I’ve been thinking lately, because that’s what we introverts do. We think. A lot. That’s why we’re so damn smart.
Clicking on the dashboard icon on my ancient 6-year old MacBook pops up a Widgets selection. The one I use most is the Oxford American Dictionary/Thesaurus. I was a little disappointed to find these definitions:
Introvert: a shy, reticent and typically self-centered person. A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.
Extrovert: an outgoing, overtly expressive person. A person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations.
My alarm goes off a good two and a half hours before I am due at work. In the who-can-get-out-of-the-house-fastest competition, I lose. People are amazed. “What do you DO in the morning?”
Well? . . . . I let the dog out, use the restroom and find my glasses and phone. I get dressed and take the dog for a walk, the length of which depends on the weather. During that time, I am engrossed in some type of auditory experience. I have radio programs, podcasts, audiobooks, and music apps that all bring entertainment to my morning walk. Every now and then I just listen to the birds waking up and connect with nature. But generally, I like something for my brain in the morning. It gives me something to think about during the day. Because as I already stated, we introverts think a lot.
Back at home, Bubba may or may not have started to stir. He’s not a talker in the morning. He’s more of a grunter. It’s one of the things that leads me to believe he is also an introvert. He grunts. I sigh. And somehow we manage to let each other know we need to get in the fridge, or use the toilet. It works.
I make breakfast and lunch for myself in the time I have allotted. I feed the dog. The rabbit gets a nice salad. After a quick healthy breakfast, I read, finish whatever I was listening to earlier, or maybe just play a word game on my phone.
For me to get out of bed, dress, shower, grab a cup of joe and head out would be disastrous. I would arrive at work edgy, tired, weak, and unsociable.
Instead, I arrive with a smile. The faces of my coworkers are beacons of light in an otherwise dingy grey warehouse. I’m already contemplating the work before me, prioritizing tasks in my head. I walk confidently, calling out a good morning to fellow coworkers and clients alike. I doubt anyone other than the Oxford American Dictionary would define me as a shy, self-centered person.
Meeting with my manager for a one-on-one, she is surprised to hear me describe myself as an introvert. Misconceptions abound over this term. As I talk, I gaze out the window of her office. Sometimes those I talk to will glance over their shoulder or out the window to see what I am looking at. I’m not looking at anything. Nor does my averted gaze mean I am lying. It means that I am so in tune to your facial expressions and body language, it actually distracts me from my story. I have to look elsewhere so that I don’t lose track of what I am saying. My manager likes to refer to me as a thinker.
I spend the day in a customer service atmosphere. I charm. I sell. I mediate conflict. I make things right. It demands a personality of communication, interaction, and a genuine love of people. I walk a sometimes-thin line between customer understanding and employer loyalty. We are the peacemakers. The referees. The crusaders. It is not a job for the meek.
On my lunch hour, you will not find me in the break room with my coworkers. I will be on a walk, or more likely at home snuggled up with a book, or writing on my laptop. I suffer the loss of networking and gossip, but reap a much-needed respite for this introvert.
Far from being the shy one at a table of my peers, I am the one biting my tongue. I am the class clown. The heckler delivering one-liners. But also the one who interjects thought-provoking counterpoises to the conversation. Sitting with friends is more thinking, and being clever. No, better to re-energize over a home-cooked lunch, nuzzling with a dog, and some quiet time.
In a team meeting, I choose my words wisely. I wait to make sure what I say is practical, unique, and intelligent. The team is often on to another topic by the time I have fully constructed my thought, and I ask to go back to the previous point. I apologize. As in any group setting, I am often the last to leave, waiting for a chance to talk to one particular person alone. While presenting a prepared speech in front of group exhilarates me, I communicate spontaneous thoughts better with one person. I appreciate a group leader who asks us to contact her later if we think of anything else.
The workday ends in reverse of how it began. Smiles and goodbyes and wishing people a good night. Not connecting with someone on my way out would be a letdown.
Suppressing my desire to head home, I try to ignore excuses for avoiding the gym. Exercise does more than rev up my heart. I breathe. Breathing releases any anxiety I have incurred in the form of outside stimuli. I try to spend some time each day in repetitive exertion at the gym, or even better, on a walk in some natural setting.
Once at home, I do like I have always needed to do for as long as I can remember. Like coming home from school, or shopping, or lunch with friends, I need to sit down alone and re-energize. To skip this step would be harmful to my relationships and my mental health. Word games, Sudoku, cooking, gardening, watching television, and cuddling with a pup are all ways for me to re-energize. I can’t read because my mind is too full. Sometimes I can write to empty it. Sometimes I make lists. Particularly bad days include a glass of red wine, maybe two. Chocolate is optional. Nuts are nice.
If I’ve had enough time to decompress, Bubba can enter like a whirlwind, propelling gloves, empty lunch containers and shoes in his wake, and it won’t bother me a bit. I welcome him home with a kiss and a smile. Other days I greet him with a hug and maybe point him to the stove for dinner. Usually he takes the dog out for some tongue-dragging playtime. This gives me a few moments to adjust to having someone else in my space. Then he will often let loose with the news of his day. Sometimes we just retreat to the television, exchanging weary smiles.
From my point of view, it is not the concern of my own thoughts and feelings that makes me an introvert, it is the way I use those thoughts to recharge myself to face the external demands of life.
Peace . . .