and Extroverts perceive, address, and pursue things differently. We may have the same goals or desires; we just speak different languages. To confuse things, some linger in the middle between introvert and extrovert. If you don’t know for sure, it’s worth figuring out. Daily life could be so much easier with a little understanding.
In terms of Christianity and the modern church, there is even black and white disparity for how we are expected to love and have community with others. There is a reason why there are so many spiritual gifts tests available. Heed them! Because God didn’t wire us the same way, so we shouldn’t be expected to operate in the polar opposites capacity if we weren’t naturally equipped to function in that manner. I do believe there are times when God asks us to go beyond our natural realm. He gives us what we need when we need it to fulfill that particular commission. But I feel an ultimate purpose for our lives is to see clearly by walking in truth, grow in how He’s gifted us, reach out to others in our specified manner according to our divine gifts and/or skill sets. Extroverts, to my understanding, are good at verbally reaching out by lively conversation and engaging with others, while introverts might discreetly send a card, email, or touching song link to the individual on his/her mind.
God most often calls me to deep waters to pray and intercede, meditate, worship, and write. Another person might thrive leading a room full of energetic children or hosting an event. I wouldn’t expect to stick a people-person in a place of solitude for a great length of time and watch them flourish. They’d get through the situation, perhaps, but it would be somewhat of an affliction. I’ve learned this through my son who, though we are very close, is my polar opposite. He’s as much an extrovert as I am an introvert (an INFJ, to be specific) and I’ve learned a lot by watching him grow. So…the same goes for an introvert when asked to do something out of an ordinary characteristic for them, which I’ve also had more of than a healthy share.
There is beauty in the diversity of gifts, which seem to conjoin personality traits. We are various parts of a body meant to work together as one. Introversion is not a disease, it is not fatal, it’s a part of the body, and it has its specific, healthy place in life and in God’s kingdom.
Romans 12: 4-8
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
While working on my current novel today, the plot took an unexpected turn. Here, I thought I was in control. Yet when my fingers typed and the change suddenly occurred, I shouted, “Why did I do that?” Now I have to reconfigure the outcome. More details to sort through and write. I had presumed I was home free and nearing the finish line. Stories sometimes have minds of their own.
Wouldn’t it be neat whenever we sense a need for renovation to do a flip? I’m not speaking in terms of real estate. Sometimes I think I’d like to trade any bad, static experiences in life for good, seeking a fresh perspective. A few words sweep into my mind for how to get there. “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2) and, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” (Romans 8:28). The motivation of flipping negatives for positives rather than flipping out holds a more promising outcome, for sure. On the other hand, the ability to appreciate the good things is oft times amplified by having encountered the bad. Yin and yang, as many would say. #iamonlyhuman
Ahead of me in a store’s checkout line, a conversational clerk asked two young women, sisters perhaps, “What do you do?”
One bubbly answered, “I’m an interior decorator.” While the other in contrast sardonically responded, “I’m a writer, it’s complicated.”
I chuckled under my breath. Because I am a writer, I know “it’s complicated” could mean a variety of things maybe even all of the following. 1) It’s difficult to make a living as a writer though it’s your number one passion, 2) carving out a niche sometimes seems impossible, 3) the world doesn’t take you seriously until you have enough titles or experience for proof (especially true if you work from home), 4) you relate to people better with written words rather than spoken and so keep outward responses uninviting and compact, and 5) you don’t just “do” writing you eat, sleep, and breathe it.
“What do you do?” is a loaded question for a writer, especially a novelist. The answer is equally loaded. Everything you experience in life is fodder to process for potential stories. There is no vacation from writing; it is not a 9 to 5 job. Even on vacation, you are thinking about the next stage of your plot. Not to mention, the oddity of the profession can creep in, threatening to expose the fact that you’re not always aware of speaking aloud dialogue in public places by make-believe characters from whom you never want to part. That’s messed up. And perfectly acceptable. The rest of the world may never understand.
Writers don’t just do. They are. So be.
Several times, recently, I’ve been asked: “Why not share some pictures of your son on Facebook?” While I had in the past and still might do so on an infrequent occasion, I simply don’t wish to share my daily life with the entire world. To be a “friend” on social media means that we could have some things in common, might follow each other due to career paths, special interest groups, etc. But truth be told, a small percentage are people I truly know, are related to, or trust with my most precious treasure, my family.
I love this life, the diverse concepts, and the interesting people in it. It’s fun to connect! We can learn a thing or two about and from each other. But I’m not going to splatter much news on the internet about my family, or when I or my son sneezes.
