Saturday, December 14, 2013

Embracing Introversion

I posted earlier this month on Facebook about the liberating realization that I am, in fact, an introvert.  I wanted to expound on that a little, because it has really, really made a difference in the way I see myself.

As a child and teenager, I was a great student, had a few good friends, and generally kept to myself.  I liked writing and reading.  I liked drawing.  I found that I liked singing and acting as well, and I did these things as often as I could, participating in school musicals and choosing chorus as my elective.  I was definitely counted among the “geeks”, as my best friends and I were far more likely to have a Star wars role-playing session than ever get invited to – or accept an invitation to – any party.  I never drank.  Ever.  Never wanted to.  Was never asked out on a date, which wasn’t surprising.  I was not particularly self-confident, nor was I considered popular or particularly pretty at the time (now, apparently geek girls are often treasured and coveted; I guess I was born a decade too early).  College wasn’t that different.  I still didn’t drink, but I did go to some parties with fellow music and theatre majors (frankly, it took quite a lot for me to build up to that point).  I slowly gained a little more confidence as I made my way through college, mostly via successful theatrical performances.
I had always assumed that, because I am comfortable directing, speaking, and performing before a crowd, that I was an introvert.  I’m fairly personable and have always been told by friends and employers that I’m “cheerful”, “energetic”, and “bubbly”.  I assumed that only extroverts possessed those traits and therefore, I certainly was one.  After college, several things changed in my life.  I got serious about my faith – and I lost a lot of weight.  The two together, I think, were a big boost to my self-esteem.  I began to understand that God loved me – really loved me – no matter what.  I also began to like the way I looked because I was taking care of my body.  Although I still dealt, sometimes, with body image issues (and, to be honest, they still creep up every now and then, years later), I was generally a happy person.  I led a Bible study.  I sang on the worship team.  I attended a young adults group at a local church.  I spent time with friends.  I began working with the children and youth in our church.  I liked it.


This past month, like probably thousands of others, I posted daily about things for which I was thankful.  Most days, I had no trouble at all.  I was thankful for a wonderful, loving husband; a great family; a supportive church; a good job; a working vehicle.  Some days, I became more introspective and thoughtful. At one point, I saw something on Pinterest that caught my eye, and decided that I would retake the Briggs-Meyer personality test I’d taken quite some time ago.  My result was INFP – The Dreamer.  (You sci-fi geeks may recognize INFP traits in characters like Luke Skywalker and Frodo Baggins.  The reluctant hero.  The moral one.  The goodie-goodie. The one plucked from a simple, secluded life and dragged into a world much bigger than himself.)  At once, I felt a rush of relief.
I’m an introvert. 

It turned my world upside-down, in the best possible way.

I used to beat myself up because I never really liked parties.  I thought there was something wrong with me because I generally tried to avoid social situations involving more than maybe four or five other people.  I preferred quiet evenings alone or with my husband to any kind of meet’n’greets or mixer events.  I get tongue-tied around people I greatly admire.  I express myself best through writing.  I generally prefer spending time with friends and family over meeting new people.  I thought I had a social anxiety disorder.  Or maybe a self-esteem problem.  But I don’t. 
I’m this way because I’m an introvert.

My “outgoing” hobbies of performance and public speaking are not limited to extroverts alone.  That would be like saying that extroverts are never good writers or never think philosophically.  I didn’t realize that at first.   I used to wonder what was wrong with me because I was great in front of a crowd, but hating being in a crowd.  I wondered if I was somehow less of a person because I needed more “recharge” time than others.
Nothing is wrong with me.  I’m an introvert.

It doesn’t mean I’m not sassy.  It doesn’t mean I’m not passionate and vocal about a lot of things.  It doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.  It doesn’t mean that I’m afraid of people, or that I hate them.  It also doesn’t mean that I hate myself.  I had a fairly high extrovert quotient, too, which I cannot deny.  But it was such a relief to realize that I’m not a failure as a human being.  Granted, having the “diagnosis” of introversion doesn’t allow me to shun social responsibilities.  I still have to do things I’m not terribly fond of.  I have to leave my house, when I’d rather finish reading a novel, curled up with my cats.  I have to talk to people sometimes, instead of, well…talking to my cats.
I don’t want it to sound as though I’m agoraphobic, or that I’m petrified to show my face in public, or that I hold other  people in disdain.  That’s not the case at all.  I love spending time with friends, and I do like people.  I just handle them best – and I’m at my best – in small doses. 

