I think in a past life I was a turtle. I don’t like too move to fast, and I love the idea of going inside my shell to take a nap, shut out danger, or just because I’ve had enough. When asked what kind of animal they’d like to be most people usually reply with something far cooler. Lions, hawks and sharks are common answers because they give you an incredible amount of power with regard to strength and motion. But not me. I envy the sloth who can nap in the tree, the hermit crab who has a shell but can chill on the beach, and the slow and steady turtle. I’m not proud of my lack of speed, agility, and general need to be introverted, but at nearly 40 I don’t think any amount of therapy is going to change who I am.
When I am with people socially I tend to go all in. I’m genuinely interested in other people – how they live, what they do, who they are. I love to learn their stories. If you put me at a party or a social situation I am going to be outgoing and mingle but only if I can ask real questions. I need to get past the polite small talk and into a real conversation. I am not skilled at having witty banter, the kind where you say just enough and never too little. Since I consider myself an open book, I dive right in when talking to other people. It mortifies my children, confuses my husband, and probably scares new people I meet. But if I am going to invest the mental, physical and emotional time into a conversation, I want to make damn sure I make it worth it. Oh and if Barbara Walters ever wants me to handle her most fascinating people of the year interviews I know I’ll be prepared.
This is all well and good until my socialization tank runs out of fuel. I am a true introvert in that for every minute spent interacting with others, I need probably twice as much time alone interacting with absolutely no one. I have tried to work on this social flaw but it is no use. The same way that some people have very small bladders, I have a very small social tank. All my college roommates will tell you that I could only be at a party for so long before I was done and would need to shut ‘er down. This used to annoy my friends so I got used to sneaking out and not saying goodbye, which further annoyed people because then I was just being rude. I used to try to stay longer, to keep up with my friends who had larger social tanks, but I sucked at it. The outgoing inquisitive part of me was replaced with someone who would rather face the corner of a wall then have another conversation. I become exhausted. This is where I usually go find the resident animal of the house. I love pets. They don’t have to talk and it’s all good. I’m weird, I know.
But I also know there are others of you out there who are like me. You are my fellow brethren who get excited about your pajamas and canceled plans. You too secretly long for socially acceptable ways to say “Bye Felicia” when you have had enough. You get jealous of babies in strollers who can just pull that umbrella over their heads when they are done with whatever is going on around them. You’ve also wondered where you can actually buy one of these anywhere nappers.
But real life requires me to leave my house and interact. Thankfully I love my job with all my heart, but sometimes it hinders my need to be a turtle. When I work with a client I am 150% all in. I’m invested in their emotions and their goals and I am laser focused. I’m not hungry, I’m not tired, I’m not distracted. I am in the zone and cruising along an open highway with a full fuel tank. It’s a one on one relationship and I can tailor it to fit the needs to be however I need to be to fit each client’s personality. But when I get home? I’m done. The tank is empty. I am grumpy and not able to answer one more question. And God forbid someone stands too close to me in the line at the grocery store, because this is when I fear I may snap. For the last time – if I haven’t paid yet than back the hell away from the keypad. Personal space people!!!
Special thanks to my sister for finding this photo that sums up how her husband (a fellow introvert) and I both feel.
Over the years I have made it a priority to carve out enough time to recharge, I find it’s safer for those who still stand too close to me at the grocery store. Sitting quietly to read or write, cleaning the house (again, weird), or zoning out to something mindless on tv will usually help to bring me back to center. Even my family knows that sometimes mommy needs down time. I love my children with all my heart but talk about sucking the social fuel out of your tank. They practically syphon it for kicks. The other drag on my fuel economy? My phone. I have a love/hate relationship with my phone that borders on dysfunctional, and I constantly feel distracted by Facebook, email and Instagram. There are too many people and too much to keep up with. Check out this excerpt from The New Yorker (October 7th, 2014 The Limits of Friendship by Maria Konnikova):
With social media, we can easily keep up with the lives and interests of far more than a hundred and fifty people. But without investing the face-to-face time, we lack deeper connections to them, and the time we invest in superficial relationships comes at the expense of more profound ones. We may widen our network to two, three, or four hundred people that we see as friends, not just acquaintances, but keeping up an actual friendship requires resources. “The amount of social capital you have is pretty fixed,” Dunbar said. “It involves time investment. If you garner connections with more people, you end up distributing your fixed amount of social capital more thinly so the average capital per person is lower.” If we’re busy putting in the effort, however minimal, to “like” and comment and interact with an ever-widening network, we have less time and capacity left for our closer groups. Traditionally, it’s a sixty-forty split of attention: we spend sixty per cent of our time with our core groups of fifty, fifteen, and five, and forty with the larger spheres. Social networks may be growing our base, and, in the process, reversing that balance.
