Thursday, July 5, 2018

Being An Outsider

... there are so many issues at play in Hunchback that continue to be relevant today... the ridicule and torment in all its forms of those who are different from you. I think we can all relate in some way to being an outsider, or feeling or appearing different from other people.

Excerpt from the program material for
The 5th Avenue Theatre's production of
The Hunchback of Notre Dame



I went to see this musical recently, and I thought it was an interesting version of the story. In this show, a deaf actor played the role of the main character, Quasimodo, and he performed mostly using sign language, which is appropriate considering Quasimodo was also deaf.

Although there were many touching moments in the show, what I related to most was how communication barriers can isolate you and make you an outsider. Aside from his physical deformity, Quasimodo also had an inability to communicate due to his deafness; the real barrier, however, was that he was shunned because of it. Although I was never shunned for being an introvert, I was made to feel that my differences in communicating were somehow wrong.

It's nice to be reminded that, even in the old stories, there are people who find strength and rightness in simply being who they are regardless of how they're treated.

 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Master Of My Domain

After all these years, I've finally obtained the domain, extremeintrovert.com. It was once owned by someone else, but I recently saw that it became available and I happily snatched it up.

I know it's silly, especially considering my lack of upkeep here, but I enjoy the acquisition nonetheless.

So, this is where I am now. Maybe I'll get around to changing my email address at some point, too.

 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Let Them Enjoy My Introversion

Lately I've been wondering if I've grown too old to care how many times a day people make note of my quietness (among other such things). Does it bother me any more?

Maybe I'm numb to it now, but it still happens as much as ever. Really, it's crazy.

Most recently, after I asked about some colleagues overseas, questioning whether they were excited about taking on a new project or not -- because, to me, they appeared irritated -- I was told that, yes, they were very excited, and that it's just a cultural thing. They're like the Japanese, I was told, very reluctant to express themselves. And then another colleague chimed in and said, "Oh, so, they're very much like Zeri."

Or, when I decline to join colleagues for lunch outings (which -- to be fair -- I do try to join in on every so often), someone will joke about how much I dislike them or about how mysterious I am. My colleagues like to propose ridiculous theories regarding my taciturnity, such as me being in the witness protection program, or that I'm an undercover agent, or worse things.

Most of the time now, I embrace these images. Let them enjoy my introversion. I do.

But, now and then, I hear people talk about other so-called-introverts, and I'm reminded about why I should care. I still hear people say things like, "He started out as an introvert, but then he overcame his shyness whenever he chose to." And then I cringe inside, because there's nothing to overcome. There's nothing to improve. And I want to rant... but I won't.

Such things remind me that I'm not too old to care. As much as I embrace my introversion, and as much enjoyment as I (and others) get out of it, there are still too many people who see it as something to be fixed.

 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

On The Names Of Things

Being at a startup, I get a small-but-not-insignificant chance to influence how things develop, and a chance like that cropped up recently at my office in Seattle.

"What should we name our conference rooms?" my boss asked everyone.

There are two conference rooms in our office, and there are -- so far -- only eight of us on the team. I chimed in a couple of times, but none of my suggestions stuck, despite how excellent they were.

Instead, the team settled on the names of astronomical deities, or some such nonsense. The chosen names were meant to convey the size differences between the corresponding conference rooms, one tiny and the other less so.

Not very imaginative. That was a few weeks ago.

This week, for some reason, has been heavy on meetings for me, and while we were about to convene in one of these conference rooms, I said, "We should have named the rooms 'Ugh and Oy'".

My boss said, "No, we need to be more positive."

Clearly he doesn't feel the same as I do about meetings.

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On Where To Begin

"What are you, antisocial?" someone will ask.

"I'm not antisocial," I'll say. "I'm just unsocial."

There's a big difference, although many people don't see it. I tend to avoid too much social activity (by my standards), but I have nothing against being social now and then; in fact, I enjoy the company of others.

Explaining such nuances doesn't always help. It could be due, at least in part, to my failure to explain things simply. But there are also other barriers.

Several acquaintances, in my opinion, don't believe in introversion. Some of them even claim to be introverts, but when they tell me that they were able to practice over the years and change, I realize we're talking about different traits. These acquaintances are the kinds of people who think everyone should be treated the same, and everyone should want the same things, and they take offense at anyone who spurns those ideals. Children shouldn't be treated with special consideration, they say, because you'll end up raising a bunch of babies. And adults should, of course, be given even less leeway.

