Being an introvert

My mother, sister and brother are very extroverted people. Centre-stage extroverts. "Lookit Me!" extroverts. I grew up with them, always being out-loud, bigger than life, talking to every single person they ran across, because some how it was important to speak to everyone on earth. What about? Nothing. Not a Damned Thing! But they had to talk. If they didn't get into an honest to goodness conversation with every single clerk, cashier, delivery person, postal worker, mail carrier and that guy behind the counter at the gas station, then they would be off, all day. Something would be wrong, as though they were ill, or uncomfortable. It's hard to explain, but it was an interesting study in people, to see it.

I, however, am the opposite. I get that from my Dad.

I used to be more gregarious than I am, currently. But I always had a propensity for shyness. My mother tried to shove it out of me, by throwing me into the deep end of social interaction, over and over. Like it's rub off or something. Some how, she thought that if she forced me into social situations, where I had to speak to people I didn't know, that I would blossom into this butterfly of extroversion, become the life of the party! Looooooove people!

Let me tell you, it didn't fucking happen. Shit doesn't work like that.

By doing that, forcing me into those situations, I crawled deeper into my shell. I sought the safety of silence, the protection of solitude. It was better that way, I wasn't scared all the time, wasn't sick to my stomach, was able to get through the day. That drove her absolutely crazy! She needed to be out there, in the world, and yet, here I was, completely content not to speak aloud for days on end, other than to say, "Excuse me," or "please and thank you". I never needed constant conversation like she does. Never felt a lack, without a constant stream of noise coming out of my mouth.

As I got older, I learned what I could, and couldn't, handle. I don't have too much trouble working with people. I can even train them, set schedules and all that stuff. I can't cold call people. At one job I had, that was expected, we had to cold call our customers (they had "signed up for sales information") whenever we had a big sale coming up. I just could not do it! I could dial the number, say, "Hi, this is Em from That Store," and that's as far as I got. I spoke to my manager and explained, and luckily she was sympathetic. She always had a different rep call my customers for me, a gent who loved doing that sort of thing. In exchange I promised I'd do the complete "set-sell" for the floor, something I loved and he hated. [A Set-Sell Plan, is at it's most basic, the floor layout. You might have to change things up for sales, or seasonal changes, or to add in new merchandise. We had a set-sell change about once a month, and I always loved doing that. Hanging the new adverts, the whole thing. Gave me an excuse not to talk to anyone, too, I will admit.]

My ex is pretty much a "people person", too; we got into countless fights because I had no desire whatsoever to go to this or that thing. His unit liked to have dinners, or "wife get-togethers" every other week. Literally.

I couldn't take it, going to those things. Everyone was too loud, too abrasive, so intrusive! Good god, I don't want to see your kid's photos! I'm sure they're fucking adorable, but shit, I don't care! I don't want to know about this one, or that one's teething trouble. I don't give a fuck if you went back to Weight Watchers! No, I'm not an anorexic, yes, I fucking eat! Leave me the fuck alone, I don't want to have to use little words so I don't confuse you, you moron! I fucking hate all of you people! Small minded, pathetic, narrow-thinking gits!

Yeah, they were bad. Military service members and their families tend to be Republicans, conservative, very very conservative in a "you better agree with us, or you're anti-military and we'll make sure you suffer every day for the rest of your life" way; those people were fucking scary. So I was the lone centrist amongst them. That made me just shy of communist, as far as they were concerned. Those "team building" dinners were hell, so I avoided them as often as I could. I would beg off, and finally told him that if I had to spend one more moment with those Neanderthals and their fat, stupid wives I'd tell them exactly what I thought of them:

"I'll tell them every single thing. How moronic they are, how abrasive, and how I hope they all die in a fire! They are beyond help, beyond intelligence. There is more to life than beer and fucking NASCAR! Being proud of being a redneck isn't something anyone to aspire to! The south lost, and for fuck's sake, will not rise again! They aren't anything special, just because they're in the Army, or so-and-so's wife. That means less than shit outside, and frankly less than shit inside. They are nothing, I tell you! Nothing! Being a soldier is so fucking easy that people who are mentally disabled can do it! Being their wife means they're breeding stupidity and lunacy! They're not fucking special!"

I remember his "You wouldn't dare!" To which I replied, "Try me, motherfucker. Try me."

He honestly could not understand why it was so bad for me, so hard, so against my norm, to go to those things. He couldn't wrap his head around it. I tried over and over again, to explain, but I've found in my experience with extroverted people they honestly can't understand. There is something in their heads that makes it impossible for them to know what it's like to feel suffocated by people.

I've tried explaining it to other people in my life who are extroverts, too. They just don't get it.

My Beloved is more extroverted than I am. Given that he's prone to being a hermit, too, that's not saying much. But he really is. He thinks he's more introverted than he really is. He loves hanging out with friends, and tells a good story. He talks to everyone...I mean everyone! He does understand my reluctance isn't because I think I'm better than anyone else, but because of how difficult it really is for me to socialise.

Being introverted means I prefer my own company, or the company of a couple dear people. This doesn't mean I hate everyone (although I do admit, I'm misanthropic enough that I do despise a lot of people). It doesn't mean I can't carry on a conversation, or that we all sit together in utter silence. It means that I don't want the entire fucking room looking at me all the time!

