Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Parking lot in Crestwood, New York, 2006 © Amber Iragui

 words in white 
words in white

It’s something they carry with them
                      – explorers  night shifts  seamen –
like a good pair of binoculars
or a camera case
                perfectly and deeply compartmented.
It has a quiet patina
that both absorbs and reflects
                           like a valuable instrument
                                                you have to sign for
 – contract with alone –
                     and at the end of the voyage
                                                          you get to keep.
Sometimes it’s very far away.
Sometimes so close
               at first you think the person next to you
is picking up  putting down
                                 a personal cup
                                    a book in another language
before you realise what
– when talk has moved off
                               leaning its arms
                                       on someone else’s table –
is being
handed to you.

by Caroline Caddy

•    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

I am reading another book about introversion, this time Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Well, I just started it last night and I'm only through the Introduction. However, I am already engrossed. On our way home after dinner last night, riding the subway up the West Side, I felt compelled to pull it out and read instead of chatting with my husband. I hate chatting on the subway. Which is just another way I am an introvert, I'd much rather read or silently people watch.

One thing that comes up over and over in the literature about introverts is stimulation. Introverts are generally more sensitive to stimulation, and people are very stimulating. Lots of people are definitely over-stimulating. Having to make small talk with lots of people, wheeeeeew. 

I am easily over-stimulated. I don't like taking my kids to the playground, for example. It's a chore to have to interact with all the other moms and dads, make small talk while keeping an eye on Ike and Genevieve. I usually take my kids for a walk in the park instead. I'm thrilled if I run into another mom I know and we can chat while walking. But that free-floating sort of interaction with a bunch of vaguely familiar faces, bleech. 

And, although this is nothing special, I hate television. I really hate it, I've always hated it. It's overstimulating: so many people, so many annoying, annoying people. People I Don't Know. On every channel. So many heart breaks, confrontations, absurd expectations, bad choices, ruthless killings, idiotic jokes, car wrecks, prostitutes and terrorists. Just one of those is enough fodder for me to think over for a week, or a month, maybe a lifetime. Why in the world would I bring a stream of them into my home? I don't walk through Times Square, or read newspapers or online news, for the same reason. All I need is a headline or news photo, and perhaps one carefully chosen article about art or psychology, per week. That is plenty. (Times Square: once every ten years? or maybe never again?) But I'll read your blog if you're Julia or Jenny (if she ever posts again), or other normal imperfect moms or thoughtful reflective people. I am not big on blogs that advertise the author's life as if she were, well, auditioning for a position as Domestic Goddess (we all know the reality behind that, and reality is so much more interesting). However I will read your blog if you post helpful sewing tutorials with lots of photos or free patterns. And very easy crock pot recipes.

Being an introvert for me is not wanting to be alone all the time, it's wanting the company of one or two other people I like. I am happy this way, I feel connected, settled, needed, generous. As I write this, I again wish that my dearest friends did not all live so far away! 

P.S. Speaking of glimpses into the lives of real people, check out my link above to I Lay My Hat And Wish to Stay. I came upon this photo blog and found it quite a feast for the eyes in the best possible way. 


Julia said...

All of your exploration of introversion has made me give the topic a lot more thought than I ever have. I took the Myers Brigg in high school and found out then that I was an introvert, and it was a new concept to me then. But now that I reflect on my life more broadly, I realize that this one factor has such a profound affect on every aspect of my life and how I choose to live. I can see so many ways now in which not having the proper self-knowledge of how to respect and take care of that part of myself caused me a lot of difficulties when I was younger, so being an introvert was a definite deficit...then. But now is a totally different story. Now, I know how to respect that part of myself and live in a conscious way, I consider it a great thing, and wouldn't want to be any other way.

That said, there are still two things that have also been dawning on me lately that seem like irresolvable problems inherent in being an introvert. One is that it makes it more challenging to be a parent in a very particular way. You can't be guaranteed time alone whenever and wherever you might need it, and I get very worn down sometimes with being talked at and interacting. And secondly, I realize that I do really need people and social interaction and group things sometimes, in small amounts, but because my life is kind of "set up" as the life of an introvert, sometimes when I want some social stimulation, it just isn't there, all set up for me to take advantage of, as it would be for an extrovert, who organizes their life in such a way as to ensure that there is a constant stream of such opportunities. I'm not sure if I am explaining this that well, but those are my recent insights into the blessing/dilemma of being an introvert. And...all thanks to you.

A M B E R said...

I have the same two challenges you mentioned, although the first is somewhat mitigated by having a nanny 3 days a week. On my full-time mama days, though, I notice how heavily I rely on their nap time / quiet time to recharge. And I get really irritated if I don't get it.

The second is definitely harder. I often pass on socializing possibilities because it seems too exhausting, but then I don't have as many resources to call upon when I actually need to socialize. Part of this problem, for me, is this: I oftentimes feel some level of confusion about how to respond to meeting new people. Part of me thinks, "oh, I really should be kind and friendly, because I need to create a strong system of support and this person just might be that support." But on the other hand I worry that if I'm too engaged and friendly, I will get myself into another acquaintance trap where I know more and more people who'll merely sap my social energy and not give me the kind of in-depth socialization I need to recharge. It's a hard call sometimes.

Laura24 said...

Just a lurker here,.. that description of TV was SO spot-on. My in-laws always have CNN blaring and I can tell that my mother-in-law is confused by what she thinks is an oddly insensitive side of me when I don't get visibly upset and saddened by first a rape, then a drug bust, then a political scandal, all in 2 minutes... she keeps asking me, don't you just feel sorry for those people? and I say yes, but I'm not really, at that moment, because it's overwhelming and I usually just make a silly comment about the news anchor's hairstyle or something to try and enjoy myself.

That's why, if I have to watch TV, I watch a celebrity gossip show because it's meant to be shallow and uncomplicated. I never hated tv until I was 'forced' to watch it.