A while back, I set a Gchat status as a link to a comic about helping extroverts understand introverts. Assuming mine to be an opening shot in some Meyers-Briggs warfare in which I truly have no side or concern [Note: INFP. Shocker.], among the unsurprising retorts I got back were a number of comments about shut-ins, social rejects, and general use of the term “introvert” to mean “I’m a selfish prat who feels entitled to my dickishness because I don’t deal well with people.” If nothing else, it started a lot of interesting conversations with people about general concepts of the term and its popular parlance as a bastardized version of a psychological term still considered valid by the field. I honestly advise everyone to take a few minutes to read up on its more scientific meaning at some point, as I don’t believe the word means what you think it means.
Without attributing it to introversion necessarily, I will say that one of my stronger personality traits is an almost constant inner dialogue: an over-critical neurotic obsessive tinkering with trying to understand the human interactive situations I find myself in. In getting through the last two years, I’ve actually spent a lot of time “turtling” alone at home rather than go through the process of being introverted in public. Recently, I’ve found myself comfortable enough with my friends and family that I will allow myself these moments while in full scrutiny of the throng. This is such a good thing. This is such a sign of healing and growth and of my emotional/psychological world finally settling.
I believe it is also somewhat disconcerting to people.
The thing about me is that I come in two phases. The one that many of my friends know well is the Talker: verbal sparring, constant jokes, laughing and smiling and telling stories and trying hard to be truly expressive about how wonderful a moment is, or the people are who are sharing it with me. Matt once told me that when he first experienced this version of me, he thought I was being unbelievably sarcastic and assholey. I think it grows on people.
The other phase is one that I think people who’ve known me for years recognize, but one that some new people in my life are only now experiencing for the first time: The Silence. I know that some of the people closest to me in my life have never gotten used to it (much to the detriment of some relationships, in fact). Its in those moments, described above, where I am deeply entrenched in uncontrollable thought, and experiencing things that I simply cannot or do not wish to share. As I come out the other end of the Forest, I recognize the changes in myself. One of the most profound is that the list of things I keep to myself, the things I cannot or will not say has grown exponentially longer. They aren’t bad things; not at all. They are simply the things that I save for me and only me.
I was walking with friends. The conversation was such that I was not a contributor for the moment. Some stimulus hits, and I remember something old, and I begin to think on it. Or I see my friends smiling and the sun shining and the weather is so crisp and I wonder if I could put my collar up, like a character in a book, but no one really ever puts their collar up except in ads in Esquire, and I wonder when my next issue will arrive, and I’m glad I read that article about plaid shirts with ties being work-appropriate, and this shirt really goes well with this sweater and … “What was that?”
“I asked ‘Are you okay?'”
And I am okay. And maybe I was thinking about fashion. Or maybe I was thinking about some comment I made, many many years ago, and I’m still mortified. Or maybe I’m thinking about all of the things I could have done differently. Or maybe I’m thinking about whether its better to be alone than to be unsure. Or maybe I’m thinking about checking to see if apple juice is on sale at the Safeway. Or maybe I’m thinking about taking Kir to the vet. Or buying a house. Or my parents’ divorce. Or my own divorce. Or what I’m going to buy for my brother for Christmas. Or my fantasy football team. And maybe I was just incredibly happy in the moment. Or maybe I was incredibly sad.
“Yeah,” I smiled back, trying very hard to show-not-say the intent. “Yeah, I’m good.”
I was having dinner with a couple a few weeks back. While Husband cooked dinner, Wife said a very surprising thing.
“Did you know that Husband is a chubby-chaser?!” She smiled as she said it; I believe she and I have bonded over the years over our mutual affection for, admiration of, and shit-giving to Husband.
“I’m not a chubby chaser.” Husband sighed.
“Well I don’t know what else to think when you were flirting with that heavier woman!” Wife smirked at me when she said this.
“I wasn’t flirting with her.” Husband sighed again.
“Whatever!” she laughed. “You were Mr. Charm when you were talking to her!”
“That’s because, to put it nicely, she’s not my type,” he explained. “I’m only shy and awkward around people I might be attracted to. If their not attractive to me, I’m not intimidated at all, and I can be as charming as I want to be!”
I loved this moment. I loved it for Husband and Wife being so very Them. I loved it for how much I related to it, and why I continue to look at a life of being single as absolutely terrifying. I loved it because I often tell the same sort of truth, using the example of how at work I am confident and charming, while in real life I can be awkward and shy and intimidated easily. I love it because it sheds light on the fact that there is Real Life Truth in the Tommy Boy Chicken Wings Scene.
… go ahead and watch it. Its a good scene. Tommy likey! Tommy want wingy!
Today, as I said goodbye to someone I may not see again for a long time, I gave a hug (as I am wont to do, like a shot ringing out in the dark) and felt the tangible goodness of the moment. My brain ran through a million thoughts all at once; a million happinesses and sadnesses, a million questions and unresolved issues and simple thoughts of making a statement of intent or a statement of kindness or a statement of affection or a statement of any kind.
Instead, I just closed my eyes, and I repeated in my head, “A thousand words. A thousand things. All of them belong to me.”
If you find me in a Silence, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. It means that I feel comfortable around you; comfortable enough to be vulnerable and introverted and experiencing the other half of my life exposed to you. If you find me in Silence, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong at all: it means that everything is alright.