I am an introvert. Being around lots of people exhausts me. And it terrifies me. I am not one for idle chit chat, not very good at the “getting to know you” niceties that appear to be second nature to most other people. I knew this about myself before I set out on this adventure, yet I was unprepared for the ferocity with which my inner introvert roared into action these past two days.
Even though I am 50 years old, whenever I am in an unfamiliar place with a lot of unfamiliar people, I am transported back to my childhood, back to the days of trying to fit in at yet another new school, trying to look just right, say just the right thing, have just the right clothes, hair, shoes. I look longingly at the table where the cool kids sit and with dread at the empty table where my seat awaits. I keep my head down in the hallways and my hand down in the classroom.
My instinct is to run away and hide, to pull my head back into my protective shell and wait. I figure if I’m going to feel invisible, I may as well just be invisible. At least if I’m hiding, I can understand why no one approaches me, why no one sits at my table, why no one reaches out. If I am truly invisible, then I am in control. If you can’t find me, you can’t ignore me.
These are my primal instincts. My educated, intellectual self knows better, knows that if I put myself out there, if I reach out, I will be met half way. Knowing this does not make it any easier. It does not matter that I am 50—I still feel five, ten, 15, 20, 25. I still feel too young to understand, like life is still a mystery that will resolve and clarify as I get older. When I do not have my friends, my family, my community to reflect back to me who I am, I am nothing. I am empty. I am older, but I do not understand.
What frightens me most about this experience is that even when I do reach out (and I have), even when I have intelligent and reciprocal conversations with others here, I feel like my words are as silent as I am invisible, that my mouth opens up and the language evaporates, unintelligible and indecipherable. Even as others respond, at that moment I do not feel seen or heard, just empty and alone.
Evidently, this is my work, to welcome the fear, the loneliness, to invite them in and set them a table, and wonder what they have to teach me. Before great light, darkness. Before great relief, great pain.
4 thoughts on “The Road to AROHO Day 8: Feel the Fear and . . . Well, Just Feel It”
Ah, buddy. This is too familiar, and I hear you. (All the way to AK! See how strong and powerful your voice is!)
Good on you for setting the table.
I've been a performer most of my life and I don't have the slightest problem walking out onto a stage in front of hundreds of people but that's a persona I wear, like an extra suit of clothing. I think that's what you need. A persona that you can slip into for the duration of the event and slip out of on your way home. 🙂
Not good at small talk myself, I asked for your reading list but I have a suggestion for you. “Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.” Susan Cain. It's a good audio book for those long drives. I think every parent and teacher should read it and encourage kids to be who they are. The rest should shut up.
Hey Patricia–I have my reading list all ready for you and Quiet is on it 🙂 I loved that book! I agree with you about it!