Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Open Letter...

Dear friends and family,

I am writing this in an attempt to explain myself a little bit.  You see, recently, I've had this nagging feeling that I'm inadvertently hurting some feelings out there, and I don't want anyone to be hurting.    Offending anyone was never my intention.

What did I do?  you may be wondering?

Well....that's just it.  I didn't do anything.  I didn't accept your invitation to get together.  I didn't really return phone calls or messages (instead, I may have texted or sent a quick email in place of a phone call).  I definitely didn't Skype, as the mere mention of computer video chats sends me into heart palpitations.

I am not avoiding you.

I do not think badly of you at all.   I have not "dropped" you, or "broken up" with you.

Instead, I've been trying to maintain my sanity.  

You see, I'm an introvert.  I didn't realize that until this past year.  Up until then, I thought that being an introvert meant that you had to be shy.   Anyone who knows me knows that I am not shy.  So, if I wasn't shy, I wasn't an introvert, right?  Wrong.

Up until this past year, I thought something was seriously wrong with me.  I thought I *might* even need counseling (I suppose some of you might disagree with my change of heart now).   I couldn't understand why being out in public for *too* long would send me into a completely overwhelmed state.  Like a deer in headlights kind of state.  I didn't understand why everyone else seemed to love parties and being around lots of friends....but it would stress me out.   I couldn't understand why I seemed to spend so much more time writing and lost in thought than everyone else I knew.  I mean, didn't everyone spend hours contemplating one paragraph in a book they were reading, and then writing blog post after blog post about that same paragraph?   I didn't understand why I felt SO VERY DIFFERENT from almost every single one of my friends and family members.....I wasn't shy, so why did I seem to need so much more time alone or away from the outside world, just to feel like I was staying sane?!?!

And then I joined a book group.  

I know, I know, it seems crazy for someone who has a hard time with the external world to join a book group.   At the time, though, I felt like I needed to.  I'd just moved my husband and family three thousand miles across the country, away from everything and everyone we knew, AND I had just started homeschooling my boys, which meant no built-in way of meeting new people or for them to make new friends.  When the homeschooling co-op that I'd joined started a book club, one that included a park playdate for the children (score!  A chance for them to make friends, AND for me to have an excuse to have to read, which is my favourite activity).....I joined. 

The first book we read was about temperaments.   My eyes were opened.  Widely opened.  I have never, ever had a "self-help" book change my life like this one has. 

I finally learned that being introverted has absolutely nothing to do with being shy.  I realized - thanks to the countless examples of real-life people (Saints) sprinkled throughout the book - that I WAS NOT ALONE.

I was not crazy, or on my way there (yet).

I was merely an introvert.

Things started to fall into place.

I now understood why my heart starts to beat a bit faster if I'm in a crowd for too long.  Why I literally cannot think when grocery shopping on a weekend during the busy time of day.  Why I feel exhausted after a get-together with friends (even if I'm not hosting!).  Why I prefer our vacations to be tent camping in the woods and not at a beach town.   Why, on my husband's days off of work, I want to stay home and hang out in our backyard and NOT go to the mall.

It all made sense.  Finally.  I know it doesn't make sense to a lot of you, as, for some reason, my best friends are completely and totally extroverted (as is my husband).   

Now that I recognize it, though, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to reduce my stress caused by too much of a good thing.  (Notice:  I do believe that the external world is a GOOD thing, but too much of it can lead me to high stress levels, which, physically and emotionally are not very healthy). 

So, occasionally, I've been stepping back.  Retreating, if you will.  Not going to those playdates or book club sessions.   Not going out to eat with friends.   Not returning the phone calls with actual phone calls, but instead reaching towards texts or emails. 

It's not because I don't love you.   It's because I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and spread thin.   When I get overwhelmed...I tend to say things that I don't mean or step on toes.  I'm trying to avoid that, especially since the people I love the most (my family) are typically the ones that get the brunt of that exhaustion and stretched thin feeling.   They're the ones that I snap at when I'm feeling stressed and out of control. 

With all that's been going on recently (lots of appointments, adoption paperwork, phone calls, and home studies, sicknesses, houseguests, birthday parties and gatherings, and so on and so on), I'm feeling a bit like that deer in headlights.   I don't know what way is up and how to get myself back to the surface.

So, believe it or not, it's not you....it's me.

I need a snow day, to try and get myself back in order.

I will call, I do want to have playdates and date nights and family bbqs and all that fun stuff.

Just....after my self-imposed time out.

Thanks for understanding,

P.S.  For some more reading about introverts, check out Leila's blog post here.


  1. OH MY GOSH! I think you know that I love this!!!! Thank you on behalf of misunderstood introverts everywhere!! Did you know that even my own adult son refuses to believe I'm an introvert, simply because I am "bubbly" when I am with my friends? And because I am friendly and not shy? You, me and Jen Fulwiler could sit and talk about this forever…. Well, for a little while, and then we'd need to go be alone and think about it for a long time, too.

  2. My one caveat is that I don't always mind being in a big crowd of people (like on a boardwalk) as long as I don't have to talk to them, ha ha! I like to be there with my husband, and we "feel" alone because we are not part of any big "outing" (shiver).

  3. Haha, I knew you'd "get" this!!

  4. Hi. I'm new to your blog. A friend directed me to this post via FB. I know a couple of people who are as your post describes and I completely understand why they call themselves an introvert. But it has made me wonder about the terms extrovert and introvert. I really think it is more complicated than that. I mean it isn't all one or the other, all 100% introvert or 100% extrovert. I consider myself an introvert in that I like alone time, I get lost in thought a lot and really prefer small get-togethers where I can really focus my attention on just a few people. But I also enjoy going to the mall and don't really find such an activity as an aversion to my introvertness; just because people are there doesn't mean I have to interact with them. Are there different kinds of introverts? I despise being the center of attention and hate attracting attention to myself but I likewise enjoy getting out and one-on-one conversations. I am definitely not an enthusiastic, makes-friends-right-away type of person but I also don't quite fit into your post either. What is more introvert but not completely introvert?

  5. Hi Katherine - welcome!

    I think there are different "levels", if you will, on the introvert vs extrovert spectrum. I'm not an expert, but it seems logical to conclude that, since we're all not carbon copies of each other, we would all be a different, um, "recipe" of personality characteristics.

    I think we all lean towards one end - introvert OR extrovert - but how strongly we lean one way is variable. Does that make sense?

    I'm intrigued now, though, if there's a psych answer to your question. It seems that that field of study really likes to create terms - I bet it might be out there! haha. I'll do some digging around...

  6. Heidi, thanks. It certainly would make sense that there are degrees on each end of the spectrum but I would think there would be some qualifying term for the different types or degrees. Unfortunately, psychology is not my area, so I have no idea. But understanding where a person falls on the spectrum might be helpful to many people. :)