I can see their point; in fact, I agree to some extent. And that's why I do my best to avoid too much social activity. It's up to me to look after my own well-being. Not the system I'm part of. Not my acquaintances or friends or family. I don't need others to treat me differently or to understand me. As long as I make sure to treat myself in the way that I need, then I'll be okay.

It's always worthwhile to try coming to an understanding with others, but that's a huge task, and not always a pleasant one. Creating an environment that I can thrive in is much more important. As they say: start with yourself.

 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

On Another Start (Or Restart)

A few months ago, I left my relatively new job and accepted an offer at a startup. Returning to another startup after so many years seems a bit crazy, but at least I've joined a small team of guys whom I've worked with for nearly twenty years. Plus, I tell myself, these kinds of opportunities don't come around forever.

Then again, perhaps the real appeal comes from having the following:

  • No more war rooms
  • Fewer (if any) meetings
  • Less bureaucracy (and project requirements that aren't constantly changing)
  • A slightly less noisy workplace (at least while the team is still small)
  • The promise of some eventual give-and-take concerning my wish to work from home

Admittedly, it's also good to be working with guys who know me, who are familiar with my nature, and vice versa. It's somewhat like rejoining the family.

There are so many little surprises in life, new starts, new adventures, and new challenges. And -- at times -- they turn out quite nicely.

 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On Responding To Sounds

I recently learned that I'm losing hearing in one of my ears. This has presented me with a new challenge and a new perspective. Now I'm not sure which is worse: hearing too much, or hearing too little.

I've always been a bit overwhelmed by my senses. I've felt like I was seeing a little too much, catching scents that I didn't want to catch, and hearing more than I could absorb at once. With every other sense competing for my attention, I couldn't understand how others managed to be so on-the-ball. My brain might eventually catch up, but by the time it did, it would often be too late.

Making sense of what people were saying to me has frequently been an issue. I heard them well enough, but the surrounding noise would interfere; and then, of course, even when I could hear a person's words correctly, there was the problem of interpreting their meaning. To this day, how everyone else succeeds at this so easily still baffles me.

Now I need to learn all over again how to respond when my hearing fails; this time, it's from hearing too little. Maybe I can respond the same way that I did when I heard too much. I don't yet know.

 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

War Room

It's the end of a work day and I'm crammed into a small conference room with other colleagues. The room is dubbed the "War Room", and the extreme proximity is intended to make us more productive. For me, it's mainly noisy, and I can't help being affected by the rising tension in the room.

Though I try to drown it all out, I happen to hear a remark from a coworker at the other end of the room. Some remarks stand out to me. My ears are attuned to them, unfortunately.

"I've never seen you interact with anyone," he's saying to someone else. "You're almost like Zeri, over there," he says, pointing at me, "but minus one or two points."

In a way, I suppose that I like being known for my taciturn nature; I mean, it gives me an excuse to avoid interactions (not to mention a reason to write a blog entry). But sometimes I wish I could just do my work without being measured for my social activity. I'm not sure how the chaotic environment I'm in is supposed to help me work, but it's clearly not making me communicate more. Perhaps the "War Room" will change me, but I doubt I'll become more productive.

 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On Snark And Enthusiasm

Sitting around a conference table, I typed away at my laptop while others chatted. I tuned in when they began discussing one of my projects, and when I was asked whether their plans for it were acceptable, I gave the thumbs up.

The product manager sitting nearby chuckled and said, "I've never seen Zeri enthusiastic."

"Oh," someone at the far end of the table piped in, someone I barely know, "the day Zeri is enthusiastic about anything will be the day that I eat my shoe." (Okay, to be honest, he may have said something else, but it was -- I promise -- equally dramatic.)

Meanwhile, I did some more work on my laptop and generally ignored the rest of the chat until, about twenty minutes later, I was told that -- given that the discussion about my project was finished -- I could leave if I wanted.

My eyebrows went up, and I shot out of my chair almost as quickly. Closing my laptop and smiling, I said, "I can leave? Now I'm enthusiastic!"

The product manager laughed loudly and said, "I love it! That's more snarkiness than I've ever seen out of him." I heard another manager say, "Wow, you do seem enthusiastic."

