What will you do with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Introvert in an Extrovert World

When I was a child, I thought I was abnormal because I enjoyed being alone and making up stories in my head. In my first marriage, my now ex-husband would try to change me into an extrovert my putting me into what I experienced as embarrassing situations, and often asked, "What's wrong with you?", or "Why don't you come out of your shell?" when I was reluctant to party all night or be the center of attention. Needless to say, he is an extreme extrovert. 

Several years into that marriage I discovered my personality type (INFP on the Myers-Briggs) and suddenly understood that I was not what society considered 'normal' (INFPs being only a small percent of the population), but that being an Introvert is not abnormal at all.  Finally understanding who I am has freed me to be the person I was created to be.  I grew to appreciate my "differentness".  

As we live and move toward the stages of our lives, usually introverts move toward extroversion, and extroverts move toward introversion. 

According to Elizabeth Wagele, "
Introversion is a turning within. It is a pilgrimage to one’s own mind and being; a journey that all people must take at various times throughout our lives. We turn within for greater clarity, for new perspectives, for creative inspiration, for the joys and solace of solitude itself. Every person will have some such moments in life of turning within."

Have you ever read something and it's as if that person bored inside your head and pulled the very words out that you wanted to say, but did not know how? Today's post is one of those, and is Carl King's response to the book, 
The Introvert Advantage: How To Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Laney, Psy.D. I found this post on King's website and found his Top Ten Myths very familiar.  King says:

"Unfortunately, according to [Laney's] book, only about 25% of people are Introverts. There are even fewer that are as extreme as I am. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings, since society doesn’t have very much experience with my people. (I love being able to say that.)

So here are a few common misconceptions about Introverts (I put this list together myself, some of them are things I actually believed):
Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.
Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.
“You cannot escape us, and to change us would lead to your demise.” - Carl King
"It can be terribly destructive for an Introvert to deny themselves in order to get along in an Extrovert-Dominant World. Like other minorities, Introverts can end up hating themselves and others because of the differences. If you think you are an Introvert, I recommend you research the topic and seek out other Introverts to compare notes. The burden is not entirely on Introverts to try and become "normal." Extroverts need to recognize and respect us, and we also need to respect ourselves.
Let me know your thoughts.
Let me hear from the Introverts out there! (and from the Extroverts who love them.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Super Dad!

My father, James A. French,
age 5 or so
Warning: If you’re squeamish about bugs, read no further.

My father was a Super Dad. He was the exterminator, in more ways than one. He banished monsters from under the bed. He shooed ghosts away. He could rid our house of darkness by repairing one television set. Within hours we had light again. A poor family’s hunger was squashed flat because he brought them two of our chickens. With the threat of a dose of castor oil he fought away a dread disease that threatened to keep my brothers home from school, and miraculous healings occurred.

He was a master at magically fighting all.  But most amazing to me was the fact that he could rid our home of roaches. Now, these days this prolific and nasty insect is not that much of a problem with modern chemicals that promise to last for years. 

But back then, in the 1950’s and 1960s, roaches were like the plague. Especially in the part of town we lived in. They were huge beetle-like creatures. And they flew! A fly-swatter was sometimes the weapon of choice. Daddy sprayed them with something, perhaps it was DDT, I don’t know. But they would always come back after a few weeks. I suppose the chemical killed the live bugs but didn’t harm the eggs, so after the new hatchings became big enough to make their presence known, he would have to spray again. And again. Especially after Mama found a roach in the loaf of Sunbeam bread. Or lying belly-up in the pot of vegetable soup. Her screams called for immediate action. That would do it.  So Daddy brought home a new chemical that someone said would work better than the last thing he tried.  Always this magic liquid was praised as the new miracle. Something to save us at last from the creatures’ soft legs that skittered across our faces in the deep dark of night.

One of the most graphic true stories I ever read was in Don’t Quit Your Day Job, a collection of essays on writing by writers compiled by Sonny Brewer.  The piece was by Pat Conroy on his work as a youth sent out by Roman Catholic nuns to assist the indigent in a public housing complex. Conroy deftly describes his journey into this forbidden den of drugs and violence to help those in need. In his innocence, he has no fear, and he has faith that his help is needed and desired. He comes upon one of his assigned apartments where a woman lives who is blind. She is a prisoner in her apartment because of fear of being harmed by the vermin who prey on the less fortunate. Over time, and because of Conroy’s youthful tenacity, she finally opens her door to Conroy and he enters her less-than-spotless home. He takes in the scene and tells it so explicitly that I am there, looking over his shoulder. He describes the kitchen wall. It is black. And it is moving. He realizes the wall is covered in roaches.

