Category Archives: Introvert

The Secret Life of an Introvert – The Family

Home is different than being “in public.” You can be yourself. It is, or should be, a safe place. A place where you can act crazy and no one judges. No one criticizes. Yes, that’s the way it should be.

Most of the time Julia felt she could be herself at home. A little silly, she’d break out into song at the drop of a hat. Or at the mere mention of a word that reminded her of a song. And she liked to perform the song. Full on Barbra Streisand on Broadway. Funny Girl. Julia knew all the words. At times she even acted out the part, raising her arms to the sky as if she were playing to the upper tier at the Kennedy Center.

So when Julia’s mom, Carol, suggested she audition for the school play, Julia was taken by surprise. “Why are you always locked up in your room, alone? Turn off the TV,” she shouted through Julia’s door. “Do something! Join something at school!”

“I can’t.” Julia yelled back. “Leave me alone!”

Julia’s mom didn’t get it. Didn’t get her at all. She thought that since Julia sang at home, and even joked on occasion with a biting, sarcastic sense of humor, that this was the way she acted all the time. This was the farthest from the truth. At home, just with her mom, Julia was free to be herself. School was different. At school, she made her way from class to class, quiet, head down, never making eye contact, secretly envying those other girls, the ones smiling, giggling, practically skipping through the halls, chatting about their upcoming parties, their boyfriends. Why were they always so happy? Julia wondered why she wasn’t happy at school. Why she couldn’t talk to these people.

Julia tried. Many times. Sometimes at her mom’s insistence. Other times, well, she just tried for herself. Wanted to give it a shot. But the words weren’t there. She couldn’t think of anything to say to these people. Only at home would conversational words pop into her head. At school, Julia put in her time, did her homework, studied hard, got good grades, and when the bell rang, she got the hell out of that building and went home. To her room. In her room she felt comfortable, safe. No more pretending.

Even though Julia’s mom didn’t understand her daughter, for the most part, she let her be. She knew that forcing the issue wasn’t helping. She figured that Julia would grow out of whatever was bothering her. She’d come into her own personality. In her own time. She’d flourish, one day.

Holidays were especially difficult. When other family members came into the house, Julia wasn’t allowed to just hang out in her room. She needed to make an appearance, be social. Yea, right. Social. Mom didn’t know that this was killer for her. Mom didn’t realize that these people were the enemies. The cousins. Along with the aunts and uncles, the cousins, very close to Julia’s age, were forced to visit. First came the comparisons. Abby and Danny are in band. What are you participating in this year? Nothing, leave me alone.

Then the suggestions. Your mom says you have a great voice. You should try out for the school choir. Or the school play. Leave me alone.

Julia counts the minutes until they leave. She can’t wait to get back to her room. It’s no one’s business if she chooses to stay home or join groups. She bites her tongue wanting to say, I don’t tell Abby and Danny what to do.  She wants to tell them that she enjoys being home studying because she plans on going to college, perhaps to law school. She wants to tell them that while Abby and Danny are hanging out with friends, she is preparing for life. For the real world. She will be successful. Julia wants to stand up for herself and to tell everyone that she is shy. Introverted. That she prefers to be alone. She is happy by herself. Studying, reading, watching TV. But she can’t. She stays quiet. She tells herself that things will get better. Things have to get better. They have to.

What can introverts say to people to make them understand? Or should we bother?

 

 

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The Secret Life of an Introvert – The Phone Call

What’s the big deal? Jody makes phone calls all the time. She schedules doctor appointments. She argues with Comcast about why her rates have gone up. She even calls her husband, and her children. Why is this phone call different?

Her palms begin sweating. Her breathing becomes labored. She feels a little lightheaded. All of this drama just for a phone call to her sister-in-law. That’s nonsense, Jody decides. What’s the worst that can happen? She’ll ask about the kids? Maybe suggest getting together for dinner. That’s seems pretty straight forward. She’ll do it.

Of course Jody can’t just pick up the phone. She can’t just say, “Hi, how are you?” What would come next? She needs a follow-up to the opening line. Jody takes out her notebook. The one she keeps by her bedside to write down ideas she gets while trying to fall asleep. Those ideas that like to bounce around in her head, the ideas she will obsess about all night, if they are not written down.

Notes on the phone call: Hello. No, Hi! What if the other person doesn’t recognize her voice? What if Jody’s phone number isn’t in her sister-in-law’s contact list? She writes on her page: “Hi, this is Jody.” That’s good. That should work. Her sister-in-law would then say, “Hi! How are you?

Jody continues to take notes. She writes down answers to several questions that might be posed to her. She will say she is fine. The kids are fine. (Always say everything is fine. No one needs to know what hell you might be going through. That’s private.) Jody will ask about her brother-in-law, their kids. Then she will wish her good luck with whatever project she is working on. She did her job. She was nice. Just because they never called her shouldn’t make a difference. She would be proud of herself for making the effort.

Jody held on to this paper for days. Weeks, before making that phone call. The day finally came. She decided it was time to muster up her courage. To dial the damn number and get it over with. She would be proud of herself. She will not let her childhood memories of her mother telling her to hang up the phone and stop bothering an aunt affect her anymore. That’s the past. This is the present. She can do it.

After about two weeks, Jody, after finishing her lunch, sat down on the couch, in the quiet family room. No distractions. She knew her sister-in-law would be home. Her kids were out of the house. Now is as good a time as any. With trembling hands, she pressed her sister-in-law’s number. It rang. Once. Twice. She picked up. “Hello?”

Jody read the words she had written down. “Hi, this is Jody. How are you?”

