Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Introvert's Conundrum

For the longest time, I wasn’t sure where I fell on the extrovert/introvert scale.  In fact, I once took the Myers Briggs test and landed pretty much on the fence in the E/I section, so even that attempt to figure it out didn’t help.  I can’t recall the exact questions on that test, but I can tell you this:  I have good social skills; I am (I believe) an entertaining and thoughtful conversationalist; and I like people.  I also can tell you this:  I enjoy my own company and don’t need constant socializing. 

Fortunately, I have a friend who is an expert in communications and conflict resolution, so her knowledge of personality types goes way beyond the Myers Briggs testing language.  Several years ago, when I shared my E/I dilemma with her, she responded with a question.  “Where do you get your energy?” she asked.  “From being alone or from being with other people?”

“Oh my God!” I replied quickly (no thought required), “From being alone!”

And thus, I was deemed an introvert.

And that totally works for me.

In fact, once I’d learned the formula, I also came to acknowledge that when I make social plans, I need to remember what could drain my energy.  I need to space apart my social plans and avoid over-committing.  If I line up too many get-togethers, I will rebel.  I will end up cancelling some of them and/or I will be cranky company at a time when I’d be better off alone.

I’m glad I know this about myself.  I’m glad I’m not socializing for socializing’s sake, thinking that if I don’t, there’s something wrong with me.

That goes for dating and relationships, too.  There really is nothing worse than “feeling that you must.”

…A dear friend came over recently, and we noshed on the types of Trader Joe’s foods you only buy if someone will share them with you.  As we caught up, she shared with me the story of several of her friends whom she’d grouped together as “Bad Boyfriend Recidivists.”  When she’d told me about their current situations, I was struck by how absurdly they were involved in their respective dating/relationship games.  They were actively participating in some shit that was riddled (I mean, riddled!) with red flags.


I can’t answer that for the women in question, but the conversation led me to share two thoughts with my friend.

First, I’m glad I was once married.  Sure, it didn’t take, but it happened, so I have that behind me, and maybe that history prevents some desperation I might otherwise feel. 

Second, I’m glad I am okay being alone.

I then shared with my friend a line from the poet May Sarton.  I should tell you that I only know of this line because I heard it on NPR.  (I’ve never really taken to poetry, and I’d not previously heard of May Sarton.) 

Regardless, the line is this:  “Loneliness is the poverty of the self; solitude is the richness of self.”

(At least, that’s the wording I found just now through a quick Google search.)

So, I guess I’ve got a rich self.  Because for all the time I spend alone, I do not feel lonely.

Still, though, there’s the conundrum.  While I am quite comfortable being alone, I know that the company of another introvert would give me a joy I can’t get on my own.

I have to remind myself of the good times I’ve had sharing occasional space with a man who appreciates his own solitude.  A man who craves quiet but also has good social skills.  Who is an entertaining and thoughtful conversationalist.  Who likes people.

… Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to read like a profile on match dot com, but if you know of anyone in the L.A. area… 

Never mind.  He probably would rather be alone.


sonia said...

I'm also an introvert. I have good social skills and enjoy being around others but at the end of the day I need many hours to myself in order to "recharge" and feel energized again. Once one realizes this life is so much easier!

Sioux said...

Katie--I am an introvert, too, and if I took the test, I would probably fall close to the fence as well. I'm quite happy to spend time alone--I am charming and witty, after all ;)--but I enjoy the company of a few close friends.

The ending of this post is perfect (and funny, to boot).

shelly said...

Oh I love this. I, too, am an introvert, but work with the public 4 days a week cutting and styling hair. But when I'm home, I'm home. People drain me, even if I'm only going to the grocery store.

I don't need to be entertained constantly by others. Although, I love the characters I create in my stories.

Hugs and chocolate,

Michael Offutt, Kaiju Smack Down Artist said...

"Loneliness is the poverty of the self; solitude is the richness of self"--thank you so much for this quote!

I love it, and I'm stealing it and making it my mantra as I live alone.

Kristy @Loveandblasphemy said...

Yes, as I learn more about myself as I get older, I definitely identify with the introvert characteristics! Even though many probably think I am an extrovert.

Hey, good to "see you" around! I'm back blogging - used to be Pampers and Pinot.

Nadine_Feldman said...

I've been in relationships with both introverts and extroverts (I'm an "innie," and a pretty extreme one at that). One was as introverted as I am, and life was a bit boring with the sameness. I married an extrovert, and it was exhausting. My current husband is sort of in the middle, and that works really well.

I feel like I'm telling a fairy tale..."This one was too quiet. This one was too loud. This one was juuussst right!"

Anonymous said...

Love the poetry quote Katie. I am happy to be an introvert which is not the same as being shy, (as I think I pointed out in a post a while ago)It annoys me when people confuse the two. I too gain most strength from being alone yet, being married, I gain strength from just 'being' with my partner. These solitary days when the family are at work and I am stuck at home, not allowed to drive, supposed to be resting,I am reveling in having the house to myself and giving my brain free reign but it is nice when husband and the son who has only recently come back to stay after 4 years at university, return at night. Sadly, I know no one in L.A. but if he is there, you will meet him :-)

Deb Shucka said...

I've been missing your messages, so was really glad to find this post, even if it is a month old. I'm the same kind of introvert you are. I heard it referred to once as introverted with extrovert tendencies. Loved the comments about May Sarton. As alway I love your writing, and hope you're busy creating more stories for us to read while you're not blogging.