26 October 2015

Out of My Shell - Confessions of an Extreme Introvert

I am an INTJ according to every Meyers Briggs test ever, and an EXTREME introvert on that scale.   I think I've always tended to be introverted.  My mother says my kindergarten wanted to hold me back because I wasn't social enough.  During college I picked out a perfect one bedroom house (I even toured the show house) I intended to be my spinster house.  And I was totally cool with that would-be life.

But now I'm married.  And I have five kids.  I am never really alone.  One side benefit that I hadn't really considered before starting is that I really don't have to interact with many people other than my own family every single day.  Pretty much all my contact with the outside world is really up to me.  No awkward conversations with other parents at pick up/drop off, no drama with teachers and administrative staff and PTA leaders, no having to watch asinine reality TV shows to keep up at the water cooler.  That part is pretty awesome.

But not all my kids are just like me.  In fact, most of them aren't.  Even the ones that tend to be more introverted still need to build relationships.  Introverts require truer, deeper friendships, especially since they generally only maintain one or two of them.

So I have to get out and meet people.  For the good of my children.  It sounds easier than it is.

I wasn't always this way.  Okay, if you take into account my kindergarten assessment, maybe I was.  But I never had a problem making friends or maintaining relationships in school.  I was in lots of clubs in high school and college.

Now, however, the idea of "hanging out" with a group makes me cringe.  I go to events and activities my husband gets involved in, or extracurricular activities for my kids, and I *think* I do a pretty good job of socializing.  I sometimes I even meet people I can have real conversations with.  You know, the kind of conversations about things that actually matter - topics that are considered taboo in most early relationships and group social settings.  Quite frankly, those are the only conversations I want to bother having.  It's actually draining and taxing to talk about things like the weather or current events or what's going on this weekend.

The hardest part of all is simply not ruining things for the rest of my family.  Take yesterday for example.  Last night we had a fundraiser dinner to attend in another town.  If was very family friendly, and all Catholics, so clearly these people are my 'in' crowd, even if I haven't met them yet.  But it's highly unlikely I'll see any of them again.  The number of meaningful conversations?  Zero.  Partly due to my not bothering to strike up a conversation with random people, but mostly because, well, we don't know each other and don't have much in common other than supporting the same organization.

Matt is different.  He's a little more extroverted (although Myers-Briggs always puts him right on the line, so at least he 'gets' me).  He's able to just...start a conversation.  And act like he really cares what the other person is saying.  I think maybe, just maybe, he actually does.  But that idea is so foreign to me, I can't even fathom what that feels like.  He also graciously pulls me into conversations, since I do feel awkward just sitting and not talking to anyone when clearly it's a 'mingling' sort of event.  He's smooth like that.  And then I remember everyone's names, because he certainly won't, no matter how much he enjoyed the conversation.

Anyway, at the climax of the event, when the kids are breakin' it down on the dance floor and Matt's deeply engrossed in a conversation, I get an immediate sense of urgency that it is time to GO.  Because kids all over a dance floor looks like uncontrollable kids to me, mainly.  However, I resisted the urge pull the plug, because I've learned it really spoils everyone else's fun.

It is in this way that it needs to be understood that an introvert in a crowd is a person making a BIG sacrifice for the ones they love.  I would have MUCH rather been at home reading a good book.

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