It wasn't faked. I've never been a fan of meetings.

 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Zen And The Perks Of Motorcycle Maintenance

Two coworkers were chatting about their motorcycles, and after some time one of them turned the conversation towards me.

"We should get Zeri to join our bike gang," he said.

"Unlikely," I muttered, looking over.

"Think about it," he said. "If you had a bike, you wouldn't have to talk with anyone."

While the other coworker contradicted him, saying that his own helmet has a microphone inside, I pondered; eventually, I said, "That is an interesting selling point."

And then I made a mental note to join conversations at work a little more frequently, if only to avoid ones like this.

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Expressive On The Inside

I was hard at work and trying to ignore the chaos surrounding me, but at some point my mind registered that someone had been speaking to me moments earlier. One of the project managers was looking at me, I sensed. And then, a few moments after I registered it, my brain somehow replayed his comment, something that needed acknowledging. I turned to him and said: "I was nodding, but only in my head."

Minutes or hours passed. Then the director was sitting next to me and telling others a story that, again, I was trying to ignore. Once more, however, I inadvertently picked up the gist of it. Something about an employee being let go, and how he -- the expressive person that he is -- immediately did a jig. Then, after admitting it was an inappropriate time to do a jig, he said he should probably strive to be more like Zeri and that he should express his thoughts on the inside.

I think I turned to him and smiled, but I can't be sure. In reality, my mouth may or may not have moved.

 

Monday, April 17, 2017

On Bantering And Warmth

There is a group of six or seven people gathered just a little way behind me who have aroused my curiosity a little. I naturally assumed at first that they were a group of friends out together for the evening. But as I listened to their exchanges, it became apparent they were strangers who had just happened upon one another here on this spot behind me. Evidently, they had all paused a moment for the lights coming on, and then proceeded to fall into conversation with one another. As I watch them now, they are laughing together merrily. It is curious how people can build such warmth among themselves so swiftly. It is possible these particular persons are simply united by the anticipation of the evening ahead. But, then, I rather fancy it has more to do with this skill of bantering. Listening to them now, I can hear them exchanging one bantering remark after another. It is, I would suppose, the way many people like to proceed. In fact, it is possible my bench companion of a while ago expected me to banter with him -- in which case, I suppose I was something of a sorry disappointment. Perhaps it is indeed time I began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically. After all, when one thinks about it, it is not a foolish thing to indulge in -- particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth.

Excerpt from The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro



I like this quote mainly because I had similar thoughts and questions frequently while growing up. I wondered about the skill of talking and about whether people practiced at it, and I wondered whether people felt more or less close because of it all, etc.

But as I was looking up the wording for this quote online (I'd listened to the audio format), I found it referenced in a book called "Bullshit and Philosophy", which was amusing. Bullshitting is a good thing, it asserts, and I don't disagree. As it goes on to say:

"Just imagine that every conversation were to be informed with a strong concern for the truth. Conversations would be terribly fatiguing."

Then again, conversations are often fatiguing for me. Even the amusing ones.

 

Monday, March 27, 2017

On Easing Up The Sound Barrier

There are ways of making your presence known that some would consider uncouth and even shocking. There are ways of announcing yourself that stand out in a peculiar, and even in an amusing way. And often they happen accidentally. Yes, I'm referring to farts. But, belches count, too.

And, yes, I'm going there.

I grew up in a family that had no shame, and no compunction to refrain from making such bodily (sometimes musical) refrains. Farts were something to laugh at, or something to blame on the nearest victim. They were performed loudly and proudly, or silently and furtively (the furtive sort are the worst, as everyone knows). My family got enjoyment out of the littlest of things, this among them. I liked how easily they could laugh, even if I was usually only smiling and shaking my head.

Rarely did I share in the fun. I remember my sister saying, years later, that "Zeri never farts". It's untrue, of course, but I acknowledge that I was much more restrained than the rest of them.

Holding back was, like many things with me, a reflex. In most ways, I hold back from bringing attention to myself. I speak up only when I mean to, and that includes speaking by way of fart. Not wanting to be noticed (and thus be dragged into conversations), I would tamper any kind of noise-making I might produce. Unless by accident, sounds didn't escape from me without a lot of effort. It's funny: I've only thought about it in terms of oral sounds in the past, but I suppose I was quite deliberate when it came to other bodily sounds, as well.

