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How to be Social: A Guide for the Introvert

Monday, June 17th, 2013

I love a big party. I’m far from shy. I can carry a conversation, nail a job interview, draw a stranger out of her shell, and tell a good story.

But I am also an introvert, which means that if left to my own devices, I would hang out by myself basically all of the time. I don’t hate people, I don’t hate fun, I’m not (always) socially awkward – I’m just more content than the average person to be alone. I like being alone. I need it. When I’m alone, I feel creative, laugh out loud at jokes I make up in my head, drive my car in silence, and sort through my emotions like a boss.

But just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean that I’m immune to loneliness. And just because my tendency is to choose solitude doesn’t mean that it’s always the best thing for me.

So I’m learning how to occasionally combat my natural disposition, because I believe that people are actually pretty spectacular creatures and it’s worth it to spend my time with them. Go figure.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on How to be Social (and So Can You!).

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PLAN AHEAD
When it comes to social activity, introverts aren’t the best with spontaneity. For example, if I drive home from my open floor plan office where I’ve been within arm’s reach of people all day long and I don’t have any evening plans, chances are that I will turn down any last-minute invites to spend time with friends because LEAVE ME ALONE.

But when an introvert puts something on the calendar and has an opportunity to mentally prepare, the chance is greater for social success. So I’m trying to project out a week or two in advance and agree to at least one event each week. And then I spend the days before gathering up every ounce of energy I can muster in hopes that I’ll be happy and personable when I attend the event. Sometimes it works, sometimes it…

Sometimes it works.

TAKE RISKS
I don’t like to do things that I don’t know I’m going to enjoy or be good at, so I tend to stick with what I know. I eat the exact same thing for breakfast every single day, I don’t go wakeboarding, I ignore volunteer opportunities, and I hike alone so there’s no chance of awkward conversation with a companion. Then again, there’s more chance of death by bear mauling. I suppose that’s the trade-off.

But I’m learning to just say yes, even if I’m not so sure about it. Go see a band I’ve never heard of? Yes. Look a stranger in the eye at the grocery store? Yes. Head downtown to an event even though I don’t know exactly where to park? Yes. The little risks add up, and all of a sudden, I’m meeting new people and doing new things and the story of my life has literally changed.

HIDE IN THE BATHROOM
When I find myself surrounded by people, I’ve decided it’s okay to take breaks to clear my head. I politely excuse myself, shut the bathroom door, and lean my head against the doorframe like a crazy person about to lose her mind. It’s okay.

But I’m not allowed to escape out the window, and neither are you.

Take a deep breath, fix your hair in the mirror, and get back out there. Take it from me: introverts are fabulous, and it would be rude to withhold ourselves from the world.

SPEND TIME ALONE
Counterintuitive, yes. After all, aren’t we talking about how to be social?

But introverts are wired a certain way. We will self-destruct if we don’t take the time to refuel in solitude. If we pressure ourselves to DO MORE! SAY MORE! HANG OUT WITH PEOPLE MORE! all of the time, we will fall apart and probably be a miserable person to the people we’re trying so hard to interact with.

Hole up sometimes. You’ll thank yourself later.

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Yesterday, I didn’t leave my house until 4pm. I spray painted a picture frame and played guitar and watched three episodes of “The Bachelorette” (a topic for another time) and wrote a few emails and organized my bathroom and did laundry and reveled in extravagant silence.

Then, when it was time, Toad and I walked out the door and we drove to a party in Boulder. I chatted with people I had never met, caught up with the few I knew, and put two chicken breasts on the grill so I would have dinner for a week. Later on, I drove to Lafayette and walked into a house I’d never been and met a bunch of new people, and I took out my guitar and we all played songs and sang, and I learned 4 chords on the banjo so I could be as backwoods as I’ve always known I am, and I whispered about heartbreak to a new friend, and when the clock read close to 11 and I finally left, I put Toad back in the car and we drove through the darkness in silence and I thought, “Whatever today was, I want more of it.”

It’s okay to be happy

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I’ve spent a lot of years getting okay with sadness.

While we live in a culture that tells us that, through various forms of self-medication, sadness is to be avoided at all costs, I have learned that sometimes, you just need to feel sad.  Lean into the pain.  Don’t do anything to try to change it, just fully experience it.

And why shouldn’t I feel sad?  For me, the last 5 years have held their fair share of death – death of dreams, death of relationships, death of people.  If it isn’t happening to me, it’s happening around me – although, I’ll be honest and say that these days, it’s happening to me… more than I’ve asked for, more than I imagined could hit all at once.

I’m really good at the sad.

I’m realizing that there are no happy endings – no game-winning home run, no swelling music as the couple kisses, no cowboy riding off into the sunset.  Until the good Lord comes again, we are existing in a never-ending series of ups and downs – just as soon as we seem to find our footing, the world tilts.  Despite our most wonderful moments, we will never “arrive.”  We will never figure it all out.  We will never seal the happiness deal.

Depressing?  Maybe.

But in a small way, this also feels like freedom – freedom to stop waiting for the happy ending, and to experience the happy right now.

