An Introvert in Disguise

Even though you are an introvert, you are undoubtedly capable of acting in the world in an extroverted way when you need to. But if it goes on for an extended period of time, you will probably be tired afterwards.

Ilse Sand in On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person

Did I ever tell you about the time I tried to teach elementary school?

Actually, that season lasted a lot longer than it should have because another thing introverts are good at is saying yes when they really want to say no.

(I guess another way of saying that is introverts are bad at saying no.)

So there I was, teaching third graders.

I have a theory about children below the age of 10 and that is, the more of them that you have together, their volume is increased exponentially. It’s not one plus one plus one equals three.

The energy and volume of children increase exponentially, especially when they’re involved in doing something I’m not so good at, such as crafts or art projects.

They all seem to want to talk at the same time and none of them seem to have been taught the concept of “inside voice”.

Okay, I know that’s not really the case, and those kids were each wonderful in their own way.

Some of them, I could tell, were introverted or even highly sensitive people because of the way they interacted with others. They observed rather than joining in wholeheartedly to the noise and clamor of an elementary school classroom.

It wasn’t all noise and insanity (and I’m pretty sure the kids actually did learn), but some days it felt like nothing but noise and insanity due to my highly sensitive processing.

And while I was a teacher’s aide most of the time, there was a season (due to the main teacher’s health) that I had to step in full-time.

Although I could play the “extrovert” roll, when I got home each day, I was exhausted.

I was also angry with myself for feeling so exhausted and overwhelmed, and stressed at everything else I encountered because it was just too much on top of those hours I spent teaching and feeling overwhelmed by so many children.

I got sick, actually the sickest I’d ever been, because of the stress.

And while it’s hard for me to say no because it’s been grilled in me from a young age to embrace every opportunity that comes my way, even if it’s a poor fit, I learned that I had to protect myself from pretending to be an extrovert over the long-term.

It was harming me physically and hurting my relationships with those closest to me.

Are you an introvert?

A highly sensitive person?

Are you working at a job that completely exhausts you because it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole or a round peg into a square hole?

This isn’t the type of tiredness that comes from a long day of good work, but the exhaustion of trying to fit where you really don’t.

If you find yourself more stressed and anxious on a regular basis than you know you should be, maybe it’s time to look at your lifestyle or your type of work and see if there isn’t some better approach that fits better for your personality type.

Ilse Sand, whom I quoted above, in her book On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person, mentioned working as a pastor of a parish. There were expectations for her to do things that the previous pastor (who had been an obvious extrovert) had done.

It was only after realizing and finding grace with herself for being an introvert that she was able to then find a workplace and work style that fit her far better.

Often, in this culture, we are all expected to be extroverted and put on our best face and be highly interactive and eager about all of it …

But that’s not the best fit for all of us, especially those of us who would define ourselves as introverted and highly sensitive.

I think sometimes the best thing we can do is find grace with ourselves and accept ourselves (and each other) for who we are and then find a way of living and operating that fits our personalities.

Looking Up – Attentiveness Amidst COVID-19

What will people think when they look back on this time?

COVID-19, the coronavirus, pandemic, fear, anxiety.

What do we think, we who are in the midst of it now?

COVID-19, the coronavirus, pandemic, thinking, anxiety.

I wonder if we do think about it as we should, as we might. If we consider and contemplate it enough.

It is hard, yes, because there is just so much to reflect upon, so much to think about, to process and try to understand.

And there is so much we will never understand.

COVID-19, the coronavirus, pandemic, thinking, understanding.

And there are so many conflicting messages, each message containing perhaps some truth along with a lot of fear and tension, anxiety about the future.

Perhaps the call for us at this time is to stop, even in the middle of the chaos and the conflict, to look around us … even, if possible, to step outside – mentally if nothing else – and take stock.

COVID-19, the coronavirus, looking, thinking, understanding.

What do we see when we stop scrolling an endless news feed and look up?

Yesterday I stepped outside. I looked up and saw a bird, sitting on a ledge, a strange shimmering substance in its beak. At first I thought the bird might have been searching for material to make a nest. Then it came to me that midsummer is not generally when birds build nests.

I looked closer and realized the shimmer belonged to a dragonfly’s wings. The bird had been hunting and caught a dragonfly midflight. I delight in watching dragonflies skirting through the air, following some strange patterned flight that is theirs alone. But this one now had become food, sustenance, for a bird who had met it in that place both creatures claim – the air.