It didn't bother me when others farted (unless it was the furtive sort). I didn't feel like a more proper person. My only motive was not to be noticed, although, as I've said, the act of not being noticed became habit early on, and I hardly had to try. Even today, I hardly try.

But sometimes it helps to let your voice be heard, no matter where it's coming from. Sometimes, I've learned, being heard helps make others feel comfortable. Maybe it's not always important to do so, but when those people matter, then perhaps it becomes another kind of communication, a way of saying: I'm okay being fully human with you. In those cases, maybe it's best to try easing up with the sound barrier.

Then, maybe some extra humor can be had, and some extra closeness to boot. One more way of becoming close, at least with the right people, never hurts.

Just be wary about proximity.

 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

On The Birthing Of Words

Not many weeks ago, I told a colleague that I'd prefer him to use my full and correct name, and -- in case he couldn't handle that -- I offered up a couple of acceptable nicknames. I don't always respond to the name he had been calling me by, I told him.

Now, whenever we meet, he struggles to call me by anything else but his original name for me. After convening today's meeting, I mentioned this to another coworker.

"He has trouble calling me by my real name," I said.

"Yeah," my coworker said, "but he corrects himself half the time."

"True," I said, "but I wonder why he struggles. I think it's because he's a talker."

"Yep, he's a talker," my coworker said. "He's not like us. His words are more quick to come out."

It's not a bad trait to have, being a talker, but it's not one I readily understand. I can't imagine having difficulty with someone's name. While my colleague struggles to stop words from coming out, I struggle to make words come out at all. I deliberate on nearly everything I say. I tend to mean what I say, and I usually chew on things before they come out. Whereas he seems to have thoughts speed from their conception to his mouth, mine take long and winding detours before they're birthed.

But sometimes I wish I could be more free with my words. Or, at the least, I wish my thoughts could be more speedy.

 

Friday, January 20, 2017

On A Conspiracy To Let Me Be Myself

During a meeting with my fellow co-workers, our new product manager went around the table asking us about our existing tasks and projects. When he got to me, he said, "I've been told to let Zeri do his own thing, so that's what I'll do."

Surprised, I asked to whom he'd been talking. His only response was to reiterate that he was given advice about me, and that he was planning to give me space to do what I do.

Fumbling for words, I said, "Well, I'm glad someone is looking out for me."

It didn't pass my notice that one of my co-workers was sitting quietly, smiling to himself in response to all of this. I'm guessing he was a part of the conspiracy, and I made a mental note to thank him in some way in the future.

It's rare that my work/personality style is accepted so readily, but I'm pleasantly surprised when it is.

 

Friday, December 30, 2016

How Quickly They Catch On

On the way out of the office this afternoon, knowing that my coworker would be hosting a New Year's Eve party, I said to him: "Enjoy your party."

He said to me: "Thanks. Enjoy your quiet time."

What's funny is that this is a new job as well as a fairly new coworker; also funny how quickly they catch on.

 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

On The Torture Known As Interviewing

Earlier this year, my day-to-day existence underwent a bit of a shake up when my employer for nearly sixteen years decided to close their Seattle office. What had been a fairly stable livelihood for me suddenly went up in the air.

After enjoying a short respite from the rat race, the search for new employment began. It was not the fun kind of search, unlike a treasure hunt in every way; in fact, it wasn't something I would wish on my worst enemy.

For my profession, the interview process involves three parts; in general: 1) the first part was a call with the company recruiter, a short evaluation of my aspirations and general fit; 2) the second part was a technical phone screen lasting about an hour and typically involving some coding exercises on a shared screen; 3) the last and worst part was the in-person interview, which would last anywhere between four and six hours, and it involved lots of white-boarding, code exercises, and discussions to evaluate my emotional intelligence.

Multiply this excruciating process by however many interviews I had, and you can imagine what kind of state I was in. I was exhausted. I'm not one you would ever expect to be able to talk for five hours straight.

In hindsight, some of it was amusing. For instance, before each interview my various recruiters -- without fail -- would advise me to "be outgoing" and to "act like a team player". I did almost laugh the first time I heard that. I would have directed them to this blog, but I knew they were only trying to be helpful.

