We're on post 3 of the Forty Lessons over Forty series that I'm writing here on the blog; the one where I confess to being an introverted soccer mom. And really, God help me. This one is a little awkward to write, but that's kind of the theme here so I'm just going to go with it. I'm opening up in these posts, baring my soul if you will, and I kind of hate doing that, but since I opened my big mouth and started this thing, here we go...again.
First, I need to share that I have always thought of myself as slightly extroverted with a little shy, panic-prone anxiety on the side just for fun, and it wasn't really until I had kids and beyond that I realized the truth: people sometimes make me nervous and fidgety. I, in fact, am not an extrovert at all.
Think of it this way: Imagine you're at a party or meeting and people are milling around, laughing in groups. First of all, if even picturing this makes you start looking for the first exit, you might be an introvert. Let's just pretend we enter that party and don't know a soul. Hives? Check.
I don't know about you, but I immediately head for one of two places: the bar or the dessert table. Why? It's a 'have-something-in-your-hands ' and you will survive kind of thing. So this double-fisted protective barrier might consist of a glass of wine and maybe a plate of twenty petit fours. If you have around twenty you can always build a small house or play Jenga with them when things get awkward, or you can do what I do and stuff them in your mouth because that takes away the awkwardness of just standing there, right? And then you slowly get comfortable, maybe. If you're like my husband, something will pop out of your mouth that others can relate to. I also tend to gravitate toward humor as a survival mechanism.
Why does this happen, though? I actually enjoy parties once I get somewhat comfortable. I like to engage in conversations. I have no problem being in front of a classroom full of University students while I teach with great gesturing animation and enthusiasm....but put me in front of a group of colleagues to present and I'm pretty sure my insides are suddenly on fire, that I will very likely spontaneously combust as the world suddenly turns to slow motion. I just can't handle it. And it's more than nerves, in case that's what you were thinking. It's like this ridiculous dance that leads to full on spasmodic panic if I don't reel it in. It's hard to describe, but it isn't attractive.
The thing is, I feel pretty accomplished as a person (mom, academic, business owner, etc. ) and it's mainly because I've pushed through so many difficult situations in my life. I force myself to do things that make me uncomfortable --like getting on a plane with a group of new people to study in a country where no one is going to speak my language - so most people would never guess that I am actually very introverted. I'll finish painting this picture for you..
I have this spot on my couch that I call the decompression chamber. It's the place I sprint to after I've done all the things I need to do in a day, and I curl up in a sweater-like blanket with tea and my laptop or Netflix and....bliss. My boys know this is chamber time. My husband knows and talks to me, anyway. I need time like this to be alone, to recharge, to think deeply ALL BY MYSELF about my plans, goals, future objectives, travel. I reflect. .. A lot
“Quiet people have the loudest minds.” Stephen Hawking
I also find it difficult sometimes to maintain a steady social life because I don't like going out every weekend. I just don't. Luckily, I have finally settled in with a group of friends who are kind of on my wavelength and it works well. We hang out, we do coffee and the occasional meet-up at the local winery or we just chat via text.It all works out well. Their husbands have come along for the ride and so has mine so we do weekend outings and dinner and it feels like family. That's my kind of feeling, you know?
I don't like to work to make new friends at my age, like when I go to my fitness classes and all the younger-ish moms meet in a circle to talk about their day and their plans and their kids in the morning when I am rushing in between jobs to get my workout in. I hate being on the outside of that, but I don't want to be in it either. Does that make sense?
I enjoy groups of different friends, like my soccer mom friends and my school mom friends and my neighbor friends and my high school friends and my pilates friends and my business friends....I truly value time spent with women who lift me up and I hope I return the favor. In fact, these days I am typically the one seeking out time with those ladies in my life. I'm super sensitive to the feeling of being left out or unheard, which is an anxiety inducer in and of itself, but those things also come with the territory of being more introverted than others, too. It's a difficult juggle sometimes.
I look at other people and think how fun it must be to be the life of the party every weekend, but I also know that isn't me and probably will never be me. I love people and always feel kind of exhilarated and energized around like-minded people, or artsy people, or plain old interesting people, but I always need that decompression time for a bit, too. You know those women who do #vanlife alone and have meet-ups with other #vanlifers, but they can't wait to get back to solo travel? That's me. Anyone have a van they don't want anymore? Just kidding, but not really.
When you're an introverted soccer mom like I am you crave the relationships that you actually value in your life and you easily weed out those that don't serve you once you become an adult. I don't have time for people who are fair weather friends anymore. My ties tend to run deep and I am here for you if you need me, but I can walk away to protect my heart and honor my values, too. I love fiercely and protectively and I also take care of myself now with that same determination. Being introverted can feel lonely sometimes, but when you're inside your own head you can create a vast universe of colorful possibilities and make them into your realities. It happens. It works. I am living my dream, even if it means I have to stuff a few donuts in my mouth to rev up at a party, or practically hurl myself out the front door to go to a new workout class. All these things balance out to what has become a life fulfilled. It's worth it.
It's okay to be an introverted soccer mom like me. It really is. And hey, if you are like me and crave the company of other women who won't drag you to uncomfortable social events or pull your awkward self onto a crowded dance floor when you are nice and comfortable sitting under the table--thank you very much, but you would love to grab coffee and talk about life or go for a two hour hike, I'm your girl. Nice to meet you, friend. So glad you stopped by.