In the beginning of the article the author cites research that determines 150 people to be the ideal amount of people for one person to handle for the social connections. That number includes relatives, co-workers and friends. My Facebook account says I have 602 friends. That’s insane and there is no way I actually know that many people. Of course I don’t have to keep up with all of it, by no means is anyone forcing me to keep up with everyone on my feed and what is going on in their lives. But I am that weirdo that once I start reading my timeline one thing will lead to another, and the next thing I know it’s 2am and I am looking up photos of someone’s aunt’s sisters house in Texas. No, Facebook doesn’t ask us to do this, nor does it require us to us it in that way but I am weak and I am nosey. This is why I cannot have Girl Scout Thin Mints in my home. I will eat an entire sleeve. And just as the article points out above, I feel like I am using up my already short tank of social fuel on perimeter issues and people, which means I have little or no time left for the people in my life that I actually want to have a phone conversation with, or possibly even sit down together face to face. That is not cool. I may be tired but I miss my good friends. Thankfully they know how I am and they aren’t afraid to chase me down and force me out when I become too much of a hermit.
Last week I took the Facebook app off of my phone for 2 days. It was hard at first, sadly I can admit I had total FOMO (Fear of missing out). But once I really let go I was able to say yes to being in the present and enjoy the friends and family that I was lucky to be able to spend time with. I still took pictures on my phone, I played games on my phone and I tried to catch up with the overflowing email and text messages that always overwhelm me. But no Facebook, and not really much Instagram. But it’s kind of like when you don’t watch the news or read the paper for a few days. It feels good to live in a bit of ignorant bliss but it doesn’t mean that everything around you has actually stopped. Everyone’s lives are moving so fast and it can become so easy to lose track. Facebook does have a good side. It enables me to connect with people from my past and my present. I love to see pictures from my friends; kids, their families, their vacations. I also enjoy the links to some truly amazing articles, products and ideas. If it wasn’t for Facebook I wouldn’t even be able to get this post to most of my readers. I’m human and yes, it feels good to know people read something and may have liked it. More importantly I love when I write something and someone else says “Me too!” It makes me feel a lot less weird and a lot less alone.
So what is the solution? I have learned that in my case true downtime means recharging my phone in one room while I go recharge in different area, away from the phone. But I can’t avoid it forever. Like everyone else I know, I’m working on balance. And I think if you are in tune enough to know your balance is off, then you will always be on the right track to putting forth the effort to getting it back on. It’s so much like a seesaw. A seesaw can only become balanced when there is someone else of equal weight on the other end. With no one on the other side we are alone, and at an extreme low, essentially stuck to the ground. Conversely too many people puts us up too high – we feel ungrounded and unstable. The right amount will put us feeling a little lighter and a little more steady. We can see the ground but know we have our friends to hold us up.
*Insider Tip – Socially Structure Your Wardrobe
We all have very busy lives, but most people can think of their lives like a pie chart. For example, how much of your time is spent at work? How much time do you spend going out? How much time do you spend at home? Think about what kinds of things you wear, or want to be wearing in each scenario. Do you have 2-3 go-to outfits for each department in your life? The next time you buy something make sure it fits into one of your sections in your personal pie chart. Ask yourself where you are wearing it, and be really honest. For example, lets say you see a really cute pencil skirt in floral print. You love the print and the skirt fits great. But will you wear it to work? Will you wear it to church? Will you wear out with friends? Will you wear it out on a date? If you haven’t worn a skirt to any of those things before are you ready to start wearing one? If it doesn’t fit into your life then you will never wear it, no matter how much you like it. It will sit in your closet, take up space, and clog up your ability to make choices. Clothes are a beautiful thing, but they have to provide a service. They have to fit well, make us feel good, and be functional for our lives. Think of how good ol Mr. Rogers would start his show. He would come in the door (maybe from work?), hang up his jacket, and put on his cardigan. That cardigan said he was home, he was off duty, and he was ready to start his creepy yet oddly comforting kids show. Our clothes set the tone for us and for those around us. If you take the time to edit out your closet make sure to take your time to edit what goes back in. Oh and don’t forget to include play clothes for the seesaw on the playground.
Thanks for reading!