No, being an introvert is not cool.

Google “being an introvert is cool” and you will get approximately 502,000 hits.

Huffington Post, Near Science, Thought Catalog Weekly, Introverts for Dummies.

Have you seen all of the memes out there? Girl wrapped in blanket on couch with cat and book. Girl not answering her phone. Girl sneaking out of a party without saying goodbye.

It’s almost always a girl.

And she’s usually quite endearing.

And happy.

There are new articles, studies, personal essays and cartoons every single day celebrating the life of an introvert, making good-natured jokes about a person hoping that a party gets cancelled or eating alone in a restaurant.

I even saw on an Introvert Bingo board “Adorably Awkward.”

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The message is definitely YAY for wanting to be alone!

Many of my loved ones find me quirky, silly, eccentric.

But let’s just clear something up right now…

IT’S NOT FUCKING COOL TO HAVE PANIC ATTACKS BEFORE FRIENDS SHOW UP AT YOUR HOUSE.

Sure, I can embrace the lighter side of introversion – I do entertain myself well, I enjoy my own company, I love to read and definitely do not need external attention to feel complete or even good about myself. And yes, because I have relatively high self-esteem, I prefer being a loner than not.

But it can be so very very dark and scary and lonely and it’s not about a goddamn bingo board or hanging out with my cat.

Last night, MCB was at the neighbor’s and when he came home he said that they were coming over for burgers (which he was preparing so it wasn’t about me having to cook.) 2 close friends, super duper casual and easy and fun. They’d been pulling thistle all day and needed to be fed.

All in all a lovely invitation from MCB and had I had notice, I would have probably gotten excited.

But, since it was spur of the moment, I lost my shit. Seriously fell apart. I ended up on the bathroom floor pathetically unable to deal, sobbing.

I couldn’t decide which was worse: telling the friends to not come over and suffer the humiliation of being rude; having them come over and trying to fake my way through the evening while my heart was pounding in my chest and I was fighting back tears and therefore couldn’t be nice, and suffer the humiliation of being a bitch to two really kind people; or letting them come over and hiding in my room pretending to be sick and suffering the humiliation of them knowing that I am a complete basket case.

I had to leave the house and go for a drive. I went to the park where I often go to cry, saw a friend and totally unloaded all of my social anxiety onto his shoulders (bless his heart.) I drove around looking at wildlife wishing I was a fox.

Then, mortified, I called MCB to let him know that I was (slowly) recovering and that yes, they should come over and hopefully I was going to pull it together and be hospitable.

I did. I actually had a good time. Since M and M were here when I finally returned and deserved and explanation I offered up, “I had a breakdown” and left it at that.

What was I going to say,”I completely freaked out because I found out that you two were coming over”?

The dark side of “cool introversion” is about exhaustion and terror and despondency. It’s about crying on the bathroom floor because you just found out that people are unexpectedly coming to your house.

It means not going to the store when you desperately need something because you don’t want to see anyone and have to talk, so doing without things like…dinner.

It’s about not getting your oil changed when it’s WAY overdue even when a mechanic shop is on your property because you get gripped at the thought of having to ask for something even though the mechanic is a good friend and it’s his job.

It’s about not returning movies on time for fear of another person standing in front of the red box.

It’s about losing friends because you are unable to keep in contact since to do so would mean talking on the phone or worse – actually making time for a face to face.

It mean people not liking you because they think you’re stuck up or intimidating.

It’s about arguing with the “more the merrier” friend because she really doesn’t get that for you, more isn’t merrier and you feel so misunderstood and flawed because you’re not able to be with great people all at one time and you’re sick and tired of having to explain that to her.

It’s about feeling deep shame when your best friend does actually get it and asks if it’s okay to invite one more person to go to the movie with the two of you.

It’s about having to offend people when you  lay down the law about drop-ins and not making exceptions even for the closest of friends.

It’s about having to have time to wrap your head around shifting gears, changing plans and being in public. It’s about sometimes being utterly unable to to that.

I live on a working ranch, there is always activity here, there are always people around.

I lie in my bed silently praying that no one decides to knock on the door.

I get resentful that I can’t go collect chicken eggs without risking a conversation. Sometimes I blow off the chickens.

I spent the entirety of today alone, doing laundry, weeding, drying mint, petting my dog. I haven’t been on the phone. I haven’t left the house except to feed the chickens. I thought about watching a movie tonight, but it feels too stimulating.

So sure, there are some really good things about not being a social beast and I am super okay with going to the desert by myself and writing for three days without fear or boredom or FOMO. I am incredibly well-read and getting sent to my room as a kids was a gift, not a punishment.

But folks, let’s not make light of this. Let’s not pretend that it’s all about the cat and the couch.

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Area 51

Today is my birthday.

I am so not a birthday person – my kids probably feel short-changed in their minimalist childhood birthday celebrations but, what can you do?

Anyway, for the last week my family has been saying, “Oh, next Tuesday is your big day.”

My response?

“Why?”

Then this morning, MCB gave me a treasure trove of treats and I was actually caught off guard.

“Presents? Really? Huh.”

