Happy new year, Patch Readers. I sit here writing this on January 1, 2013, the first day of 2013 and, I will have you know, I actually typed 2013 on the first try, which is pretty impressive for me.
I’ve been completely unplugged from the cyber world for about a week now, so if there is some major news that occurred in the last seven days, I don’t know about it, so please forgive me if I don’t make appropriate reference to whatever great thing/tragedy has just occurred. Sometimes it is important for me to do that, for reasons to be explained below.
What I haven’t been doing is making New Year’s Resolutions. This is my 43rd New Year’s Eve on this Earth, 86th if you count the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashonah) which I have celebrated each of these years as well. So I’ve made about 80 lists full of resolutions that generally don’t last past the third of January (or the third of Tishrei).
The truth is that I am old enough that I am me, and I have had an awful lot of life experiences and time to think, and there isn’t going to be a whole lot more character development or major personality changes that are going to happen. In theory, there could be some behavioral changes (going to the gym more, eating better, giving more to charity) but really, who are we kidding. In the words of the immortal Popeye, I yam who I yam and that’s all that I yam.
So what am I going to do this year that is different? I am going to quit beating myself up for being me.
And here’s one thing you need to know about me that you probably don’t, and it is something you probably need to know about 1/5th of the people you know and probably don’t. I am an Introvert. This surprises a lot of people, because I have a very loud, out there personality, and I’m not shy in the least. I speak in public for a living, and put myself out there in the blogosphere every day.
Let me explain a popular misconception about introverts and extroverts. Shy and friendly have nothing to do with it. It comes to this: extroverts get their energy from being around people. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone. I am often accused of having a very angry, intense facial expression, even by my own children. The truth is that my neutral, totally slack, not controlling my facial muscles in any conscious way face just happens to look angry and intense. The truth is that I am simply lost in my head, and more often than not I am just blind and deaf to my surroundings in those moments, being completely captured by whatever is being played out in my head.
I need to be alone for periods of time or I become extremely unpleasant to be around. I not only don’t want help with most tasks, I actively don’t want it because it requires me to get outside of my head. At the end of a tough day the last thing I want to do it go out for a drink with my friends – I want to crawl under my covers and shut my eyes.
As a result, I am thoroughly incapable of working a room. This is something I had to come to terms with last summer when I was running for office. I believe deeply in the golden rule. It sums up everything I believe in – treat people as you would wish to be treated. And so, if I am at a picnic, or a dinner, or at a cocktail party, or a parade, or Publix, and I am talking to my friends or family or absorbed in a task, or generally just minding my own business, the last thing on this planet I want is some person with an agenda coming up to talk to me to press it. So I had to swallow a good bit of bile before being able to walk up to totally innocent, unsuspecting people at the concerts on the square in Monroe who were enjoying a nice summer evening with friends and family to introduce myself because I wanted something.
I know that the vast majority of people are extroverts. And that means that they see someone else and that is another energy source. The explains Times Square on New Year’s Eve and the popularity of bars and dance clubs so loud and crowded the only way to think a whole thought is to hide in the ladies’ room. The point is that most people really didn’t mind when I walked up to them with nothing more interesting to say than, “Look at me! I’m totally awesome and you should vote for me!” I just know I would not like it, and so I didn’t want to do it. That whole golden rule thing again.
I spent so much of last summer trying not to be me – to be the life of the party, be everywhere I could think to be, to talk to everyone I could, to shake as many hands as I could stand that I came out of the process exhausted and useless. I promised myself that when it was all over I would give myself permission to just sit in my seat and enjoy thinking my own thoughts, because that was what I really wanted to do. Permission to be me, dadblast it.
Recently, I went to a wedding, where I didn’t know a whole lot of the other guests. My husband got up to go to the rest room, and I just sat there, people watching and thinking thoughts I don’t generally have time to think when my job consists of constant input from outside sources and I have two children I don’t get to see enough because of all my other obligations who are fabulous children, perfect in every way, and absolute energy suckers. I’m so desperate for personal space that I cleared out a corner in our disgusting basement, put down vinyl squares, hung curtains around the space to wall it off, put in a chair and a table and labeled it my “Crazy Hole”. Everyone knows not to bother mommy when she’s in her Crazy Hole. But I digress. Anyway, that familiar questioning awkwardness that has followed me since high school creeped up at the wedding – what is wrong with me? Why am I just sitting here by myself like a wallflower? Why can’t I think of anything to say to these people? Why are they all having fun and not me?
And then I had an Epiphany: Why? Because that’s what I want to do. That’s why. If I quit thinking about what I think I should be and just embrace who I am, I’m pretty happy. So my sole new year’s resolution is this: I plan to stare off into space more often and not feel badly about it. I hope you’ll resolve to let me.