All I can say is that I'm glad my search is over. It's a huge relief not to have to be so damned extroverted. Hopefully the new job sticks for a while. I don't look forward to going through that again.

It's definitely time to start working for myself.

 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Silence Holds No Fears

Still no response, but now I wasn't going to say anything either. Silence holds no fears for me. I never feel the urge to fill it as so many other people do.

Excerpt from Just One Damned Thing After Another
by Jodi Taylor

I must say that, though I relate to this quote for the most part, I do feel the urge to fill silences at times; usually it's to make others feel comfortable. Any uneasiness that I feel isn't due to the silence, but to another's discomfort. I'm not heartless, after all.

 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Unapologetic Introvert

Whenever I meet someone who works from home, I immediately become very jealous. For many reasons, I know I'd like to do so myself again one day (I was fortunate to own a business when I was younger, and I absolutely loved working from home). Yesterday I came across an excellent article that expresses much of how I feel about the subject and about being an introvert in general. It's about escaping the workplace in order to more easily thrive as an introvert, and I wish I could share the entire thing. Instead, here's how it begins:

Sometimes people ask why I work from home. Well, if you must know, I work from home to avoid a lot of things: the average American commute time of 26 minutes, obnoxious open-plan workspaces that encourage nothing but the sale of noise-cancelling headphones to skyrocket, and the ever-enduring attitude that the ideal worker is the one who puts in the most face time, not the one who is most productive. But most importantly, I work from home to avoid something very painful: the need to be extroverted.

Excerpt from an article on Salon.com,
The unapologetic introvert: I had to leave the U.S. to stop pretending to be an extrovert
By Chantal Panozzo

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Noticeable

We live in a loud world, and silence is easy to spot. The quiet ones are anomalies. Exhibiting such unobtrusiveness doesn't always feel as harmless as it should. Ironically, we call attention to ourselves by trying not to. The best way not to be noticed, it seems, is to be noticed just enough. We learn to be social so that nobody will notice how unsocial we are. We find ways to get attention on our terms rather than when it's unwanted. Intentionally or not, we find creative ways to be ourselves.

 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Not A Mentioner

"It wouldn't be his way, to mention it," Augustus said. "Woodrow don't mention nothing he can keep from mentioning. You couldn't call him a mentioner."

Excerpt from Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Moving Apart

Call got a plate of food and went off by himself to eat. It was something he had always done -- moved apart, so he could be alone and think things out a little. In the old days, when he first developed the habit, the men had not understood. Occasionally one would follow him, wanting to chat. But they soon learned better -- nothing made Call sink deeper into silence than for someone to come around and start yapping when he wanted to be by himself.

Virtually all his life he had been in the position of leading groups of men, yet the truth was he had never liked groups. Men he admired for their abilities in action almost always brought themselves down in his estimation if he had to sit around and listen to them talk -- or watch them drink or play cards or run off after women. Listening to men talk usually made him feel more alone than if he were a mile away by himself under a tree. He had never really been able to take part in the talk. The endless talk of cards and women made him feel more set apart -- and even a little vain. If that was the best they could think of, then they were lucky they had him to lead them. It seemed immodest, but it was a thought that often came to him.

And the more he stayed apart, the more his presence made the men nervous.


Excerpt from Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry

 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Where It Came From

I have two fathers: one who raised me, and one who I didn't get to know till later in life. The first provided an example for me as I grew up; the latter provided half of my genetic material.

My father, the one who raised me and adopted me, was usually a man of few words. He could be intense, but he was rarely angry. He taught me how to fix things, mainly by showing how it was done. I don't recall many of his words, but I will always recall his actions. I'm sure that I must have picked up some of his mannerisms and behaviors, but -- that being said -- I didn't see myself in him, nor in the rest of the family that I grew up with. My mom and my siblings, for instance, are some of the most talkative and social people that I know, so much so that it used to drive me a bit nutty.

As taciturn as my father was, he didn't mind the company of others, and -- believe me -- our house was bursting with activity and people. What felt like chaos to me didn't faze him at all. My impression was that he enjoyed large gatherings, and he seemed to do well in highly social situations. He was involved with our family, laughing often and readily; he was easy-going. Though he was less talkative, he wasn't withdrawn, as if he needed to recuperate (unless, of course, I count his cigarette breaks).