Here’s something that humorously puts it into perspective. A friend shared the following with me, so I’m sharing it with you in the rare case you haven’t already seen it. Things posted on social media have a way of circulating in ways of which you might not even be aware – so, be wary! I’ve discovered some of my own author profile pictures having been unknowingly copied and used for certain non-writing advertising sites in other countries. (Regarding our children, we should be especially vigilant). So here I am sharing this popular short passage for which I don’t even know whom to give proper credit. I thank the “nameless” author for proving my point.
MAKING FRIENDS OUTSIDE of FACEBOOK
I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. So every day, I go along the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before, and what I will do after; I give them pictures of my family, my dog and me gardening and spending time in my pool. I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them. AND IT WORKS! I already have 3 people following me: 2 police officers and a psychiatrist!
Whatever happened to the value of solitude, simplicity, of being still? Seems I’ve examined the lives of others around me for years and, shaking my head, quietly whispered words of gratitude that I hadn’t run around as frantically as they do. You know…work, more work, even more work, appointments, obligations, juggling family needs, kid diversions, school, cleaning, renovations, getting ahead, jumping from place to place, event to event, constant stimuli everywhere one turns; the rat race. I’d once vouched never to subject my child to an ever-streaming deluge of entertainment-based activities. Once in a while is all right, maybe even special. Boredom once did a child good, served a purpose, propelled creativity and stretched independent thinking. I don’t know what happened, but I’m suddenly THAT person, the one I’d once, in a small way, pitied, who has tipped away the beautiful scales of balance. I’m overwhelmed with busyness. Life has grown too chaotic. Downtime is complicated. First, it’s hard to achieve. Second, when you actually make it happen, a rare pencil mark on the calendar, that moment arrives and doesn’t seem to be enough. You’re thirsty for more. At the same time, guilt has a way of wiggling in there telling you that it’s not okay to relax – as long as there are other things to do, and there are ALWAYS other things to be done. How did this all happen? I don’t like being this busy, when I can’t stop for a second to watch a bird teeter on a twig. Because I enjoy that…watching birds teeter on twigs. Indeed, daily life has grown chaotic. Like the structure of those around me in what has become the normal standard of life. Can I still breathe? Maybe I should freeze for a second to find out. I’m not sure this kind of frenzied lifestyle is great or healthy, but this seems to be the way it has become. As if there is a subliminal message in our culture that busyness equates to importance. Can we be too busy for our own good? For me, that’s a definite yes. I begin my rebellion today. Just after I take care of this one thing first.
A love/hate relationship, that’s what I have with my smartphone. I love that I can access a library of books and music wherever I go. I love certain apps from the convenient GPS to a metronome. I even favor the alarm clock feature. And there’s a certain level of security with a smartphone. If you get stuck, virtually anything is one call or swipe away.
I hate that I've come to carry my smartphone from the downstairs to the upstairs, room to room. When I realized that leaving the device behind made me apprehensive I decided to go dark for a few days. Yes that’s right, I turned it off and shoved it aside. You know what happened? I plugged into my writing better, met a deadline faster, etc., without multilevel distractions. I had clarity of mind, focus, and the environment held peace. Later in the day I acted kinder, with more patience. And I slept well without the bombardment of texts that I've known to continue to 1 AM. I remember the day when it was considered inappropriate to makes calls or visits after 9 PM. Does text etiquette exist? I wouldn't know.
Maybe this course of action wasn't such a good idea in its entirety, because I did happen to miss a few impromptu engagements. But, I don’t know, it seemed some detachment was needed.
Hello again, world! I've come back to you, to the crazy, hectic, and always a tap-call-or-buzz away by the power of a button. It’s me and my smartphone again. Together we love/hate. Although, I've since come to believe that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder…and healthier…and maybe I shouldn't depend on a device so much, or be at communication’s beck and call without a little therapeutic solitude now and again.
Not only has the Internet augmented technological advancement, the Avenue of Progress well paved, it has completely transformed our social culture. In the latter, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad. On the one hand, a private person such as I can feel her space invaded at any given moment with a mere “click” from another. In order to manage and survive in this culture, especially as a writer, it’s difficult to turn off the Internet. I’ve come to depend on it in many ways for many things, and I feel disabled if I can’t gain access. On the other hand, it gives a taciturn introvert a voice. When I might stand silently and blink, weighing things out, holding my tongue, instead of conversing in the hardcopy version of life, online I can be quite outspoken. Gregarious, even. Sometimes I think this is good. Other times, I’m not so sure. I suppose, with everything, finding balance is the key.
A spirit of thankfulness came over me. “Thank you, God, for this fresh air!” Then I passed skunk road-kill that putrefied things a bit. Ah, such is life…it’s complicated. But that odor didn’t last long. Unpleasant things always pass. They always do. I waited it out, and sure enough I was embraced by fresh air once more. In that moment I could actually hear myself think—and all I wanted to do was thank God for that 5-minute vacation.
Prayers impart strength. Mini vacations, sanity.