A vintage metal pump sprayer. (from Etsy)
Our house was certainly never that bad growing up.  But I can certainly relate to that description. Just the sight of one of those critters and my imagination grew them out of proportion to their true size. They were giants. So my father would bring home the magic formula that promised to rid our abode of the beasts once and for all. The method was simple. The instructions called for mixing the insecticide with a certain percent of water before spraying.  I can only guess how my father mixed this – he was a stickler for following directions so I’m sure he did exactly as instructed. The sprayer was a simple metal canister attached to a hand-pumped sprayer. You filled the canister and re-attached it by screwing it onto the hand pump mechanism. By pulling back on the hand-pump, the liquid was sucked up into a tiny metal tube. By plunging the hand pump forward the liquid was sprayed out by the force of the air across that tiny metal tube. 

Over and over again, Daddy pumped and sprayed, pumped and sprayed. His face and wrinkled brow bore the look of determination to save his family. The rest of us would all be fast asleep as he sprayed along every baseboard in the house, around every door, in the closets, everywhere vermin could hide. 

The next morning they were gone.  And my father was his jovial self again, going off to work as usual. Thus the life of the exterminator, off to repair another television so the silence in our house would be eliminated after the phone bill was paid. 

How did your dad “save” your family? What are some memories of your father, as we approach this Father’s Day?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Douthat State Park, Virginia

Our Cabin at Douthat State Park
When I purchase something over the Internet, I’m never quite sure of how the real thing will look. The one-dimensional photograph never depicts the thing exactly as it is when you can see and touch it for real.  Thus it was so with our three-day stay at a state park in Virginia.
My husband and I are on our way to Washington DC to visit museums there and we are taking a three-week vacation in the process.  We are in no hurry, so decided to look on the Internet for a cabin in a national or state park. I put my finger on the map at about the halfway point and there was Shenandoah National Park in the heart of the Appalachian Mountians of Virginia. I called. They were booked up. My finger moved a tad to the left and there was Douthat State Park.  I called. They had a vacancy.

Robert reading, still in his
sleeping attire

So here we are for two nights and three days in a rustic pristine log cabin built in the 1930s by the CCC, on a tree-covered mountainside with sounds of a fern-lined creek plunging into a lake just below us. Hand-forged chunky doorknobs with iron levers operate the doors. 

The floors creak. Rocking chairs guard the stone front porch. A small fire chases away the 50 degree morning chill. In the afternoon, in this bucolic setting, the air is very warm, maybe 80 degrees or so. Robert sets out first thing on a bike ride through the mountainside park. I set out on a hike down the path to the creek for a wade. I take off my shoes and socks and put my feet into the iciest water I’ve ever felt. Quite shocking, and intensely refreshing.  

The feel of that water propels me into a state of consciousness that I have not felt in a long time. One in which I know in my deepest bones that my mind is clear of work, of stress, of lists and of concerns other than the chill of the water and the sounds of the birds in this particular place and time. 

Downstream, a patient father shows his small son how to fly-fish. The water is so clear I see rainbow trout swimming in the deeper pools below where I stand. The creek flows into a lake further down.  The lake is very deep – 40-50 feet at its center. 

On the second day I take a four-mile hike through the mountains and around the lake, as canoeists float in the distance. The lakeshore is lined with river rocks to prevent erosion, and most of these rocks are large. I see one in the shade and decide to dip my toes in the icy water again.  In my peripheral vision, I see a quick movement. A four-foot long water snake senses my presence and darts from under the rock I’m about to sit upon, then swims elsewhere to find its small minnow and bug breakfast.  Sorry, snake. But I’d rather see a snake than a bear.

Reading, writing, eating and walking. That’s about it. The sounds of the water rushing over large boulders and river rocks, and the lush green that surrounds us, lull us at last into restfulness. And naps. Plenty of naps.

What do you do - where do you go - to get away?

The creek below our cabin