My mom called him "quiet", a term I eventually came to know well. She said it as if apologizing for him and for me all at once. "You're quiet, just like your dad," she told me. "You must have gotten it from him. Even though he doesn't say much, you should know that your dad loves you." I liked his quietness, but -- as much as I wanted to -- I didn't feel a connection with him because of it. I think what I took in most from my father's mannerisms was not his quietness but his calm demeanor.

My other father, the biological one, I met about fifteen years ago, when I had already been an adult for quite a while. I didn't know he was my biological father at the time, but it made sense when I did find out (after the DNA tests). Not because we look the same, but -- oddly -- because we act the same, very much so in some ways. It was a very strange thing for me to discover, considering I spent most of my life without knowing him or being influenced by him. I was astonished at how big a role genetic material could play. As long as I've known him, he's been on his own, and he seems to thrive that way.

One day I asked my biological father what he would have taught me had he been around when I was younger. I could have used his guidance, I told him, especially when it came to being introverted. His response shook me, leaving me empty, as only truth can. He said he'd have taught me nothing, and that we each have to figure things out alone. I knew he was right, but it still felt cold. Becoming who we are is a solo project, I guess, introvert or not.

Still, I don't think we start with a blank slate. We start with what's given to us. From my biological father, I've gained the tendency to dive deep and to fall within; to find enjoyment in solitude, nature, and independence. From my adopted father, I've gained peacefulness, the ability to relax and to laugh, even if quietly; to be open to the chaos of social environments, as uncomfortable as they may seem.

This is what I started with, and I'm thankful for it.

 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Community Member

... life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.

Excerpt from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

 

When Parties Become Bummers

I've been feeling inadequate lately. I mean, more than usual.

I was at a holiday work party, and a friend told me that he didn't trust me as much as he once did. Apparently, what started this feeling of his was my avoidance of the monthly office birthday celebrations. Somehow he got the idea that I had promised to attend them all, as if that mattered, and because I haven't attended for ages his respect for me has diminished.

The whole thing is silly, but it cut me to learn that my friendships were so easily lessened.

He told me that he doesn't know me anymore, and that I should subject myself to the office birthday celebrations so that people could know me better. It reminded me of a quote that I heard in a show once:

"There's a selfishness to the silence of the cowboy. It forces others to carry the conversation."

At face value, I agree with this. Everyone is selfish in his own way. But no one, not even the silent ones, are forcing anyone else to carry a conversation. That's a choice. If you feel forced, then don't do it. If you want to get to know me, then talk with me. Don't make me attend some ridiculous office birthday party. I want to get to know my friends better, but it isn't going to happen there.

I often feel that the situation is hopeless. But this is what I need to accept. It's difficult to find a balance between too much and not enough in the friendship domain, or anywhere else for that matter. The very act of trying to find a balance is a selfish thing, and everyone does it. I'm not the only one being selfish, and I need to accept that I'm not going to live in an ideal world: ever. If I can get close, that would be amazing.

Until then, I've got to stop from feeling that I'm not good enough. I'll never be what everyone else wants.

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bursting Inside

Rarely am I as boisterous as those around me. I decline to take front stage unless there's a need for it. For a long time I worried that my lack of boisterousness was interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm, or -- worse -- as a lack of conviction, as if I couldn't truly mean it without saying it loudly. But I am enthusiastic... in my own quiet way. When I'm bursting with joy, a warmth fills my chest, my face radiates, I tense up with excited energy, and I'm often paralyzed by the enormity of my feelings. It doesn't need to burst from my mouth in order for it to erupt from within me. I don't need to voice it in order to be certain that it's there.

I realize, of course, that there's something to be said about expressing myself to others, that it's a good thing. It doesn't need to be boisterous, though: it just needs to be true.

 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Better Descriptors

"Hand me that book," Vivian says. She takes the hardbound green volume, with gold lettering and a line drawing of a girl with abundant red hair in a chignon on the front, and opens it. "Ah, yes, I remember," she says. "I was almost exactly the heroine's age when I read this for the first time. A teacher gave it to me -- my favorite teacher. You know, Miss Larsen." She leafs through the book slowly, stopping at a page here and there. "Anne talks so much, doesn't she? I was much shyer than that." She looks up. "What about you?"

"Sorry, I haven't read it," Molly says.