That revelation – and the acceptance of it - has made such a difference in the way I see myself.  Now, I’m not all about personality tests defining who we are.  We can make the mistake of applying the results to ourselves like labels with permanent adhesive, never allowing ourselves to move beyond a certain type or identity.  That’s not a good thing.  Personality-type tests should be a starting point, or for entertainment  – not a final verdict.  For me, it was a refreshing realization that there isn’t anything wrong with me. 
Although maybe I should hold off on collecting any more cats for the time being.
Or maybe just ask Santa for a self-cleaning litter box.  So I can get more cats.

Dear Santa...

I suppose, during a season which has sadly become a paean to commercialization, greediness and our general inability to appreciate what we have, it’s a good time to post my Christmas wish list. I admit, maybe it’s a teensy bit snarky.  But, the good news is, nothing costs a cent!  Will Santa deliver?  I’ll be listening for those tap-tapping reindeer hooves on my roof…
Dear Santa Claus,

I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked, but surely you can understand that I’ve been working full-time for years now, and volunteering and other things, so, well, my holidays have been busy.  I thought maybe I’d take it easy on you this year, seeing as how I’m getting back into this whole “wish list” thing.  Your elves can take their union break, because all I want is…

1.      For drivers to use their headlights when it’s dark out.  You, of all people, Santa, understand how incredibly important this is.  I’m sure you have annual inspections done on Rudolph’s nose just to make sure there are no loose wires.  You seem to take flying very seriously, and I’m certain that safety is vital to your success.   I’m hoping that those of us who don’t fly sleds can perhaps begin to follow your example.  And…while you’re at it, Santa, can you please make sure that all those expensive cars, the Jaguars and BMWs and Benzes…please, please make sure that they are being properly equipped with turn signals.  I never see them being used and I’m so afraid these people are spending all this money on these beautiful cars and getting cheated out of the most basic equipment.  It’s a crying shame.

2.      For new parents to stop naming their sons “Brayden”.  Seriously.  I work in a doctors’ office, Santa.  And like every third new baby boy coming in is named Brayden.  Or Braedan.  Or Bradeynn.  You get the idea.  Please, Santa, direct those moms-to-be some good old-fashioned baby name websites for Christmas?

3.      For my old professors to find great new jobs.  Jobs with dignity.  Since you see everything, Santa, you know that many of the administrators at Clarion University has been very, very naughty this year and retrenched a lot of my favorite professors and teachers, claiming that there weren’t enough funds to keep arts education alive.  I know you’d never do that to any of your elves – especially not the extra personable, talented ones who make you look really good.

4.      More of a “Peanuts” Christmas and less of a “Lady Gaga” Christmas.  You know what I’m saying, Santa.  More “we” and less “me” this year. And less nudity, I guess.  That would be cool.  Since even if people don't consider it a religious holiday, it's still supposed to be a family-friendly one, right?  I knew you'd understand.
 Thanks, Santa.  And sorry there won't be any cookies this year.  My oven broke last week.  Can I interest you in a bag of cheese curls and some Mountain Dew instead?  You're the best.
                                                                                                    Love, Becky

Friday, December 6, 2013

November Is the Awesomest Month

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, far more than writing.  Obviously.

I had signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo and finally hatched what I thought was a great idea, but some (good) life circumstances threw me off track in November and I didn’t get more than about 500 words written.  I’m keeping the idea in mind, though, for a future project.  It’s called “101 Ways to Disappoint Your Mother” and it’s borne, in part, of my experience losing my mother earlier this year – and no, it’s not quite as snarky as it sounds.  It in an exploration of (mostly) female relationships: mothers and daughters, sisters, friends – and how they define women. The story starts with an engagement in post-WWII Alabama, and moves on from there.  I have a great deal to flesh out before I even share a lot more about it, so we’ll leave things at that for now.  Let’s just say that it’s in no way a man-bashing book, nor is it a pair of rose-colored glasses strapped onto a vaguely sappy  memoir.  I’m not all about that!
My birthday was on November 15th.  Early this year, my step-mom shared with me that she was convinced it would be my best birthday ever.  After my mom passed away in February, and Ross struggled to find a better job (while I was still unemployed), that seemed hard to believe.  When Ross’s grandmother died in the summer, it seemed even harder to believe. 
But things started to change.  Actually – things really began to change once we completed the Great Race in September.  It was almost as though we’d accomplished both this huge physical and spiritual event.  Our bodies were aching but we were so incredibly proud that we’d done something that we never thought we could do.  I thought a lot about running as it’s mentioned in the Bible, too.  Paul frequently refers to the Christian life as a race.  It’s all about discipline and endurance.  (If you’re doing it right, anyway!)  Although I didn’t train properly for the Great Race, I had a wonderful first-time experience as a runner and want to continue (once my doctor gives me the okay).  Once we hit that milestone, life started looking up. 

