I’m sitting here in a Work from Home Café (is that a thing? I was going to say Internet Café but we’re not in the 90s, so I think I’ll stick with WFH Café). I mean, a lot of people her are working from home…in a cafe, but you can also just sit and drink coffee and eat cake if you want to (and I am). But I thought I’d bring my laptop along and force myself to write a blog, since I’m a captive audience and all *sigh*. But lo, they’ve just announced they have no internet today (yay…! I mean, boo!). But never fear, I can use the laptop’s hard drive to write this post *sigh*, I just won’t be able to upload it to WordPress until later. That’s if it makes the cut, that is. It’s not that I don’t want to write a blog, it’s just so hard to sit down and commit to it. Once the first paragraph is done, though, I’m usually home free. Ah, first paragraph is done – not feeling especially home free just yet…
I’m currently on annual leave as we speak. OOO (out of office, I know…you knew that). I’m not doing anything special, just chilling out and hanging around. Y’know, all the things I do best. It’s Easter school holiday time here in Blighty, but I’ve got to the point in motherhood where I don’t really need to take the school holidays off anymore. My eldest has flown the coop to become a fully-fledged adult *sob* and my youngest is fifteen and is studying like a demon for her GCSEs – so in all honesty she’d probably rather I was at work and not pestering her to talk to me. And my husband is working away, so really, I’m just annual-leaving on my own here. Which is fine. And it’s made me do something I don’t normally do. I decided this week to be fairly sociable. Eeek.
Something you may not know about me (but you probably do if you read between the lines in any of my blogs) is that I’m a bit of an introvert. Not a full-on keep-to-myself stay-indoors-at-all-costs recluse-like introvert. I’m not agoraphobic and I hide my chosen solitude pretty well. I manage to hold down a job which requires me to talk to strangers and colleagues all day long. I think I might even come across as rather gregarious. My clinical banter is legendary. But it’s something I have to switch on when I step into the office, and it’s something that has worn down to nothing by the time I walk back out of the door. It isn’t fake; the jokes are real and I’d class myself as friendly and approachable, but the extrovert routine takes actual energy and after a while it drains my batteries. And I get to the point where I need to go home and isolate myself to recharge those batteries again.
I come from a shy people. But I do not consider myself shy, especially. I would say I was probably the least shy of my six siblings (they may wish to fight me on this, but I stand by it). I have shyness in me, of course – but I find shyness limiting, so choose not to be. Some might say it’s not something you can choose, but it is something you can cover up. But you cannot escape those introvert genes. So, rather, I’d call myself a high-functioning introvert.
It isn’t that I didn’t want to see the friends and relatives I have managed to meet up with this week. I did. I knew (deep down) I was going to enjoy myself and have a laugh and a catch up. But it was something I needed to psyche myself up for because I knew my social energy reserves would take a battering. And most of the people I choose to be friends with (or be relatives of) know my failings and understand me. A lot of them share the same trait – which is why I choose to be friends or be related to/with them. It isn’t standoffishness or a general dislike of people; it’s a personality trait you cannot change. You can overcome it and rise above it for a time, but you will always be an introvert.
My children will forgive me for admitting that they too share these introverted genes. My eldest has to write down a rough outline of her patter prior to an official telephone call. My youngest will pre-arrange and rehearse conversation pieces before going out with people she doesn’t know terribly well. But they manage life fairly splendidly in my opinion. Every parent evening I ever attended had the obligatory teacher advising me that my kids didn’t put their hands up in class enough or interact in group work enough. Yeah? And? So? Do they get good grades? Yes? Then what does it matter? I believe being an introvert (whether in childhood or adulthood) ought to be acceptable. The older you get the better you become at blending in around normal folk. But you can’t dispel it, and there’s no point railing against it either.
When I go out with friends or work colleagues (who are also friends, for the record) for an evening of socialising, it takes preparation. Whilst beautifying myself there is usually a gin and tonic to be had (I absolutely must make it clear that alcohol is something I can take or leave and I barely touch it at home, but one G&T takes the edge off when going out to meet people for the evening). Inhibitions abated, I arrive the life and soul of the party (go big or go home, that’s what I say [see picture above]). I’m super lairy (number 2 in the dictionary definition); the jokes are firing, the bants are flowing. I am ALL IN. But bear in mind it’s like winding up a clockwork toy, and the energy will inevitably run down. Imagine a toy monkey with crashing symbols – ‘CRASH, CRASH, CRASH, CRASH…crash…cra…*silence*. I can actually pinpoint the precise moment in the night when that happens. I no longer have a thing to say. I’m not angry or grumpy or moody. I just have zero left. I’m ‘squid-lipped’ (this is an analogy coined by my brother-in-law. It pertains to one sitting very quietly with crossed arms and pursed lips – nothing left to contribute). And that’s me – I’m done, no energy remaining to expend. The peace and quiet of my home will be calling. I need to be alone, read a book, do some yoga – recharge.
I tell you this purely so that you’ll understand the workings of an introvert’s mind if you aren’t acquainted with one. It’s not something to be ashamed of. I don’t think my sociable husband entirely gets it either; he maybe thinks me self-isolating. But I’m not. I like company, I’d go as far as to say I need it (in perhaps smaller doses than normal, even if I don’t think I want any). Okay, so my hobbies are largely solitary; lone pursuits (gym [AirPods in, baseball cap down over eyes], yoga [on my own in my bedroom with a scented candle and mat], writing [self-explanatory]), but I do attend a weekly choir for God’s sake, and there are actual people I converse with there! I just happen to be super happy with my own company a greater part of the time. I love my nuclear family – I can spend almost large quantities of time with them. And I love seeing other family and friends (even if I have to talk myself into it). As Barbara Streisand says, ‘people need people’. And she’s right; as awesome as I am, there is only so much of me even I can stand. But I actually think it’s healthier to be content with yourself than not – and not be dependant on the validation of others. Because if you do end up entirely alone one day (it can happen), people like me will fare better. We have had an awful lot more practice.