A card-carrying introvert, I cherish my time alone. I need it. I crave time to let the many potential responses to colleagues, friends, neighbors and family—especially family—settle to the point that I am measured and calm in what I actually say. I conjure up a stunning variety of scenarios as I try to figure out what is “really” going on. There is no question that I am over-sensitive—my life experiences have led me to where I am, as yours, gentle reader, have led you, although we would all like to think that we can rise above such simplistic conditioning.
All that therapy, all that writing, and I am left with the irony that if I want to respond simply and authentically to another person, I have to spend a lot of time processing, thinking, mostly just musing about not only how I want to respond, but more basically, how I want to perceive the situation and my range of possible responses.
I do have friends and family, some more distant than I would prefer, but that is not in my control. And I understand that my social safety net of human connection is frayed as a result of moving three times in the last decade. Big moves, like divorces, take about three years to re-establish equilibrium. I do have a life, which has many, many satisfactions and much happiness, and I am blessed that I enjoy my own company.
But all that thinking, all that time alone—there is a sense in which it is unhealthy. There is nobody to pull me out of abstraction, nobody to say to me, “Just a cotton-pickin’ minute….you are way off base,” preferably in a loving and respectful tone. Oversensitive, doncha know.
So, I’m thinking I need to meet more people. Can you sense how my teeth are gritted when I say this? It is so much work for me! And yet, I know there is a payoff. Two decades ago, when I was first living in New York, a painfully shy bumpkin, I undertook to conquer my basic shyness by committing to talk to three new people a day. Anyone. The counter man in the coffee shop, people on the subway platform, the person sliding by on the opposite escalator (very safe, that one!) It worked. Very soon, I was talking up a storm to anyone and everyone. I ended up dating someone from the subway--one of my healthiest relationships with a very nice man.
Meeting more people in rural Vermont is tougher, but I refuse to believe it is impossible. Now past the magic three-year mark, I get invited to parties from time to time and I make a point of going. It is time to take up contradance again, and maybe some group hikes. The first step is getting out in the world more, since nobody is likely to come uninvited to my front door to bring me a fuller, brighter life.
The next step will be to pay attention. Again and again in my life, prospective friends and would-be lovers have stopped me, lectured me, whacked me silly to say, “Hey! You! I am trying to be friendly. Could you please notice my efforts?” Who knows how many interesting new people are circling even now, while I make my oblivious march through a good but solitary life?