On being an introvert who is not shy

I read something last week by psychotherapist Martha Crawford whose brain clearly operates at a higher frequency than mine. I posit this because I read the piece and then I thought about it ::makes thinking sound with mouth DURRRR:: and then I read it again and thought about it some more and the flickers sparked like a strand of Christmas lights and my brain nodded yes. YES! Yes. There I am. I am over there, with the introverts.


Here is the illuminating thought from that read: I am a tricky kind of introvert because I am an introvert who is not shy. I masquerade as someone who is interested in the exteriors because, as the author of the piece writes, I am good with words and enthusiasm is in heavy supply in my pocket. I am witty and not awkward {all the time}. I am an introvert who is not afraid of talking to people, who never had a goth phase, who has friends on and off the internets. Crawford says there's no other career but psychotherapy for her. For a long time I doubted myself as a journalist because I'm not a news junkie like a journalist should be. But put me in a room and let me probe the mind of a career criminal or a Miss California--tell me how you really feel--and I am in my element.

I have always preferred to exist in the inner sphere, to be involved and to spend long hours pondering and keying into the inner worlds of others. Large crowds make me so nervous and interacting on surface level drains my battery like woah. I know this is not a flaw, I know this is how I am wired and it is to be celebrated. I've taken the Myers-Briggs tests and I know how all about Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I know how much I should be embracing the introvert within.


The problem comes in having been pegged so often as an extrovert. My sister and I attended an all-girls high school (shout-out to MHS Blue Streaks--holla!). Do you know what it looks like to spend four years with 800+ mostly overprivileged suburban not-yet-womens? It looks like a huge sorority, built on the pillars of overachievement and preppy clothes. It is really hard to be an introvert because your social survival depends on extroversion. There are no boys to spur the extroversion, shouting with their suddenly deep man voices through the halls, pulling you out of a crowd, clowning around in class. It's just you, the body politic of the teenage girl. Extroversion is rewarded. Introversion is just too weird; go take that to the poetry club.

So I faked it until I made it in high school. I had many acquaintances. I had very few close friends who knew what was happening in my inner world.

When I got to college, the jig was up. I had to live in community, to share showers with 30+ women on my floor, to coexist in a cinderblock cell with a complete stranger (shout-out to ya, Tiff!). I was so desperately lonely my freshman year and to be honest, I had no idea why. I was motoring around trying to extrovert myself and I could not make any of the flies stick to the honey. My saving grace came the next year when I became an RA. I got a single room to myself where I could stare at my Christmas lights for hours and listen to Counting Crows "Long December" on repeat. I could go out of my room and interact with any number of amazing women. And then I could retreat back to my sanctuary of books and dim lights.


Just a couple of months before we got married, I was doing yoga in my underoos on the floor of my single girl room and I realized: this would soon end. Like, forever. I was lamenting this to my co-worker Kamau at the time and Kamau was all, "Um, Kendra? You know he's going to see you in even less than your underoos, right?" And I was, Yes. That's not the part that bothers me. The part that is so disruptive is the part another person being there, blowing up my meditation spot with his snoring.

Loverpants and I had a good first year of marriage to adjust to each other's need for quiet (me) and interaction (him). Um, WHO AM I KIDDING? I cried the entire first year wondering why I was such a jerk and why didn't I like to talk to my husby. Well, I'm still a jerk 8 years later, but I'm also an introvert and maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive of one another, but the latter involves some self-care.


Having kids has broken down so many introversion allowances for me. I am neither allowed the physical space nor do I need the thought space that I once was afforded, and it's good. My kids are two wrecking balls against the edifice of my introversion, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The soundtrack of my life MAMA? MAMAAAA! reminds me that I am not alone. Their love, especially, with their downy little cheeks against my face and their whispered pleas for more snuggles and marshmallows, have a special power to penetrate, and remind me that I am not alone on the outside, and their love is there keeping me company even on the inside.


P.S. Last day to enter the Easy Canvas Print contest!