Bless his heart – he loves birthdays so much that I am probably a total killjoy.

Then I went to work.

Peter asked, “You’re working on your birthday?”

It never crossed my mind not to. What the hell else would I do?

Maybe I am a killjoy; especially for myself.

Then I tried something; someone came into the cafe who I’ve known for a long time and I know he wouldn’t snicker at my 51 years.

“Can I tell you a secret?

“Sure.”

“It’s my birthday.”

I never ever announce my birthday to anyone, but this is the new me (at least the me that I am trying on for size. The me that maybe doesn’t believe that other people should be avoided at all costs)

Then I told someone else. We talked about the 50’s being the best years of life.

I stopped telling people after that. I’d garnered enough attention for one day.

But I want to clarify, my lack of enthusiasm for this special day has nothing to do with the fact that I am aging. I am truly one of those people who doesn’t freak out about advancing in years (although there are times when I feel like I am older than everyone else in the room.)

I’ve stopped worrying about being cool. I’m saying “yes” to a lot more these days, because, why not. I’m not so concerned with offending people or having everyone like me or being in the “in” crowd, or whatever else.

Fifty brought a new nonchalant attitude. Fifty-one is expanding on the theme.

So, so far, 17 hours into it, 51 is totally working for me.

UTAH, the aftermath

I want to lie on the warm slickrock.

Yep, collapsed on the hard stone when I finally, finally, FINALLY, made it back to my campsite.

I want to escape emotional mini-drama

Didn’t manage that until I was out of cell range. Thank god for blank spots on the technological map.

I want to hike until I drop.

Did I really ask for that?

Or until my stubby-legged dog drops.

24 hours later and he’s still asleep.

I want to sleep in a pile of down.

Bliss.

I want to breathe.

Was thinking expansive breaths, not panting and anxiety-driven hyperventilating.

I want to not worry about money.

Who cares about money when you’re not sure you will ever return to civilization?

I want to not risk being misunderstood.

No worries about that when I didn’t see another soul.

I want to feel strong.

I did. For a long time. Before I felt weak, exhausted, and mildly embarrassed. I feel strong again now.

I want hot Emergen-C at sunset and hot coffee at sunrise.

The morning coffee was everything that I had hoped for – in my pile of down – with my stubby legged dog.

I want to stretch my legs, my mind, my spirit.

Oh I stretched it all, for sure: joy, wonder, bliss, befuddlement, confusion, anxiety, fear, worry, relief, joy, merriment.

Can’t get there fast enough.

Can’t wait to go again..

Couldn’t have said it better myself

So here’s the interesting thing…I know that I have some anxiety around some things; obvious, run of the mill things, over which I assume everyone has some anxiety: money, children, ex-husband’s abuse. And during some of those times, I’ve been known to need medication.

But I’ve never really considered myself to be someone “with anxiety,” at least never seriously considered it.

And then, I read this and it gets (the overly anxious) ball that is my brain, rolling.

While I felt each one, there were a few that stood out as, “I would have said the exact same thing,” and I think, “Hmmmm, interesting, maybe…”

3. “I’m not just blowing you off. It’s hard to make plans and just as hard to talk on the phone sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t desperately want to spend time and talk. I just can’t.” — Marie Abbott Belcher

7. “Even when things are wonderful, I’m always waiting for something horrible to happen.” — Lindsay Ballard

8. “When I’m being quiet, I’m not sad, bored, tired or whatever else they want to fill in the blank with. There’s just so much going on in my mind, sometimes I can’t keep up with what’s going on around me.” — Amanda Jade Briskar

17. “Don’t shut me out. My anxiety may stop me from doing certain things, but just being asked to join in can sometimes make my day.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy

18. “I analyze things constantly because of anxiety. I cannot turn my brain off and it can be exhausting.” — Cailea Hiller

21.I want to first apologize for the hundreds of times I’ve bailed on you. The hundreds of times I had to leave early and you had no clue. The hundreds of times I had to tell you no.” — Mary Kate Donahue

28. “Keep inviting me to group things even though I usually decline. Some days I feel stronger than others, so my answer might surprise you. Be patient.” — Kara Edkins

29. “Don’t take it personally when I don’t want to go out. My comfort zone is my home. It’s my safe place.” — Elizabeth Vasquez

30. “When I say I can’t take on even one more thing, I really need you to understand I really just can’t.” — Christine L Hauck

 

32. “Sometimes I just need to be alone. It’s not personal. I’m not mad. I don’t have some problem. I don’t need to just shake it off and do something fun. I just need to be alone so I can reset myself and breathe a little.” — Stacey Weber

33. “Every time I talk to you, I go over every word of the conversation many times in my head. If I said something I feel I like I shouldn’t have said, even if it’s as simple as incorrect grammar, I will obsess about it for years.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

Amen.

Roget

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I love him.

Backstory: I’ve been in a foul humor lately and trying to figure out some things in my life because I need some changes. Something bigger than the dead friend’s dog. Bigger than finding 8 eggs in the henhouse instead of 2, and bigger than sitting on my ass and not running for the last month.

