The Introvert at Bastille Day – Part 2

My apologies for the delay in delivering Part 2 for your reading pleasure. I’m in the middle of painting the living room, and it has looked like this for much too long,

living room

Several family members (including myself) were getting upset by the appearance. (I’d like to get this painting project completed before school starts. My husband would like it finished yesterday.) So I’ve been spending my “extra” time working on that project, while my garden goes to pot. (See gigantic cucumbers below.)

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(Painting is a lot like childbirth. You go through the ordeal of painting a room, and you never! want to do it again. Until time erodes the memory of how horrific it was, and then you do want to do it again.

Once you start another painting project, it’s fun, kinda exciting­—only slightly painful—for the first 45 minutes… just like labor (at least my labors). But after 5 hours of progressively harder labor and you’ve only dilated 1cm, you start to get a “little” discouraged. That’s the phase I’m in—inching forward at a snail’s pace. Is this too graphic a description? I think I’ve been smelling a bit too many paint fumes and have lost my sense of blog etiquette. But I digress….)

I came very close to not publishing Part 2 of the Introvert at Bastille Day for two reasons: 1. It has very little to do with extroverts/introverts. 2. I did not want to take precious painting time to edit a piece that is the closest thing to written rambling that I’ve ever done. But I promised you three parts, so I will deliver… plus I already had Part 2 fully written anyway. Hopefully you can forgive the grammatical errors due to editing during the late hours of the night after a rather exhausting day and one too many whiffs of the paint can.

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So here we are – Fortville, Indiana! Bastille Day has come and gone, and I’ve spent the overwhelming majority of the past two days sitting on my tush, pecking away at the laptop, living a life of luxury. Actually, I’m getting really tired of all this sitting. I will be glad to head home tomorrow after four days of lots of sitting and actually chase my kids around the house.

Wait…. when I left off in my last post, you expected me to be chasing my two cherubs around Daniel’s boss’ house for a whole week. Well, Daniel and I did some extrovert-introvert negotiating. (This has been a marriage saver over the past 11 years. I think we’re getting pretty good at it… hopefully.) I told Daniel I was more willing—although still filled with much reservation—to go to Bastille Day if we shortened the stay to four days, instead of seven. Much to my consternation, that point of negotiation caused no kickback from Daniel. When my mother-in-law offered to keep our kids while we were away, I knew I had no other excuses left in my arsenal, so it was time to make the plans, channel my inner-extrovert, and try to be as cheerful as possible about the whole (or)deal all while biting my fingernails to bits.

We left bright and early Saturday morning. I fitfully slept through some of the morning due to a very! early morning long-run and late night packing. When I finally joined the land of the living, I opened up my bag of Vacation Bible School supplies and spent much of the car ride cutting out felt hearts and paper hands.

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I did take my turn behind the wheel for two hours to give Daniel a little snooze, and it was during my driving time that I began to notice signs for Wendy’s at almost every single exit on Route 70. Now, when you like Frostys like I do and you’re getting really hungry like I was, it doesn’t take too many Wendy’s signs until you need a Frosty… like positively need one. I’ve kept my Frosty-love-affair top secret from Daniel for 15 years because I was quite certain he would disapprove of, as well as not truly understand, this fast-food addiction. (Actually I’ve dropped subtle hints along the way…. like asking him to bring me back a Frosty when he goes out to eat without me. But alas… he is a man, and I was too subtle.) So when I divulged to him that I was searching for an exit with a gas station and a Wendy’s, he was dumbfounded.

“What do you want at Wendy’s?” he asked me. Seriously?…. I thought to myself. Do you not know what one gets at Wendy’s? What else IS there to get at Wendy’s other than Frostys. But knowing Daniel’s limited experience with fast food over the course of his life, I kept my sarcasm in check. “Have you ever even had a Frosty?” I asked him instead. “Maybe… I can’t remember,” was his response as we pulled into the parking lot.