How many times have I postponed any given occurrence of happiness, in favor of that elusive “someday” happy ending?  Brushing off a compliment because I’m waiting for the day that I’m skinnier.  Paying no attention to the moment because I’m waiting for the larger event.  Questioning my worth because I’m waiting for the day that I’m truly loved.  Ignoring any good because I’m waiting until there is absolutely zero bad.  Disregarding the many gifts in my life because they do not yet include a) a husband, b) a house, c) a baby, d) a larger purpose, e) any sense of security… the list goes on.

I’m going to go ahead and keep hoping, because good things are surely in store – but I need to remember that happy endings are smoke and mirrors.  As long as we’re on this earth, we will never be fully satisfied.  It’s time to feel the freedom to seize those happy moments – because all we’re promised is today.  Grab that happiness by the jugular, and enjoy the shit out of it.  Laugh without feeling guilty.  Be silly without feeling stupid.  Feel happy without any nonessential qualifiers.

If you need to feel sad, by all means, feel sad.  But if you’re lucky enough to have a reason to be happy, don’t wait.  Be happy now.

Steady goes

Monday, May 4th, 2009

There have been a lot of times in the past several years when I have needed courage.  Between the ending of relationships, and a solo cross-country move, and feeling so alone I could barely breathe, and being relatively destitute, and getting roommates, and starting to share my music for the first time, and introducing myself to hundreds of new people, and continually putting myself out there… I have been through a lot of big, dramatic, grandiose transition.  Change is scary.

But for me, change is not the scariest thing.

In recent months, a lot of things have fallen into place for me.  I’m on stable ground.  I have a home, and a Tennessee family, and a great job, and a feeling of belonging.  I know my way around the city, and I’m involved in my church and various other groups, and I feel very much a part of the fabric of my Nashville community.  Things are steady.

Then why is my first instinct to run?

I’m finding that staying put requires a lot more courage than leaving.

The Bad, the Good

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Bad: It is Monday.
Good: It is a holiday, and GRETA IS HERE!
Bad: My car got towed on Friday night.
Good: I didn’t really feel upset about it.
Bad: Probably because it’s already been STOLEN three times.
Good: We got it back.
Bad: It cost a lot of money.
Good: I had enough money in my account to pay for it.
Bad: I now have $1.86 – in change – to last me until my next paycheck.
Good: Friends have spotted me for everything from a spring-form pan to a DiGiorno pizza.
Bad: These are the things I spend my money on.
Good: The spring-form pan helped me make a chocolate marble cheesecake.
Bad: It didn’t really look marbleized.
Good: Holy Christmas, it tasted good.
Bad: I’ve consumed a lot of calories this weekend.
Good: I’ve burned them off.
Bad: I have run so much, I can’t really bend my knees today.
Good: Runner’s booty, here I come.
Bad: All the same, I had some moments of physical insecurity.
Good: A favorite boy said some very nice things, unprompted.
Bad: I cried at the Bluebird on Saturday night.
Good: Because Josh and Meg were so good.
Bad: I’ve been feeling discouraged about the whole music thing.
Good: Greta and I got pulled into a spontaneous pickin’ party down in Leiper’s Fork, and each played 3 of our songs, and the people walking past were smiling, and my heart felt happy, and the old cowboy loved us, and I was reminded that no matter how much I threaten… I could never quit doing music.
Bad: I’m still in bed.
Good: I’m still in bed.
Bad: I have to get up now.
Good: Because Greta and I are going on a long walk.
Bad: My world is better when Greta is around – and she does not live here.
Good: My world is better when Greta is around – and she is still here today.

New motto

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

When the calendar flips to January 1, it’s popular amongst bloggers to post an “end of the year” or a “looking ahead to the new year” post. This year, I didn’t do either. I don’t know – I just wasn’t feeling it.

But now, just over 2 weeks late, I am ready.

2008 was dubbed the year of “The Living Big.” But this year, the theme will be… (drumroll please)…

“Take Action to Get Action.”

Yeah, I said it. (Sorry Mom.)

Now, before you go thinking that I’m going to morph into a brazen little hussy who leaves bars with strangers after taking shots of blue liquor, just calm down. That’s not what this is about.

This is about taking small steps each and every day toward what I want – or at least what I THINK I want – not expecting everything to happen all at once, but participating in what Eugene Peterson so brilliantly calls “a long obedience in the same direction.” Whether it be in terms of writing, or music, or vocation, or finances, or health, I will attempt to move forward one day at a time.

What does this mean? It means that I will do something every day. That sounds very generic and unparticular, I know, but my specific goals do not need to be publicized. I know what they are – I’ve written them down. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll not only hope for change, but begin to experience change.

But yeah, also, I’m going to look good in my jeans while doing it.

Friends old and new

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

My friend Matt is in his second year at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and the other day, he emailed me saying, “I miss Seattle more and more. Yet, sadly, it’s becoming more of a memory than an old reality.” What an unfortunate truth – and one that has been sneaking into my own way of thinking in recent days. Seattle will always, always be home. But all of a sudden, it feels further away. I hear about the things that my friends are doing, and the new people that they have met, and I see pictures of them having fun in my favorite places, and it all just feels so… far.