I know, hard to beat.

So I started picking through all of the things in my life that make me feel bad about myself, of which there are many, and many of them can’t be changed overnight, if ever, and tried to come up with one thing I could do that might bring in a little light.

One particular area which offers many opportunities for self-flagellation is the fact that I am not using my god given gift of writing except to entertain myself every once in a while. I’ve completely fizzled out into the land of writers who have either been blocked or just plain given up.

First step, start some consistency in the journal.  Next step, pick up the pace with the blog. After that, start being regular with my 11-year-old column. Then, find some freelance work. Segue into pushing the comfort zone with submissions.

And yes, this is all feeling good.  It’s kind of the bright spot of my day when I can create a blog post or respond to an editing gig.

And then today, I came home sick, and I actually do feel like shit, but I’m also excited to be at home writing rather than at work doing data entry, which is what I was working on when my head started to hurt, and I sat down to write and I needed a word and instead of going to Dictionary.com, I actually ran upstairs and got my friend Roget, who has been sitting on the shelf, ignored, for over a year now.

And even after all of this time, he is still speaking to me.

And as I grabbed him off the shelf, “The Glamour of Grammar” called out to me in her compelling voice, so she came down to the kitchen with me too, and here the three of us sit, getting reacquainted, and I realize that, in this particular arena of change, by inviting my old friends to sit down at the table, I’m on my way back.

Dinner Out

Yep, I’m going out to dinner with friends.

2 hours away.

In another state.

Because I can.

Because I am trying on “spontaneous,” “adventuresome,” and “friend who actually makes some effort.”

A lot has happened in my relationship world as it pertains to friendships.

First, I lost one of my very best friends. The reason why will remain unspoken. It has been painful and lonely and caused me to question not only everything about her, but more importantly, everything about me.

Then, as often happens, falling in love and creating a family together takes up quite a bit of that time that, were I single, would be spent with friends.

I’m not a keep-in-toucher, I can feel deep love for someone, and not talk to them for months or even years and pick up right where we left off.

And, I’m a loner. I have a natural tendency to blow people off so that I can be alone.

All of which leads up to a conversation with my children about MCB’s friends that went something like this, “Oh, we really like Joe, he’s super cool, but Bob…freakshow.”

Pause, wheels turning, “Mom, you don’t really have any friends.”

“Yes I do.”

No I don’t.

I mean, obviously I am friends with the people I work with and I am friends with a lot of MCB’s friends and I do have a couple of close friends here who I never see but still love, but do I have a tribe?

Not anymore.

And then…

MCB and I have a mutual friend from our pasts who we love and just moved to the area.  Lucky us.

And then…

An old old friend, a very important person in my world for a good chunk of time, who I hadn’t spoken with in years, came to visit the friend just mentioned.

And then…

I realized that I have some super important people in my life that I actually love dearly and with whom I want to maintain a connection.

So I posted a photo of these 3 men on Facebook and I received this response, “Great photo. We’re in Utah and we miss you. Come see us.”

So I am driving to Utah to see people that I love because it’s important that I have people that I love in my life.

 

 

 

Life Elevated

I have a lot of days off from work right now, many of which I have spent sleeping, eating, reading, and sleeping again.

I get panicky that I haven’t “done anything” over break so I go into a tailspin and try to cram in a bunch of activities. Then, I go into a tailspin because I am not at home, taking advantage of the alone-time and writing the Great American Novel.

In-my-head is a hard place to live.

Saturday morning I left the house to go run a few errands and see a noon movie with a friend. The plan was to return home immediately after the film so that I could have part of the afternoon at home alone.

After the movie and strolling around town and a trip to TJ Maxx, I arrived home at 6:00 pm, after my children.

So Sunday was going to be a visit to MCB at his jobsite and a hike from there, then back home to wrap up my masterpiece.

Or start it.

When I arrived at his workplace, I was offered Prime Rib for lunch (with Green Chili). Suddenly I was frozen; I was spontaneous yesterday – could I handle 2 days in a row?

But lunch sounded so good, as did a little bit of extra time with MCB.

“You can hike afterwards,” he suggested.

No, no I can’t. I can’t because I only allotted a certain amount of time away from my quiet house and if I take the time to eat, then I won’t have time to hike and still get home before I turn into a pumpkin.

I ate. I mean really, who could turn down prime rib with chili?

After lunch I stood by my truck, totally stymied. It was a beautiful day – was I really going to blow a day in the canyons because I was inflexible? Was I going to choose being an introverted, hermitish, homebody over  slickrock?

I was facing west as I pondered.

I gazed out at the horizon, steeped in indecision, and thought, “Utah is right there.”

And I jumped in the truck and drove, calling out the window, “If I’m not home by morning…”

See, I can be totally spontaneous. I can fly where the winds blow me. I can embrace adventure.

Besides, it was quiet time in the car – or almost quiet – Tchaikovsky, sun on the sandstone, blue sky forever, and I didn’t say a word to anyone for the entire trip.

I had been struggling with sadness that morning and with each step, the sadness slid off of me and I felt ecstatic.

Life Elevated.