I'd be perfectly content not to speak for days on end, and some times, not to hear anyone speak either. Of course, telling that to my kids is murder, but you get the idea. I wouldn't mind not seeing anyone outside my house for months at a time, if I could get groceries delivered for a decent price. I don't need the public. I don't need to be out in it, about in it, or anything like that. If I need to talk, I can speak to my husband, or IM my closest friends. I can call my Dad or Auntie, or whatever. I don't need to go out.

I don't like being the centre of attention. Even if I'm teaching, I prefer to lead from the group, keep it more informal, more organic. Then I don't feel like I'm on stage.

This isn't to say I can't meet people, or make friends. It means you can't expect me to go to a bar, and walk out knowing everyone. I work best in small groups, people I know, mixed in with a couple I don't, no pressure, more causal, more relaxed. I can do that.

I spent Friday night with a lady my Love works with. She and I didn't know each other, we'd met twice before, so we were pretty nervous, but you know, we hit it off! I had an absolutely wonderful time, even bought a new pair of heels while we were out and about. I had a little J├Ągermeister-- OK, we had a lot of it, but yum!-- we laughed, we talked, snickered, and generally had fun. I expect to see her more often, and look forward to it. My Love was our DD, so we were completely safe.

Being out, in a group of people I don't know, say a work dinner or bar, or what have you is hard for me. Let me try to explain what it feels like. [Imagine going out with one person you know, and 50 people you don't, that's how it feels, even if I'm meeting a dozen of my Love's co-workers for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings-- and I know and like most of them!]

I get cold all over, and feel like there's a fucking spotlight over my head, following me around. Neon signs, and shit! Then, shake hands, "hi, how've you been?' and we sit. If I don't know anyone, or just one or two people, this part is pretty hard. Trying to remember everyone's name, how they're related, or together, look them in the eyes and smile. I hate looking people in the eyes unless I know them. It feels so intimate, so personal, and I don't like that wide-eyed look people give me, trying to maintain eye contact. That whole "look them in the eye" thing isn't polite, to me, it's invasive.

Anyway, not staring in your eyes doesn't mean I'm not interested, it means I'm trying not to look straight through to your inner spirit. I can do that, it's part and parcel to being an empath, and if I don't know you, that's rude as hell.

Everyone talking and conversing and having a good time is fine. But it also starts to grate on me. My need for quiet, silence, or quieter conversations clashes with public talking. I'm not telling anyone not to talk, though, I"m trying to explain what it's like for me. So, everyone feels so loud, and bright, like a thousand lights are shining down on us, illuminating everything in stark relief.

So, I talk, and smile, and if I don't have anything to say, I nod a lot, to let you know I hear you. Often talking is hard for me, as I have this knot in my throat. It's like trying to talk with concrete in my throat. But I try to ask the questions: what do you do, where are you from, what do you think about this or that. The questions I'm OK answering myself. I don't want to be intrusive. Maybe we can hit it off because of a common interest like Gaming, or Warhammer 40k or reading! If so, then the rest of the evening goes much more smoothly.

If not, then I'll stay as long as I have to, as long as it is necessary not to be rude. Then I"ll make my excuses and gracefully depart. "Have a good night! It was good to see/meet you. Be safe" all those platitudes that we mean, truly, but always come across by rote. Then I slip out the door, and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Thank the Mother Goddess that's over! Fuck!

I'm always emotionally and physically worn out after such a thing. My brain hurts from trying to keep up with conversation. The more banal, the worse it is for me. My head usually hurts from the noise, and I'm exhausted from the stimulus. I then go home and sleep, rest and thank my stars that I don't have to do that very often.

If I know everyone and am comfortable I still feel exhausted afterwards. It's not as physically painful, but it does take a lot out of me. Introversion doesn't mean that I can't socialise, it means I have to be selective and that it's not as easy for me, physically, as it is for someone who loves that kind of thing. So I'll need some rest and recuperating time.

Now, I do love entertaining at my house. I love to cook and enjoy good food and conversation with people. That is always fun! It's also not as difficult for me, because I'm home, and home is safe, quieter and more gentle on my senses. Friends' homes are the same way, they're safe, comfortable.

Believe me when I say it's not you. It's me. It's something I am trying so hard to get past, or control better, and I am trying to be sociable, and polite and all that I can be to be a good friend. I'm trying to get past my nearly crippling phobia of being out in front of people, so that I can more comfortably go out for large dinners and such.

I'll never be a social butterfly; never get past the need for quiet and contemplation. I'll never nourish my spirit on noise and dancing, and all those things. I'm just not put together that way.

I do promise though, that I'll keep trying to work through this, and get a better handle on myself. I don't want to ever come across as rude, or snobby or cruel or nasty. I'm a good person, who genuinely likes more people I've met. Most of them. I like to discuss things and learn new stuff. I like to listen to people with whom I disagree, because I know they might be right, and I owe it to them, and myself, to really hear what they have to say, and be open to changing my mind.

I value my friends, and enjoy the time I can spend with them.
Sometimes, though, I just need a break. It's not you.
It's all caused by me.


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