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 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..."


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.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Being Seen

Was this it? All I had needed the past few months? The perfect stillness? Or did I just need to be seen? Seen right through without fear? I walked over to the edge of her pinions and a jackrabbit shot from under a saltbush and zagged off into the false twilight. Most of us are never seen, not clearly, and when we are we likely jump and run. Because being seen can be followed by the crack of a shot or the twang of an arrow.

Excerpt from The Painter
by Peter Heller


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Invisibility And Preferring Not To Speak

The first thing people tended to notice about Phillips was that they hadn't noticed him earlier. He was so recessive that he could be in a room for a long time before anyone realized that he was there... He had a tidy, pleasant, boyish face that tended to blend with the scenery. This probably contributed to his invisibility, but what really did it was his silence. Phillips was an amiable man and was, judging by his letters, highly articulate, but he preferred not to speak. You could park him in a crowd of chattering partygoers and he'd emerge at evening's end having never said a word. People had long conversations with him, only to realize later that he hadn't spoken.

Excerpt from Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On Being Beneath Notice

Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.

Excerpt from Politics
by Aristotle