Still filled with amazement that a 34 year old (actually he was two days shy of 34 at the time), American man does not remember ever having ingested a Frosty, I ordered mine and found the condiments/silverware. (Daniel had told me not to order anything for him.) I picked up a spoon, and started to walk away. “Don’t you need a straw with that?” Daniel asks. Frosty Virgin.

(Alright, to be perfectly honest, I think Daniel was just as amazed at me because me giving into a fast-food craving is almost as rare as Daniel ingesting fast food. But I figured if I was going to be dragged 1/4 of the way across the country against my will, I was going to get something out of it…. like a Frosty.)

Daniel did take a few bites of my Frosty, but I could tell he was not overly impressed. That’s ok by me though. I’ll volunteer to drive on the way home too. There are just as many Wendy’s heading east as there were heading west.

Frosty

And then we were there… fastest 9 hour car ride of my life between sleeping, cutting, driving, eating my Frosty, and NOT having to break up the kids’ fights or tell them 5,000 times to speak louder because I can’t hear them over the road noise.

 

Welcome to Bastille Day.

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The Introvert at Bastille Day – Part 1

Part one top2

Recently Daniel came up from his office grinning like he just won the Nobel Peace Prize. “We’ve just been invited to stay with my boss in Indiana for a WHOLE week for Bastille Day and a code sprint. Isn’t that awesome?” (His boss is from France, and Bastille Day is big deal there… or so I’m told. And a code sprint is when lots of programmers from many different locations get together to work—long, grueling hours—on the same project for a set length of time in hopes of releasing the project at the end of the sprint.)

“Awesome,” I said in a voice that related 18 hours in the car with two kids wasn’t exactly my idea of awesome.

Maybe you’ll think I’m ungrateful because I have been silently lamenting the fact that we have relatively little planned as far as summer get-aways; but as the details unraveled, the trip sounded extremely daunting to this self-proclaimed introvert. The week would begin with the Bastille Day celebration which was reported to rival every college party that ever existed (although it was supposedly kid-friendly as well). Then I’d have a whole week in someone else’s house, making small talk for 10-12 hours a day with who-knows-who while Daniel coded at the office. At supper, the kids and I would join Daniel and dine with his new work associates as well as others from around the world who were also sprinting. (By the way, my idea of getting away is a cabin, a campfire, and a canoe with close friends/family, not sharing a bathroom with complete strangers. For all the extroverts reading this, personal space is very important for an introvert.)

My idea of a get-away.... cue heavenly music.
My idea of a get-away…. cue heavenly music.

 

“What am I going to do all day in someone else’s house?” I asked Daniel, who in turn asked his boss, although hopefully not in those exact words. Her response, “The same thing you do all day in your own house except you won’t have to cook or clean anything. You can explore the city with the kids. You won’t be bored.”

And that’s when it clicked. This is a great! experience… for an extrovert. In fact, I would love to explore Fortville/Indianapolis with my extroverted husband by my side because he takes new situations by the horns and makes them less uncomfortable for me. (Don’t worry… when Daniel says it’s time to book our flights to Italy, I’m all over that one as long as he’s coming with me.) But living in someone else’s house, sharing personal space with my kids as well as strangers, meeting tons of new people, and exploring a new city as a single mom with two kids in tow sounded like the makings of an introvert’s meltdown by day #2.

Source
Source

 

And so I wished again, for probably the millionth time in my life, that I was an extrovert.

I’ve spent much of my life swinging back and forth between being proud to very ashamed of my introversion. I have even tried to revise my label of “introvert” to that of an “introvert with extroverted tendencies” by answering questions on personality surveys in the following manner:

True or False: I would rather go to a party than stay at home and read a book.”

My thoughts: Yes, I would rather go to a party IF there will be at least two good friends there and IF I’ve had enough down time at home beforehand and IF I’m not forced to participate in any large group activities. If all those conditions are met, I would love! to go to the party…. so the answer to the statement is “true,” right? Hah!