Our Disney vacation soon followed, and I can hardly begin to explain how wonderful it was!  The experience definitely deserves its own post, which I’ll work on soon.  After that, my husband sent me to the Pat Benatar concert on my birthday with one of my best friends, Jaime.  We were pretty much the youngest people there, which I can only guess was quite soothing to Jaime’s “recently thirty” mentality.  Can I just tell you why I have so much respect for Pat Benatar?  First of all, even though her life hasn’t been ideal (she married and divorced quite young), she’s been married to the same man for nearly 30 years.  She has two adult daughters and a healthy relationship with them both.  She’s talented.  She never got into the drugs and alcohol pop star scene.   She’s more than a pair of legs and a voice.  I love that she’s always had a heavy hand in writing her own material.  Her songs are more about female empowerment than about female superiority, which I personally think is awesome.  And she still sounds incredible.  Unlike a lot of pop stars today, Pat Benatar was never really gimmicky.
She sounds great without auto-tuning. 
Ross would have gone with me, but he’d already committed to a men’s weekend (with my blessing) before starting his new job within the company.  He’s still dreaming of his ideal job, and I hardly blame him, but we’re both pleased that he’s now working in Career Services, helping graduates find jobs, rather than trying to remind former and current students that they do, in fact, owe the school money…even if they didn’t complete their schooling.  My poor hubby probably heard the phrase, “What?  I didn’t sign nothing!  I never signed anything!” a dozen times a week a t least.  That can be an incredibly frustrating job, even for a perpetually sunny guy like Ross.  So things are looking up there, too.
We’ve gotten some other pleasant news lately but we’re not ready to share those little details just yet. 

I’m thinking of getting together via the interwebs with my old roomie Megs, who is one of the funniest human being on the planet.  She has three kids, I have three cats.  We both believe in God, but practice our faith differently. Megan is a vegetarian.  I’m an everthing-I’m-not-allergic-to-a-tarian (which means I am, in fact, open-minded in regards to vegetarian cuisine.  To a degree.)  We went to college at Clarion.  We’re both pretty cheesed off at the school right now for the retrenchment debacle, which has decimated all three of our fields of study and basically made us look like fools for choosing such “useless” majors. (psychology, theatre and English).  Together, we’re kind of like generally-not-angry superhero comediennes.  Maybe we’ll start a blog: The Bec and Megs Comedy Minute.  It’ll just be flashes of our status updates.    Kids and cats are funny on their own.  Put them together and you get comedy gold.

We’ve also brought our outdoor stray into our home, too, which is what officially brought the above housecat total to three.  Freyja goes to the vet tomorrow.  We’ve kept her in her own room for the past week, to get the other cats acclimated to her and also to protect them in the event she’s got fleas or worms (we suspect neither, but you can’t be too careful.  This kitty has been a stray for at least a year, according to our neighbor, and cats, you know…just pick things up.)  She is a gorgeous girl, very gentle and sweet-natured, and she’s never once scratched or bit either of us since she started visiting us in August.  Slowly we worked up to picking her up and cuddling with her, which isn’t her favorite.  But she tolerates it without a lot of fuss.  She has a conversational and very insistent meow, and she is affectionate and likes the infrequent belly rub.  She learned how to sit on command (yes, really.  Loki does it, too.)  She takes treats directly out of my hand.  She has the most beautiful green eyes lined with white fur  and a gray pretty face; she looks kind of glamorous.  She used the litter box immediately, leading me to believe that maybe she’d once been a house cat.  Who would ever want to get rid of such a wonderful little girl?
Problem is, we think she might be preggers.

Leave it to us to have pity on the unexpectedly expectant cat in the neighborhood, right?  I guess we’ll learn tomorrow if Tubbs, the fully-equipped, ugly-faced stray male who sometimes lurks by our house, is gonna be a daddy.  If it’s not him, I’m utterly stumped, since I haven’t seen a single un-neutered male cat in our area other than him.  Not since we found little Thor shivering in the rain two springs ago.
It’s the Christmas season, but I don’t think the acknowledgement of the Virgin Birth extends to local felinity.