I know that my friends will always be my friends. But space changes things. Distance changes things. Time pulls certain people and circumstances away, away, away, like taffy – and the longer we try to hold on, the more stretched we become.

But when we learn to let go – when we choose to let go – we find other hands to hold. They are not replacements. They are not the same. But they are wonderful and beautiful in their own unique ways – ways that no one else could be – and they are walking a parallel path to mine in this new chapter. I have found some of these people, and I am so grateful. And as my friend Emily mused about her own life in a recent email, “I don’t want to miss this good season because of selfishness or envy.” Me neither.

My friend Joel wrote to me, “I think that if you take steps, at every opportunity, towards your dreams, you generally find that somewhere along the way, you’re actually living the dream.” All of the little steps that I have taken since leaving Seattle have led me to where I am now – 10 months into a new life in Nashville, new relationships, a new perspective. I am not the same girl that I was when I arrived – this time has changed me. I have seen sides of myself that I never knew existed – and some that I would never care to see again. I have doubted and despaired, and I have lived and laughed. Many, many times, I have cried – and I know that I will cry again.

But today – beautiful today – the tears are nowhere to be seen. And today, I feel like I am living the dream. So take it from me. If you are thinking of making a life change or taking the plunge or chasing a dream, do it. It’s never easy. But it’s always worth it.

And my new friends are making this whole thing so much more fun.

Input, output / What goes in is what comes out

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Sometimes I wonder if this blog gets the best of me – the best of my creativity, the best of my concentration, the best of my time and efforts. I have been posting nearly every day for a long time now, and I have occasionally greeted the computer screen with nothing to say, and after wracking my brain, have come up with something banal at best. No one should have to read about the weather (even though I write about it), what I’m doing at my desk (even though I show you), or what I dreamed about the night before (even though… no, never mind, still not interesting).

I recently told my mom that I am consciously making the decision to not feel guilty about my lack of prolificacy when it comes to songwriting – there is enough that I already feel an unnecessary amount of guilt about in my life, so why add to the heap? Unlike many Nashville songwriters, I write simply when something hits me – it could be weekly, it could be monthly, it could be seasonally. Writing this way might never make me any money, and might not lead to a “career” as a songwriter, but I think it will lead to an overall enjoyment of the craft.

The same needs to go for this site. My routine of posting every morning, Monday through Friday, has been a good practice in writing for me. But I need to not feel guilty if I don’t have something to say, something to post. Before I can produce, I need to consume – through reading, and thinking, and observing, and mulling things over. I need to interact with people (real humans), and go running, and listen, and nest, and camp in the rain (this Friday night’s event, God help me). I need to spend time living in order to find things to write about.

So in the coming days and weeks, I might not post as regularly. Or maybe I will – I don’t know. I suppose I’m just giving myself permission to let the thoughts ebb and flow, and to hold off until the light goes on.

Or to wait until I get a text message like the one I got this morning:

Today I get to eat gator-on-a-stick and see the smallest girl in the world. Jealous?

Because THAT is something worth sharing.

What a good night’s sleep and a good hair day can do

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Regarding yesterday’s post, here’s what I am learning. When I am feeling super lame and lousy, I should ask myself the following questions:

• Have I gotten enough sleep? (Usually, if I am feeling terrible, the answer will be no. I am becoming more and more convinced that getting enough sleep should be my number one act of spiritual worship. Seriously.)
• Have I had enough caffeine? Have I had too much caffeine? (Caffeine is my drug of choice – two cups of coffee every morning. But when I miss those cups, or overdo it by drinking an ENTIRE POT, then I’m in trouble.)
• Am I eating the right things? (A meal of salty chips and queso, along with margaritas, does not constitute a well-balanced diet.)
• Am I exercising? (But. Guys. It’s just SO HOT here right now.)

And finally,

• Am I being overly sensitive?

Oooooh. Sensitive. Here’s the thing. Ever since I was a little girl, it has been pointed out to me that I am strong-willed. Stubborn. A perfectionist to the core. With a granite-like resolve, it’s hard to change my mind, or my behavior, or my beliefs. But every so often, something will strike a nerve, and I’ll have a meltdown. Contrary to my rock-solid façade, I can be thin-skinned.

It’s a good thing to be able to feel. The ability to feel allows me to experience empathy, and compassion, and joy. But to open myself up to the good inevitably means that I will occasionally experience what is at the opposite side of the spectrum: suckyness. The capacity to feel pain is actually a healthy thing; it’s a sign that my emotions are alive and well. The trick is to keep those emotions in check, and stop the downward spiral of negative self-talk before it gets out of hand.

Oprah, I’m available for your show anytime.

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Tonight, I am Kansas City bound. Tomorrow, I am 14-hours-in-a-Camry-with-my-family Colorado bound. I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance to post again. And given the fact that my mom called my weekend update videos “creepy,” I can’t promise that you’ll have another one on Monday. Then again, a Parsonspalooza Road Trip video might be in order… especially because this guy will be in the car.