"No, no. I mean, were you shy as a girl? What am I saying, you're still a girl. But I mean when you were young?"

"Not exactly shy. I was -- quiet."

"Circumspect," Vivian says. "Watchful."

Molly turns these words over in her mind. Circumspect? Watchful? Is she? There was a time after her father died and after she was taken away, or her mother was taken away -- it's hard to know which came first, or if they happened at the same time -- that she stopped talking altogether. Everyone was talking at and about her, but nobody asked her opinion, or listened when she gave it. So she stopped trying. It was during this period that she would wake in the night and get out of bed to go to her parents' room, only to realize, standing in the hall, that she had no parents.

"Well, you're not exactly effervescent now, are you?" Vivian says. "But I saw you outside earlier when Jack dropped you off, and your face was" -- Vivian lifts her knobby hands, splaying her fingers -- "all lit up. You were talking up a storm."

"Were you spying on me?"

"Of course! How else am I going to find out anything about you?"


Excerpt from Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline



What I like about this passage, among other things, is that the word "shy" is replaced with two others: "circumspect" and "watchful" -- two words that are immeasurably more appropriate for introverts than "shy". One of these days, I'm going to compile a list of words that are more accurate in their descriptiveness. Maybe none of them alone will fit perfectly, but perhaps a combination would do nicely.

 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ingoing: Redux

Within the pages of a book I recently read, being used in complete sentences, I was excited to find a term that I imagined I had coined: ingoing. Damn. I knew I should have registered a trademark for the word. I could at least be receiving royalties for its usage.

Regardless, I'm glad to see the term taking root.

The passage, without further ado:



"I have nothing at all against George."

"But?"

"But?"

"But there's a 'but' coming here, isn't there? It feels like there's a 'but' coming," mumbles Elsa.

Dad sighs.

"...But I suppose George and I are quite different in terms of our... personalities, perhaps. He's very..."

"Fun?"

Dad looks stressed again.

"I was going to say he seems very outgoing."

"And you're very... in-going?"

Dad fingers the steering wheel nervously.

"Why can't it be your mother's fault? Perhaps we don't visit you at Christmas because Mum doesn't like Lisette."

"Is that it?"

Dad looks uncomfortable. He's a rubbish liar. "No. Everyone likes Lisette, I'm well aware of it." He says it as people do when considering an extremely irritating character trait in the person they live with.

Elsa looks at him for a long time before she asks:

"Is that why Lisette loves you? Because you are very in-going?"

Dad smiles.

"I don't know why she loves me, if I'm to be quite honest."

"Do you love her?"

"Incredibly," he says, without any hesitation.

But then he immediately looks quite hesitant again.

"Are you going to ask why Mom and I stopped loving each other?"

"I was going to ask why you started."

"Was our marriage so terrible, in your view?"

Elsa shrugs, "I mean, you're very different, that's all. She doesn't like Apple, that sort of thing. And you kind of don't like Star Wars."


Excerpt from My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
by Fredrik Backman

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sometimes Opposites...

She liked talking and Ove liked keeping quiet. Retrospectively, Ove assumed that was what people meant when they said that people were compatible.

Excerpt from A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Deflection: A Strategy For The Quiet

Because this was what Ove had learned: if one didn't have anything to say, one had to find something to ask. If there was one thing that made people forget to dislike one, it was when they were given the opportunity to talk about themselves.

Excerpt from A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman



It took a long time for me to learn to talk with others competently, and I can't deny that one of the first and best strategies I learned was to ask questions; in other words, I learned how to deflect. At first, I didn't even know how to do that well. I didn't know what types of questions to ask, or how best to phrase them. Some of the hardest situations were ones in which -- not only did I not have anything to say -- I couldn't think of anything to ask in response to what others had said.

I eventually learned, partly by listening in on other conversations, but also by paying better attention and being prepared. What's more, I found that I enjoyed asking questions. It's a strategy worth learning if you're planning to be in the company of others, but it's also a useful skill all on its own. Understanding others was a great way to begin understanding myself -- both what I am and what I'm not.

Nowadays, having little to say is less of an issue for me than having too many questions to ask. I guess anything can be overdone. Still, even if I don't care as much about whether others are comfortable with my silence, I find it invaluable to be able to join in when I want. And in those cases, being able to deflect will always be handy.