Everyone responds with, fine, how are you? Not this woman. Instead she asks, “How can I help you?”

Um, I just wanted to say, hi. How are you?” Now Jody was shaking like a leaf. This wasn’t how this was supposed to go. The response she got was unbelievable.

“If you don’t have anything to say, I’m busy. Goodbye.” The sister-in-law hung up.

And that’s why some people don’t make phone calls. And that’s why some people really like texts. And emails. There’s not much worse than dead air on the other end of the line.

 

So when my daughter told me she didn’t really like talking on the phone, I could relate. I text. I email. But when she does call, it makes me very happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Life of an Introvert – The Dinner

The pain wasn’t unbearable. It was uncomfortable. The bloating. The heavy feeling she had in her abdomen. The numbness in her legs. Jessica was tired too. Always tired. She Googled. Of course she Googled. What did these symptoms indicate?

Oh my God. Everything she read indicated ovarian cancer. It couldn’t be. She always worried about cancer. This was one of the cancers that was hard to diagnose. Is this the cancer that killed Gilda Radner? Is this the cancer that Fran Drescher had? That Fran Drescher beat? She Googled that.

She didn’t know what was causing this extreme fatigue and pain, but she knew one thing. It needed to be diagnosed. She called her gyno and made an appointment. They didn’t have anything available for several months. That’s ok, Jess thought. She could wait. Ovarian cancer often takes a while to diagnose anyway. She has already saved months by being able to tell the doctor what to look for. She possibly had saved her own life.

She couldn’t sit around Googling anymore. She had to go out shopping. Looking for something to wear to her husband’s business dinner that she agreed to attend. The business dinner for which she had nothing appropriate to wear.

A suit? Would look like she was trying too hard. A dress? No. Not an option. Like Hillary, pants are more Jessica’s style. A sweater? Yes. But all her sweaters were too casual. Yes. That’s what she would shop for. A more tailored sweater to wear with black slacks. Perfect.

Success! She found the perfect sweater. The evening will be a success!

Getting dressed, the fatigue is overwhelming. The bloating, the pain and numbness in her legs were more than usual. She shouldn’t have put off that doctor’s appointment. If this is cancer, it could kill her. Then it wouldn’t have mattered what damn sweater she was wearing.

The night of the dinner arrived. Jess was good. She plastered on a killer smile. Accepted a glass of Chardonnay, her least favorite wine but that was all they offered. She engaged in small talk as if she were a politician working the room. No one would know that this is the last place she wanted to be. She succeeded. Dinner over, they left. Went home.

So wound up from the night out, Jess couldn’t go to bed for hours. Even after a four-course dinner, she needed to relax in front of the TV and polish off the leftover salad, wilting in the fridge since lunch the day before, and a few cookies.

By 2 a.m. she was ready for bed. Finally. She drifted off. The evening was over.

The next morning, Jess awoke refreshed and full of life. No more bloating. No more leg pain. No more fatigue. Damn. It wasn’t cancer at all. It was the dinner. On the back of her mind for weeks. Even though she didn’t realize it, her body did. Her body never let her forget for one second that something stressful was coming up. Something she didn’t like. Something she was not looking forward to. Yes. She is an introvert. Even when she doesn’t think about it, it’s always there.

I understand Jessica too well. While my kids will do anything to go out with friends, go to a party, I am most happy to stay home. Alone is not lonely.

 

The Secret Life of an Introvert

As Jennifer stood by the window, staring at her mailbox, she recalled the thousands of times she had been in this same position…Watching the kids being picked up by the yellow bus. Waiting for them to come home from school. From dates. From college. Waiting for their cars to pull up in the driveway when they returned home carting families of their own for visits. Watching them back out of the driveway, leaving again. Missing them already, although subconsciously happy to get the house back to herself, quiet.

How many times has she waited at the window for a husband to come home from work, from a business trip, or (an ex) from God knows where? Worrying that something might have gone wrong. The what-if’s…

Today’s staring out the window is different than the other “normal” events. Every parent waits and worries for the child to come home. However, for the introvert, the worrying goes beyond the normal. For Jennifer, just the act of picking up the mail from a mailbox at the street can bring on anxiety. Has the mail carrier delivered the mail already? If not, she would look pretty silly to the neighbors walking to the mailbox and retrieving nothing. And she knows they are all watching. If she sees the mail being dropped off, has the mail carrier driven far enough down the street so they won’t notice her walking to the mailbox? Perhaps wondering why she didn’t come out when the mail was delivered, just to say hi.

However, after she knows the mail has been delivered, she still needs to know it is safe to pick up the mail. This is the event she can’t tell anyone about. The fact that her pounding heart and sweaty palms, not to mention her lightheadedness, is caused by the sheer fact that she needs to make sure no one is outside. No one is getting their mail. No one is pulling into their driveway. No one is coming home or leaving for work. She needs to know that there won’t be any chance that she would have to confront someone. To have to wave. To say hi. What if they want to start a conversation? What would she say? How would she end it?

When Jennifer is sure it is safe to go out and get the mail, she does it quickly. Head down, like she was taught to walk through the busy streets of New York as a child. Never make eye contact. Do not be distracted in your mission.

It’s terrible how a killer is described by the neighbors during that god-awful TV interview after a tragedy happens. “He was quiet. Kept to himself.” Yes, that might describe this particular individual. But most of the time, the quiet neighbor is a wonderful person, just shy. An introvert. Perhaps a very loving, friendly, caring individual who is just nervous around strangers. Don’t judge others. You never know what another person goes through just to get their mail.

Who can relate to Jennifer? I know I can.