Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Innies and outies.

I never understood the whole introvert/extrovert thing until a few years ago when I heard it described in a way that totally made sense. It was in a article about parenting, of course, because almost everything important I've learned in my life has come from trying to be a good mom...

Anyway. Before the article it didn't make sense to me because I didn't seem to fit 100% into either category. At first glance I was definitely an introvert. I love alone time, suck at small talk and could likely go a day or two without talking and not even notice. But when I am around others? I love it. Not always, of course. But when I do, I really do. I plan dinners and play dates every week and we always have friends and neighbors around. How could I be an introvert if I loved being with people so much?

As I learned from my "Raising Your Introvert or Extrovert" article, it's because these terms don't have anything to do with what you enjoy but rather what gives you energy. Being an introvert doesn't mean you don't like to be around people, it simply means that the company of others is draining. Maybe even subconsciously. An introvert needs to refuel by spending time alone. And if you're an extrovert? Too much alone time wears you out. Extroverts draw energy from interaction.

This made so much sense to me I couldn't believe it. I wanted to tattoo it to my forehead. I'm an introvert! I like you but you're sucking my will to live! Bill was understandably less enthusiastic. (Oh, extroverts...) He couldn't understand why I was so excited to cling to a label. To stick myself in one box or the other. Why can't you just be who you are?

But that was exactly it. Understanding what it meant to be an introvert made me feel like I COULD be who I was. Only now I didn't have to feel bad about it.

Wanting to retreat from people you love (especially when they are extroverts who probably don't understand why you're not loving all the time together), is sort of an awful feeling. You assume there must be something wrong with you or the person you're pulling away from or the relationship, otherwise, why would you want to get away? Why wouldn't you be loving all the time together?

I wouldn't be surprised if undiagnosed introversion (ha!) has caused a lot of divorces. Because in the movies, when people find THE ONE, there's nothing at all that can keep them apart. As the screen fades to black, they are together. Because that's what true love looks like. Right?! True love doesn't take long baths alone to get a little peace and quiet. True love washes each other's hair in a field of wild flowers!

(Oh, Hollywood...)

True love is whatever it is for the two people involved. Every relationship is. So when one of the people in the relationship needs alone time to recharge, the other person can't take it personally. Of course, knowing this and trying to explain it are two completely different things. Even explaining it to myself doesn't come as easily as one might think.

I'm constantly trying to override my need for alone time. Because at this stage in my life, there is precious little of it. I'm almost always around my kids or my husband (two of which are extroverts) and while they definitely take longer to sap my energy than others (they're sort of like appendages at this point), I can't ignore the fact that WE ARE ALWAYS TOGETHER.

I regularly forget how important it is for me to recharge by myself. Instead of just sending myself to my room for a few hours every now and then, I wait until I'm so exhausted that I assume there must be something seriously wrong with me. Do I have a hormonal imbalance? An iron deficiency? Could it be...cancer?! Why else could I sleep for 12 hours and still spend most of the next day fighting off yawns?

This past weekend was one of those times. We took the kids to see a Sounds baseball game which, I have to say, is one of the most fun things you can do on a not-too-hot summer night in Nashville. Liam (my introvert) wrote SOUNDS on his chest like the guys he's seen at football games and spent most of the second half flashing his belly, running up and down the bleachers and just generally having the time of his life. He even ran the bases after the game. Twice! Barefoot!

Finn (my extrovert) spent a good chunk of the evening on my lap, asking if we could go home (so glad I read that article because introverts and extroverts can be very misleading!).

But he stuck it out all nine innings which was great because the fireworks after the game were honestly some of the best I have ever seen. And they were right on top of us! We were completely blown away.

It was a perfect night and I loved every minute of it.

But I guess I was being really quiet (and yawning a lot...) because Bill kept asking me what was wrong (one of my pet peeves). I promised him nothing was wrong (nothing was wrong!) but he could obviously see something that I couldn't. He finally decided my problem was I needed more gusto. You should jump out of bed in the morning, excited to start the day! 

I told him I am excited to start the day. At least, I think I am... But there's nothing like someone pointing out something that might be wrong to make you give yourself a once-over. Was I lacking gusto? I guess maybe I was. But why? I started trying to figure myself out, sorting through all the things I think and feel, hoping there would be a major red flag. Of course, I had completely forgotten about the whole introvert thing and about how, aside from the 40 minutes I steal now and then to fold laundry and watch Friday Night Lights (my new favorite show...I looove it!), I couldn't remember the last time I had really been alone.

Fortunately, the next morning after trying to explain why I might be so exhausted, I stumbled upon this cartoon about introverts and it was like the smack on the forehead I was looking for. I'm not exhausted, just completely out of juice! I need to recharge. Alone. Immediately!! I shared the comic with Bill and hoped that it would make more sense than me yawning and saying, "I don't know why I'm so tired...I do like hanging out with you...I have gusto...I promise!"

What about your family? Are you introverts? Extroverts? Or a little of both like us? How do you make sure the extroverts get filled up without completely draining the introverts? I would honestly love to hear from you - I find this subject fascinating (and striking a balance is so challenging for me!).


WordGirl said...

My favorite description of introverts versus extroverts is that extroverts are like solar panels, soaking up every ounce of energy they get when around other people. Introverts, on the other hand, are rechargeable batteries. They can leave home, be around other people and thoroughly enjoy that. But then they need to go home and get on the charger (by taking a long bath, reading a good book, etc.)

My youngest daughter is a full on extrovert. I can almost see her soaking up energy when we're with people she loves. (I've joked that she is covered head to toe in solar panels!) As an introvert, I love people, but they wear me out. The hardest parenting stage for me was when my children were young and needed me constantly. At the end of being touched and called and needed all day long, I was wiped out. Thankfully, they've grown into some pretty great young women and they fall along the introversion/extroversion spectrum: one introvert, one extrovert, one midtrovert (my daughter coined this term to describe her sister who needs time with people and time alone, in nearly equal measure).

Final thought on this long comment: have you read Quiet by Susan Cain? Totally affirming as an introvert and reminded me of one more reason I love homeschooling - while traditional school is set up for extroverts, homeschool doesn't have to be.

ae said...

People are always astonished to learn that I identify (and test as) an introvert. I love being around people, I'm very outgoing, but at the end of a party, or a conference or a group outing - I'm exhausted with every fiber of my being.

No Mommy Brain said...

Can't wait to check out Quiet - thanks for the rec!