I was reading about Emily Dickinson and her personal life today, because she was a redhead, and she’ll be making an appearance in the book I’m writing about redheads. And as I was reading about her — specifically about how she was an “extreme introvert” who rarely left her father’s house and only corresponded with people through letters — I kept thinking, YEAH, that sounds awesome.
Because I spent the last week working from home, only having to interact with my cat and husband and leaving once a day to forage for food, and I feel so good. Recharged. Less tense. Happier. (Though, to be fair, I also didn’t have to wear pants or a bra, which is happiness in and of itself.)
Being an introvert is hard to explain to people who are not introverts. I like people. I don’t hate people at all. I’m not shy either, though people often mistake shyness for introversion. I just get physically drained from crowds, and from being around more than one or two other people at a time. Like, I can last an hour or two in a big group, but then I have to go home and sit quietly so my brain can function again. It sounds kind of insane as I type this, but I’ve noticed it’s a bit like a formula for me.
Me + Husband + Cat = A+
Me + BFF = A+
Me + Handful of Close Friends = A-
Me + Big Group of Close Friends = B-
Me + New Person I Barely Know = C-
Me + Several Random People I Don’t Know = F-, sad face emoticon, Whyyyyy
Like, tonight I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. I got the email invite and ignored it, as I do with a lot of social invites. I ignore because to think of it actually happening gives me a little anxiety. But then today I got the reminder saying, “THIS IS A REMINDER: PARTY TONIGHT,” and now all my thoughts have looked something like this:
- There’s a party tonight.
- A birthday party. Marking someone’s life. An important night. And I was invited.
- I should go. I’m their friend, and I’m going.
- ::: deep, heavy sigh :::
- I will know two people there. Maybe three. And if I get there early I’ll have to make small talk with people I don’t know.
- This is going to be a problem.
- Am I getting sick? I just coughed, so maybe I’m getting sick.
- No, I’m not sick. I’m just trying to come up with excuses to not go to this fucking party.
- I can psych myself up for this. I’ll stay home all day reading, and knitting, and watching TV, so I’ll be mentally ready.
- Just stop thinking about it. You’re going. It would be dickish to not go.
- …And I can just go for an hour. Maybe half an hour. They won’t know how long I stayed.
- Maybe I’ll just say I was there, and that I didn’t see them. Can I do that? I can’t… can I?
Again, I don’t actually hate people. I just don’t like surprises (very standard introvert quality), and I know there will be more people that I don’t know than I do at this party. Which means I’ll need to make small talk, and think of funny things to say, and try to be “on” the whole time. It just depletes me. And being depleted is OK, just a little exhausting too.
A year ago, I would’ve just tapped out of this party. Used one of my life-lines and said I had an eyelash emergency, or made up some other excuse.
But this year I’m trying to address being an introvert in a more proactive way. Mainly in that I’m trying hard to fight against my introvert impulses when I can, and be better to the people in my life who occasionally want to see me.
Do I secretly want to pull an Emily Dickinson, move into my father’s house, and live out my days in a room? Yes. But I’m not going to do that, because it wouldn’t turn me into a genius poet, and I’m pretty sure my cat and husband wouldn’t be into it either.
So I’m fighting back tonight and I’m going to this party. I know it’ll be fun in the end. I’ll be tired at the end of the night, but I’ll also have fun (even though my introvert anxiety tries to convince me it won’t be fun). But this is pretty much the cycle I go through on a regular basis, and I’m trying to make sure that this year I’m less prone to caving into it. (Bear with me though, and just know that I really do like you. A lot. Keep inviting me to things, and I’ll actually come this time. xo)