Quiet

Life has been great lately. If I have some time, I’ll post about going to the chiropractor, which may have been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Right now, I want to write about Quiet by Susan Cain.

I have always been told that I’m shy, quiet, reticient, too sensitive, an over-thinker, etc. And it’s always been implied that all those things are bad. Well, not anymore.

Yes, I am an introvert. And I am tired of being spoken down to, being put down for, or ignored because of it. In society’s current “Culture of Personality” as Cain puts it, introversion is a failure. But how can society deem something that’s an innate part of a person — like skin color or height — a failure. There is room for all of us in this world.

Lest you think introverts are insignificant, Cain names a few: Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein, W.B. Yeats, Chopin, George Orwell, Dr. Suess, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page (he’s the founder of Google – yea, GOOGLE.). There are more too. Don’t believe me? Rosa Parks, Diane Keaton, Client Eastwood, Barbara Walters, Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, Ghandi, Al Gore. And others!

An excerpt from the book:

Introversion […] is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.

She also discusses the introvert-extrovert spectrum and how that intersects with the anxious-calm spectrum (imagine a grid.) I’ve never thought about this, yes I’m introvert. And depending on when you met me in my life, would determine where I was on the other spectrum. As I’ve gotten older, and gained more self-confidence, self-love, self-worth, I’ve slowly wandered from anxious to calm. I’m a bit peeved to look back on things now and realize that much of that social anxiety I carried with me was because other people – teachers, bosses — put those labels mentioned above on me, loaded with all sorts of negative connotations. Had someone put their arm around me as an adolescent and said, You’re quiet, so what? Or I bet you’re not so quiet on the inside. Or You’re quiet, you’re probably planning something magnificent. Had someone decided to stop forcing me into uncomfortable social situations where I would only learn to feel like a failure, and pushed me to passionately and productively working on my own, I probably would have reached calm-introvert much sooner (not to imply that I’ve arrived now.)

What is introversion? It is not “a hermit or a misanthrope.” It’s hard to define – or rather so easy to define that there are hundreds of definitions. In Quiet, Cain gives a quick True/False test (which obviously isn’t scientific, but gives the reader the general gist.) I answered True to 17 out of 20 questions. It was like being hit in the face. Yes – I am an introvert. And in accepting this, I immediately felt less bad about it. If that’s who I am, I can’t change that. Nor do I need to. What I need to do is work with it. Make it an asset.

One of the questions I REALLY thought was thoughtful and hit the target: True of False, ‘I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.’ I enjoy going out, talking with people, eating, laughing, drinking, socializing, but there usually comes a point in the evening when I’m done and would like to return home. And it’ frustrating because when I’m alone, that’s the point in the evening when I leave. Poof, I’m out of there. But if I’m with someone, most often a boyfriend, I have to stay until he’s ready to leave. Given that most of my boyfriends have been extroverts of varying degrees this puts me into a sticky situation. I can leave and be deemed unfit by him and society or I can stay growing increasingly miserable. No one’s been very sympathetic to the idea that staying and having a good time isn’t much of an option. Would you be having a good time if you felt forced to do something?

Anyway, so far this book is magnificent, and I’m looking forward to the feeling of empowerment I’ll no doubt have once I finish. If you’re an introvert, of any range, you must read it. I’d recommend it to extroverts, because as Cain points out, “one out of every two or three people you know” is an introvert, it could help you connect with your loved ones. However, I don’t know if that’s actually true, I’m not an extrovert after all, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Quiet

Foreshadowing: It’s Complicated

Wow, so I was looking for something on this blog, and I found this password protected post from the beginning of the year. And I totally forgot what it was about and so I reread it. And wow. It was pretty much acknowledging all the problems A and I had way back then. Which is crazy, because for things to have been bad in January, they were probably bad leading up to that for months. And it’s just amazing how much I didn’t trust my own instincts. How much I will willing to put aside my own intuition and keep on playing the fool. I am very annoyed at myself for doing this. I don’t know why I got suckered in so much (actually, I do have a good idea why – can you tell from the post? There’s a hint of it.)