After years of living with my extroverted husband, I’ve finally realized that an extrovert generally likes to go to any party (mind blowing…. I know). So I’ve pretty much given up hope of classifying myself as an introvert with extroverted tendencies.

I was first introduced to the concept of introversion & extroversion in middle school. At that time, I was quite proud to classify myself with the quiet, introspective crowd. It wasn’t until high school that I began to realize society at large favors extroverts (jigsaw/cooperative learning, working in teams, sharing work spaces, etc.—all of which make me shudder). Teachers/professors, dating prospects, potential bosses all seemed to overlook the introspective introvert, favoring extroverted characteristics instead. Gregarious, assertive, boisterous people—who doesn’t want to spend time with them? And so for years I’ve felt at odds with a society that pushes me at my deepest levels to be someone I’m not.

During the three years I worked in childcare after college, I would often come home longing for silence and practically unable to communicate anything about my day to Daniel. I had already said all the words my introverted brain had to say for the day. I may have said the same three phrases all day long (“Use your gentle touches,” “Sit down in your seat,” and “Time to change your diaper”), but I was done. I had used up all my verbal capacity for the day. I told Daniel once I was a stay-at-home-mother, I would be a lot more social during evenings/weekends, and I was dead right.

Even though I now have more opportunity to re-charge my introverted batteries over the course of the week at home, this doesn’t make meeting/spending time with new people in new situations any! easier. And as I continued to cringe at the upcoming trip, I was certain Daniel should have married an extrovert to be his perfect mate, someone who could share the excitement and anticipation over this new adventure with him.

While in the midst of planning the Indiana trip, my immediate family went on a spur-of-the-moment trip…. to a cabin… with a campfire….  a canoe… and the people who know me best. Simply Glorious… exactly what I was dreaming of.

canoeing

 

Saturday evening, my mom, sister and I had the opportunity to sit together while my dad and brother-in-law entertained the kids before a fireworks display. We sat there in silence; three women with little to say. I didn’t think a thing about it until my mom said, “Do you think it’s strange that we just sit around and don’t really talk about anything? Other families sit and talk.”

I thought about my mom’s observation for a few days afterward. Yes, my family does tend to just sit and enjoy being with one another, not much need for conversation… probably because we’re all mostly introverts. We’re perfectly content just to be near each other, building our relationships through our shared experience, not by our words. Obviously, it’s very different from how extroverts relate to one another, but you know what? I’m ok with “different” because differences make the world a richer place. (And if we all talked all the time, who would do the listening?)

Dear extroverts of the world, I appreciate your need for people and new situations. I also concede that there are times when this introvert needs a little push in your direction in order to be more balanced. But you know what I wouldn’t trade for the world? The comfortable silence of a deep relationship that says to me, “Come and be with me. There’s no pressure to say anything and be someone you’re not.” For it is in that moment that I feel truly accepted and at rest.

 

If you are interested in learning more about introversion, I highly recommend the book “Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.

Never Say “Never”

RUNNER

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If there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that the old, worn-out adage “never say ‘never’” is absolutely t.r.u.e. When I think about all the things I said I’d never do and then think about how many of them I have actually done, I’m guessing my percentage of “fulfilled nevers” is pretty high.

Maybe personality has something to do with it too. Maybe a cautious person, such as myself, has a longer lists of nevers than those who aren’t as cautious. Maybe some of my nevers were said well before I was mature enough to actually understand what I was saying. But whatever the reasoning behind them, here are some of my “nevers” I’ve broken over the years.

I will never clean houses for a job.

I will never teach piano lessons.

I will never enjoy little kids (other than my own).

I will never marry a man shorter than myself.

I will never make my kids eat lima beans.

I will never make a pie… (again).

I will never plant peas… (again).

I will never register for a marathon.

What?? Daw-gone-it! I knew I never should have said the bit about never running a marathon. Apparently, I was tempting fate when I voiced those words to my neighbor while training for my first half marathon in 2011.

