Wednesday, February 08, 2012

turning inward

G O I N G   B L I N D

She sat at tea just like the others. First
I merely had a notion that this guest
Held her cup not quite like all the rest.
And once she gave a smile. It almost hurt.

When they arose at last, with talk and laughter,
And ambled slowly and as chance dictated
Through many rooms, their voices animated,
I saw her seek the noise and follow after,

Held in like one who in a little bit
Would have to sing where many people listened;
Her lighted eyes, which spoke of gladness, glistened
With outward luster, as a pond is lit.

She followed slowly, and it took much trying,
As though some obstacle still barred her stride;
And yet as if she on the farther side
Might not be walking any more, but flying.

Rainer Maria Rilke
translated from the German by Walter Arndt

* * *
I have been reading about introversion lately, borne of the tiresome game of tug-of-war my husband and I have long played over socializing. And while it was no surprise to me that I am, most definitely, an introvert, reading about introversion has been freeing.

Even though I was raised with one very introverted parent, I nonetheless got the message that it is more healthy to be an extrovert. I'm sure this is not only the fault of my parents, but also the general culture. It doesn't take much to notice that the qualities of extroverts (assertiveness, enthusiasm, high energy, gregariousness, among others) are more valued in American culture than those of introverts. For example, my husband (who is an extrovert) had lunch with two friends recently and mentioned that I'd been reading a book called The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. They asked him, obviously puzzled, what those advantages could be. And even though I'd talked to him at length about the subject, he still didn't seem to know. Sigh.

I found this quote in an Amazon book review for Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain:
"Let's face it. One cannot expect people handicapped with extroversion to be able to think deeply or meditate over the serious philosophical, scientific, or artistic subjects which move the deeper among us."
For whatever reason, although most likely as a response to all the pushing and prodding to be more cheery and social, I've developed my own reverse snobbery toward extroversion. And while my best friend and my wonderful husband are both extroverts, I nonetheless identify all too well with the quote above. So many extroverts aren't able to sit still long enough to let the obvious facts sink in. And, amazingly, when they do sit still they don't seem to have the skill of following their thoughts down to their roots. Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh? Clearly many extroverted individuals can sit still and ponder--however for them to do so may not be natural. And that is what it is to be an introvert, for me at least: the innate ability to fully ponder. And, ah! pondering is so pleasurable. I can just ponder joyfully here for hours.

But sadly, my extroverted little daughter is crying in her crib.

A last note: I've long loved the poem posted, and perhaps going blind turns one's sight inward, where one can always fly.

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