It’s frustrating because these problems weren’t even really problems. They were just miscommunications. Had he stopped feigning ignorance and being all wishy washy and had just said, I think this is great, but no we don’t have a future, I like you, but maybe we’re going in the wrong direction. etc. etc. we would have altered the course of our relationship to something that worked better for each of us. But instead he snuck around behind my back and now there is absolutely no relationship, not even a friendship. It’s such a disappointment, and I just plea with all of you out there — be HONEST and upfront with your loved ones. Because there is no greater cruelty than not giving a loved one a choice in the matter. I’m a rational adult, I can handle the truth. I can’t handle being lied to and disrespected by those who claim to love me.

Trust your instincts and be honest. That’s all I can hope for in my friends and lovers. Ahh well. Want to read the original post? It’s Complicated.

Foreshadowing: It’s Complicated

Works Well Under Pressure

Have you ever wanted to ditch your life and go on a whirlwind adventure that lasts a lifetime? (Boy, that sounded like some lame plug to a travel blog.) But if lots of people feel this way, why don’t we? I’m one of those people that works well under pressure. And considering that’s a pretty common phrase, I’d assume that there are many, many others who also work well under pressure. I was giving it some thought, what exactly does working well under pressure mean. For me, it means that I step up when it matters, when I have to.

But on the other hand, I have a lot of social anxiety when I feel pressured by other people to perform in a certain way – did I say something stupid, why are they all looking at me, am I being left out – etc. Fairly benign things, but I have the habit of taking them to their extremes and internalizing everything to the point of curl-in-a-ball, cry on a sunny afternoon, bouts of depression. Oh, turns out that there might actually be a reason why people suffer from depression, and it’s fairly positive. Check out the Times article, Depression’s Upside: Is there an evolutionary purpose to feeling really sad? It says in the article that Darwin actually suffered from terrible mental health and he was so perplexed by it, because his most important scientific findings and theories support the notion that his depression makes him a weak-link in evolution or a freakish anomaly. This is reassuring for some reason. But I digress…

So, if depression helps people fixate and analyze things better, and if I work well under pressure, wouldn’t the most logical thing be for me to throw caution to the wind and just go for the adventure? Because survival in some form or another will kick in? Plus, what adds more pressure to your life than your money running out, having to scrounge for food and needing to find shelter? Now you might wonder, hey, this is just a one-way stop to homelessness. Don’t you see all those homeless people living out on the streets? Well, yes I see them. But I’m under the impression that most homeless people end up that way because they’re seriously mentally ill or have other issues. I realize that I’m coming from a place of privilege and that I have the resources (I have skills so I could work if need be, I have parents who would help if need be, etc.) to avoid ending up completely lost. …Would knowing that I have these resources/back-up-plans make me feel any less pressured? Probably. …Maybe this is just an unachievable human desire…

My other thought was that people should go on these non-stop adventures on the premise that they’d kill themselves when they stop. Talk about pressure! And it doesn’t have to be some road-to-hell, drugs-sex-alcohol, craziness a la Hunter Thompson. You could actually go out and make a real difference. What if your adventure was to help every person who ever asked you for help. And when people stopped asking or when you had no more to give, bang. Off with your head. I think I just have the desire to see what I’m capable of. But that’s the problem with life. Life itself doesn’t pressure an individual person. Pressure is just a construction by other people put onto you. So, it’s like I know I’m not achieving all I can, because there’s no pressure. Hence, my thinking on the off with your head bit. And the whole, you could get hit by a bus, so live every day like it’s your last, is too hyperbolic for me. I want to sign a contract or something (in blood of course.) Anyway…

I saw Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of Half the Sky–this amazing book that basically posits that gender inequity will be the global initiative of the 21st century, speak today. She talked about many of the stories from the book, but she also offered a Hawaiian parable. Often when talking about changing the world, people feel overwhelmed and think how can I make a difference, what can I do, it’s too big for me to solve, etc. But she said this:

There’s a boy walking along the beach. There are hundreds of starfish on the beach, just hundreds, completely covered. And he walks along and every few steps, he bends over and picks one up and tosses it back into the ocean. And he keeps doing this. He’s thrown in maybe five starfish, when an older man passes by him. The old man says, Child, what are you doing?! You’ll never make a difference, look around, there are too many starfish. And the boy bends down and picks up a starfish and throws into the ocean. And the boy says, I sure made a difference to that one.