Within a few seconds, the spectacle had ended. The bird consumed the whole of the dragonfly and, an instant later, took flight once more.

I looked up at a sight that was at once both sad and sacred. It was as if, for a moment, some parts of me also had wings – my sight or my soul – and I beheld this thing in wonder.

COVID-19, wonder, looking, thinking, understanding.

And I have no direct analogy for that thing I saw. No great and deep revelation. It was a thing that takes place a million times in a million ways. It was, that is to say, mundane and ordinary.

But at the same time, it was one in a million. Beautiful and captivating and fierce, this single sampling of nature the moment I looked up.

We surround ourselves and are surrounded by so much that brings sorrow in its fierceness, in its strangeness and the unexpected way it comes upon us.

Yet we are also surrounded by the wondrous and the beautiful.

Beauty, wonder, looking, thinking, understanding.

Perhaps a way to see ourselves through this time, to look back upon it one day with a heart that takes in all the complexity of all that we are seeing and experiencing, is by looking up.

Letting our thoughts take flight, and our hearts.

Or simply beholding some mundane yet sacred portion of nature. Looking, taking it in, and giving thanks for the moment.

J. K. Rowling Is Not a Single Tweet (And Neither Are Any of Us)

Several days ago, J. K. Rowling commented on an article, with largely negative backlash from many former fans of the Harry Potter series. A New York Times article set up the story by providing a one-sided back story and added the negative response of several Harry Potter fans – those agreed in calling her reaction transphobic.

J. K. Rowling wrote an essay in response to the backlash she received, which explores many angles of the issue and provides history. Unfortunately, I believe that the only part of her essay many people saw were the portions retweeted or shared on other sites.

I encourage, no, urge you to read J. K. Rowling’s whole essay, especially if you have read the Harry Potter series and are unsure of what to think of her as a person now due to the vast majority of negative, hateful things appearing online about her.

As a highly sensitive person and an avid bookworm (book dragon), I have taken refuge in the world of Hogwarts time and again. Recently (re)rereading the series as an adult, I am in awe of the research, care, and passion J. K. Rowling put in creating the world of Harry Potter.

I feel grieved at the harsh attention she is currently receiving, including death threats and calls to boycott all things Rowling.

More than this, though, I feel a deep concern as to what this severe reaction reveals of our society. In this era, we tend to believe that we know everything about a person and their views after reading a single tweet or perusing one article about them. We fail to take the time to truly understand people, especially when they happen to fall outside the line of our own views.

I will not grow as an individual if all I ever do is surround myself with people who agree with my views – whether religious, political, or societal. J. K. Rowling is not a single tweet or post or essay, just as none of us are. Each of us, I believe, could fill up a thousand books with our thoughts and stories, our hurts and our fears, with those things that have made us who we are.

By doing this, we are only hurting ourselves.

When we reduce another person to nothing more than a label, such as transphobic, we only reduce ourselves as well. If we believe that someone is nothing more than a single word or phrase or label, that means that we ourselves can also be reduced to a label. This is harmful because each of us is so much more than a single label or name or title.

As a highly sensitive person, I am both blessed and I might say cursed with depth of processing. I think on things deeply, and on people too. Because of this, I know that we are comprised of far more than can be easily described or labeled in a single article or tweet or Facebook post.

And we are, each of us, worthy of love and respect.

We are, each of us, in the words of a song I love, Glorious.

Finally, a word on the New York Times article title: “Harry Potter Fans Reimagine Their World without Its Creator.” Something about this type of reimagining sounds familiar. Reimagining a world without a creator.

An author might have no power over how a story and its characters are seen after publication. A gathering such as the Harry Potter Fandom might result. So many views and beliefs and fellowships might result outside the direct oversight of the author.

This does not change the fact that the author did write the story, create the characters, build the world. And when an imaginative world such as that in which Harry Potter lives – or an enduring world like Narnia or Middle Earth – is created, we might do well to think a little more deeply on the story’s author.

Because worlds do not appear out of thin air, and the more complex and nuanced the story, and the characters in it, the more complex and nuanced the author of that story. I believe J. K. Rowling deserves more than an across-the-board dismissal, a haughty declaration that, “We’ll keep the story but we don’t need the author.”

We’re adept at removing authors from the stories they have written.

But I would hope to believe that, in this world where we now live, we know enough … understand enough, to realize that we are each a combination of so many stories, so many experiences, so many hurts and unrealized dreams … oh, so much.

And when we encounter another person full of so much of the same, I would hope that we’d respond with grace, with acceptance, with kindness and love.