Thursday, March 05, 2009

Introverts, Extroverts, and Extraverts

I've been reading a book about mothering styles and how to use them and understand them in order to communicate better with your child (and others). The first step, of course, is to find out what mothering style you have naturally, and then go from there.

Much of what is in the book makes me simply mm hmm in agreement. But one idea has blown my mind - I feel like it opened up an entirely new idea of myself, one that I have to chew on.

The book explains the difference between introverts, extroverts, and extraverts. An extrovert is someone gregarious, outgoing and sociable. I have long considered myself to be an extrovert, and by this definition, the book changes nothing.

But it goes on.

The book tells me that the way to tell the difference between an introvert and an extravert (Myers-Briggs talk) is not how they spend their days, or how well they interact with others, or how social they are. The REAL way is to look at how people gain energy. At the end of a long day, do they seek people out (extravert) or do they retreat to calm and solitude (intravert)?

Oh my.

It's true that I am an extrovert, but I am not an extravert. I am an intravert.

This blows my mind.

If you know me, you're probably thinking I've got it all wrong. You might be thinking, "Come ON. You're one of the most loudmouth talkers I've ever met. You are totally social. You've always got people coming in and out of your house, and you're so....public about everything. NO WAY are you an introvert!"

Well, let me let you in on a secret.

I have to work really, really hard at being an extrovert. It does NOT come naturally, it's something I've cultured within myself, and worked on, pretty much every single day. It was a series of attributes that I admired, and so I worked to learn them, and to apply them to myself. I think that I have excelled in this learning. I am quite good at being an extrovert.

But the thing is, it completely exhausts me.

At the end of the day, I don't want to talk to ANYONE. I can't return phone calls, or email. I want to read books. I want to write in my journal. I don't want to say a word.

When I have a houseful of children, the chaos makes my head rattle. I love it, but at the end, I need to go somewhere warm and dark and quiet and not talk to anybody for a couple of hours.

And the older I get, the less I want to host so many big events. I love those times when we have another family over for dinner, or perhaps 2-4 people, to join us at the table. But I'm getting to a point where I only want to have the big groups at Christmas and Thanksgiving, not year round.

Is this a sign of getting old? Or am I just identifying my true self?

I have a lot of thinking to do on this, and I'm not settled into the idea at all, but my mind has opened immensely. I may be an introvert in extrovert's clothing. Well whaddayaknow.

(And even if I'm not a classic introvert, I will say that I used to think myself way off the end of the extravert continuum. I'm definitely closer to the middle than I'd once believed.)

This new idea opens up many other ideas for myself - about how to spend time, about how I schedule myself, and more.

Tessa is much like me. Yesterday, PEPS was over, and it was lovely noise and playing and talking. But when everyone left, Tessa and I curled up together on the couch and didn't talk at all. For an hour. And the only thing that made me get up was that dinner needed to be made. It wasn't that I was tired from activity - I hadn't done much - but just being with all those people made me tired. I do much better one on one.

(NOT complaining. And I'll do it again, and love it. I'm just reflecting on perceptions.)

I need to not book so much back to back. The joy of just snuggling on the couch with nothing to do was....bliss. The quiet was bliss. The going inside my own head was bliss.

I could use more bliss, and that's my whole point.

Lots to think about.

Monday, March 02, 2009

My bedtime story

Tessa read to me tonight, and I was just SHOCKED at how much she's been improving. We hadn't read together in a week or so (bad Mama!), and today she blew me away.

Poor Old Polly by June Meiser and Joy Cowley

Old Polly found a frog;
she swapped it for a dog.
The dog wouldn't bark; she swapped it
for a shark. The shark looked too savage;
she swapped it for a cabbage.
The cabbage was too big;
she swapped it for a pig.
The pig got too bony;
she swapped it for a pony.
The pony wouldn't trot;
she swapped it for a pot.
The pot wouldn't cook;
she swapped it for a book.
The book had no pictures;
She swapped it for some britches.
The britches were too loose;
she swapped them for a goose.
The goose gave her a bite...
and flew off, out of sight.
Poor old Polly!

This is the best bedtime story I've had in years. Tessa got all the words by herself, including "wouldn't," without my help. (She did need help with savage and britches - she sounded them out but didn't know what they meant.)

Tessa and I agree that Polly was a fool to trade in a pony, whether it would trot or not.

I'm so proud of my girl!

Butt glue

If you wish to be a writer, write. (Epictetus)

Easier said than done, in my small experience. It is so easy to dream of writing, to craft sentences in one's head, to look at a scene and decide what details to include and what details to omit as one drinks a coffee in a cafe.

Easy to scoff at the local paper's writing style, knowing deeply that if I wrote that article, it would be much better.

Easy to read the magazine article and think, "I could do that!"

Much, much harder to sit down with pen, paper, and laptop and put my own words on paper.

The problem is this: for about 20 years, I have identified myself as a writer. I have "known" that it is what I am meant to do. I have read, I have dreamed, and I have decided that it is my destiny to write, and maybe even to write something good. I have internalized the dialogue that says that this is a part of my identity, and I hold it near and dear to my heart. I play the part well, listening to podcasts on writing, reading articles on writing, checking out books on everything under the sun from the library, filling my home with books (every room).