The meaning of life might just be throwing a starfish into the ocean.

For more on Half The Sky, which if you only read one book this year – it should be that one, visit their website: Half The Sky Movement.

Works Well Under Pressure

30×30

Last weekend, I went to Atlantic City with friends. There they met up with a friend, R. R bet $500 on black at the roulette table. And lost. R is not a high roller, nor is he a compulsive gambling addict. What he is, is almost 31. Why is this important? Because “betting $500 on black” was on his list of 31 things to do before he turns 31. This list is the successor to his 30 things before 30. 30 things to keep himself from getting too complacent in life, 30 things to remind him that today is better than tomorrow.

And that brings me to me. And my 30×30 list. Why not right?

  1. Stay awake for 24 hours – I feel like it’s appropriate to start the list with something I accomplished and on the same day as R’s unlucky bet. (I don’t care if you think that’s cheating. I think I’m getting a good head start.) At Atlantic City, no one slept. Seriously. We got there. I gambled from like 12-4am. Met up with friends again, gambled from 5-7am. (No, I did not win anything.) Got bedded down around 7:30am. About the same time I woke up on Friday to go to work. The room had a nice view of the ocean. I saw night turn to day. And I wondered, if I can do this, disregard sleep and eating for hours, while gambling, why can’t I do it for something important? Staying up for 24 hours helped rekindle… I don’t know what exactly… but something. It felt good to do something out of the ordinary.
  2. Freelance as a day job – May 2012. This is one of two big challenges for the 30×30 list. Even if it’s just for a few months while I’m in between jobs, or if it’s my own LLC. I just want to know that I tried it, risked it.
  3. Get my motorcycle license
  4. Sleep under the stars sans tent
  5. Visit a farm sanctuary – Jan 2013
  6. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity (goal change Jan 2013: Volunteer with a worthy organization of my choosing.)
  7. 10-Day Master Cleanse Fast (goal change Jan 2013: Need to find replacement, don’t think this is healthy.)
  8. Get a tattoo
  9. Integrate yoga into my life (goal change Jan 2013: Need to find replacement, merging this with martial arts/boxing.)
  10. Watch a roller derby game – October 2010
  11. Hang my artwork in a gallery – April 2012
  12. Learn a martial arts or boxing or yoga.
  13. Design a t-shirt
  14. Watch all the Back to the Future– March 2010
  15. Plant a tree – May 2013
  16. Master gnocchi making (goal change Jan 2013: Master cooking.)
  17. Visit all 50 states. 13 down, 37 to go. – This is the other big thing on the 30×30 list. 37 states is actually a lot to do. 7+ states each year. Who’s ready for a road trip?
  18. Complete a half-marathon – January 2012
  19. Apprentice with a photographer
  20. Go to the U.S. Open – August 2012
  21. Go on a vineyards tour – September 2010
  22. Bike the MD-PA trail (goal change Jan 2013: Or any long, long stretch of multi-state trails.)
  23. Find a creative collaborator / partner in crime
  24. Go to the firing range – September 2010
  25. Have writing published
  26. Be a guest speaker/lecturer
  27. Bet a $100 at a roulette table – In honor of R. It seems only fitting. Except, you know, with less money.
  28. Payoff my student loan – February 2011
  29. Make/sew a quilt
  30. Get a pet – November 2012

Travel Plans: I separated these from the 30×30, because big travel plans sometimes involve more money, time, etc. So as long as these happen sometime, I’d be pretty happy.

  1. Visit Scotland (and Ireland if time.)
  2. Visit the Great Wall of China
  3. Ride a wild elephant (thus go somewhere where that is possible.)
  4. See the Northern Lights

Expect a post sometime soon on all the things I have accomplished. I tend to sell myself short, often, and it’d probably be good for the self-esteem to pat myself on the back.

30×30