Through what appears to be an act of pure insanity with a good measure of stupidity thrown in while hallucinating on chocolate-overload, I filled out the registration form and trepidaciously (my new made-up word) pushed the “Process Payment” button for the Harrisburg Marathon, 26.2 miles of pure grit and pain. “Why do I do this to myself?” I ask over and over. I definitely don’t have the answer.

Maybe it’s good I don’t have the answer. Maybe I’m actually crazier than I think I am. Maybe this is some twisted, yet acceptable, form of self-torture. Maybe this is still part of my healing from past wounds. Maybe I need a “little” challenge in my life (because apparently taking on partial homeschooling isn’t enough!). Maybe I like to have a reason to leave the house for 3 hours for a 16 mile training run—kid-free. Maybe I need something I can point to as an accomplishment amidst scrubbing toilets and loading the dishwasher. Maybe this is just another segment of the continuing divine cruel joke to teach me to never say “never.” (Hope I learn my lesson soon! I also said I’d never marry a doctor because of their crazy schedules… Daniel, please!! keep loving those computers. I’m not sure how we’d survive, much less pay for, med school.

Or maybe what really happened was that after this past October’s half marathon, the idea of a full marathon infiltrated my thoughts. And while I was fully expecting this idea to quickly disappear as my winter running slump took its course, it never did. I talked it over with several people who were all too convincing that I should actually go for it (note to self: refer to different confidants next time), and one fateful afternoon I clicked that “registration” link.

 

bulk food
A sign that you are living with a registered marathon hopeful… fuel for the road arrives in bulk at your doorstep.

 

Whatever it is/was that has brought me to this point, my only choice now is to say “Hello” to good ol’ Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Marathon Training Schedule which will taunt me from the refrigerator door until November 10th. I will slowly cross off each training run as I complete it like I did for the half marathons. (Being completely honest here, that 20 mile long run scares me to death, no really…. To Death. Oh. My. Word! What have I done? Is there anyone crazy enough to run it with me?)

And although backward handsprings is the preferable method of crossing the finish line, other acceptable forms of finishing include (but are not limited to) running, walking, limping, crawling, or being carried. (An unacceptable form of finishing would be leaving via stretcher with some guy whom I don’t know breathing air into my lungs and pounding on my chest while someone else yells “Come On, Honey! Breathe!”, but I’ll try not to think about that… other than making sure to update my will.)

 

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Hoping this is true on November 10! (source)

 

My biggest dilemma (besides finding a second pair of the running shoes I currently use and love, but which have been retired by the manufacturer) is how to go about finding enough songs to add several hours of upbeat music to my running playlist. This is where I implore you, Oh Reader, if you have a particular song that makes you move, that gets your juices going—when you clean, cook, dance, mow the lawn, exercise, etc.— would you be so kind as to tell me the title/artist of your song? (You see, I’m a little out of touch with the current music scene beyond kids’ selections.) I’m open to all genres, including those you wouldn’t typically peg a semi-conservative-stay-at-home-mother as the type to groove with. (Yes, Pitbull is on my current playlist.)

 

sneakers
Don’t you love the internet? Since writing the original draft, I found a pair of my favorite-discontinued-running shoes online. Had to stop myself from ordering more than one pair since the price was so good. 

 

One final thought—take it from me so that you don’t have to learn it the hard way—seriously… just never say “never.” Otherwise you may find yourself liking little kids who aren’t your own while shelling a never-ending-bowl of peas, as you think about how you’ll get your kids to eat lima beans for supper, which will end with cherry pie for dessert, all while you train for a marathon.

Oh and by the way, if you’re ever in need of an ice-cream-eating-partner this summer, give me a ring. I figure with the additional miles I’ll be running, I’m going to need some additional fuel.

 

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This is Oh – So True! Considering buying this shirt as my post-marathon-reward. (source)