And that means that I have an awful lot tied up into this idea, and that the risk of failure is high. If I write poorly, it doesn't mean that I just didn't write something well, it means that my dream disappears, it means that I don't know who I am, it means that I am a failure.

All because someone might read a paragraph and think "Whatever."

Since my last surgery, I feel that I have a new life - a post-Cancerland life - and I had vowed to myself to work on my writing, and to make it a priority. I was impossibly behind on the Hunts Point book, and it was time to get moving, and to put out or shut up. (What an awful expression.) I decided that the time was NOW. The life I've dreamed of, not the cancer life I suffered through. Now.

How terribly frightening. It made me feel small and insecure. VERY insecure.

My friend Lori writes (hi, Lori) and I asked her the secret to her success with writing. She answered without skipping a beat: Butt glue. Butt glue? Yes. You sit down in your designated writing area, and you don't get up until you're done (with the paragraph, the essay, the chapter....or the allotted time schedule). If you have nothing to say, you stare at your computer screen and think of what you might say. If you get out a word, or ten pages, you just stay there. Eventually, Lori told me, something will happen - you will write out of the desperation to get moving, or out of boredom, or if you're really lucky, out of some true inspiration. And once you start writing, the writing will feed more writing.

So this weekend, I applied butt glue and I sat down. I felt nauseaus, but I did it anyway.

I stared.

I opened up a couple of web sites to browse....and then I shut them down. I checked email, reminded myself not to, and closed Outlook. I pulled up a dreaded white page.

I wrote a paragraph and erased it maybe 25 times.

But finally, some words came. I found myself looking at my thesaurus (I still like my paper one even though I know it's all online). Cutting and pasting, backspacing and typing....

I settled on a draft ready to print, ready to share.

I didn't sleep very well last night for fear that when I shared it, I would be advised to become a plumber, not a writer.

This morning, I nervously drove across the bridge to present my work. I sat in front of my employer wearing my writer clothes: nice jeans, work appropriate heels, a black cashmere sweater, and an eggplant corduroy jacket. I felt like I was donning a costume (all that was missing were the leather elbow patches)....I felt like my boss might see right through me.

He read what I wrote. He got to the paragraph that I struggled with, and I watched him reading, pen in his hand, and I had to use butt glue to keep myself in the room.

And he loved it.

Oh, thank you for small miracles. I am so grateful that I got this response, because maybe I can use it for my next round of butt glue.

I'm a writer!

Today's Monday: writing day. Wish me well - because despite this morning's succcess, I already find myself in need of some butt glue.

PS I can't say "butt glue" in front of Tessa, because "butt" is on the list of words we don't say in our family. If she catches me saying it, I'll owe her a quarter. This is just between you and I - because she doesn't read my blog!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The way Sundays ought to be

This morning I woke up early, stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee, then went back to bed to continue reading my fabulous book ("Food Matters" by Mark Bittman). I read and drank coffee for some time before catching a glance at the clock, and then went back to the kitchen to make soup.

Today was the RE luncheon at church - a fundraiser for RE staffing. I made Shannon's recipe (which she got online at if you'd like to make it for yourself - I love it); she made it for our family when I was laid up from surgery, and my family liked it so much that this is the second time I made it since then. (We substitute milk for the whipped cream, FYI. And Tessa is a BIG fan of honey drizzled on top.) I'd baked the squash last night, so this morning I chopped apple, onion, and carrots, and then sent Tessa to Sarah & Steven's yard for a couple of fresh bay leaves since we were out. (Note to self: plant bay tree?)

Showered, soup packed up, we headed to church, and heard an interesting, thought provoking service about the problems of earth and humanity and what are individual responsibilities are to address those problems. (We also got a book recommendation: David Korten's "The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community" which I will be ordering from the library.) After services, the usual catching up with friends, and the soup lunch. (My family ate the soup we brought, which is silly, but we'd been smelling it all morning and all of us had developed a craving as a result.)

Then, the farmer's market, which is always lovely, but I have to moan and complain anyway.... I am READY FOR NEW FOOD. I have been doing a pretty decent job of preparing and eating seasonal local food, and I am sick of winter food. I don't want apples and beans and squash and root vegetables and kale, I want berries and tomatoes and lettuces. May or June, when the selection will be great again, is seeming very, very far away, but I'm trying to hold on....

On the menu this week:
- curried squash bisque
- stuffed acorn squash
- spaghetti with farmer's market ground beef (and the last tomatoes from our freezer)
- lentil soup with chicken
- curried chicken over rice (made with yogurt, new recipe that sounds yummy)
....and two more things because the week has 7 days but I haven't figured them out yet. And we will be eating spinach salad because we have a lot of spinach and my family likes it fresh, not cooked, most of the time. And lots and lots of carrots. And potatoes. And everything seems to have onions in it, or garlic.

(Disclaimer: we still eat a lot of bananas. Even organic, they are cheap, readily available, portable, delicious, and healthy. I'm sorry that they're not local, but we love them.)

And now I'm about to get in a couple more hours working on the book, Tessa is at Anna's for a playdate, and Ryan's at the coffee shop doing some reading and socializing. Tonight after dinner we've promised Tessa a game night ("Go Fish" is a new favorite).

I think that perhaps this is the ideal Sunday in many ways. Our needs are met, our home is warm, our friends are close by. How lucky we are, no matter what I moan about.