I’m even a hermit in cyberspace, yeesh

Greetings, Happy New Year, and once again, I must apologize for being so lax. I thought I had set things up so that I’d get email forwarded to the address I use IRL, whenever I get comments, etc. but that seems to be working only part of the time. I don’t understand that; seems like it should either always work or never work, not work when it feels like it. Anyway, I missed quite a few comments and I’m sorry – I need to get this figured out.

It’s been an eventful year. Cat’s mother passed away in April, and that was difficult, of course. She was a member of a church right up the street, and Cat and I were both so moved by how the members and rector treated us when Mabel passed, and by the beautiful funeral service they provided, that we’ve started attending that church ourselves.  I ran screaming away from Christianity many years ago, so nobody is more amazed at me being back in church than I am. That’s a whole ‘nuther story. Anyway, being in church once a week and also participating in selected church social activities has proven to be quite a challenge for me, and I’m still trying to figure out how to balance everything and still find the solitary time that I need like I need air to breathe. So far I’m not managing very well, so energy levels have been low most of the time.

Please know how much I appreciate each and every person who comes here to read and is moved to share a little bit of him or herself with a comment. I’m still here, just often drowning in the demands of everyday life, and sometimes bourbon. :-)

 

We have the right to be left alone when we want to be

So. I like to walk on my lunch hour. Now that the weather is getting colder, I have been walking inside, which presents many challenges. I always seem to run into people I know, even at the farther reaches of campus. Also, I seem to have an “Ask ME!” sign floating above my head where-ever I go. I dislike being interrupted when I’m out for my walk. That’s my “me time,” my time away from people, my time to be alone with my thoughts. However, I don’t like to be rude, so if someone snags me for help finding a restroom, or I run into an acquaintance who wants to talk, I end up accommodating them at my own expense. ( I should note that at any given time there are thousands of people on this campus – there is always somebody who can help a visitor who is lost. I should also note that I don’t always want to avoid conversation. There are a handful of people with whom I always like to talk, when I see them. Of course those are the ones I rarely encounter.)

I decided to start taking my iPhone with me, and my earbuds, so that I can listen to music while I walk. This makes the time go faster – walking indoors is boring. It also allows me to send a pretty clear signal – “Leave me alone. I’m on my break. Don’t approach me.” It works! I walk fast, I avoid eye contact, and if I see someone I know, I smile and wave a hand and keep going.

So what’s the problem, you might be wondering.

Well, yesterday while I was motoring along, I encountered my boss and “X,” who were on their way to a meeting. I nodded and smiled at them. Thought nothing of it.

Until “X” came to my desk a couple of hours later to lecture me. “Oh, I see you’ve become one of those headphone zombies, being antisocial.” I said, “What? Excuse me?” “You heard me. Walking around wearing headphones so nobody can talk to you.” I said, “Look, I am entitled to ONE HOUR out of the day to be free from people sucking at me.” He took it personally. “I don’t suck at you!”

Oh, please. The wall across from my cube has black scuff marks on it, from his shoes, where he leans with one foot on the wall to yap at me for ungodly amounts of time every day. But everybody thinks he’s the exception, right? “I know other people are constantly bothering you, but I don’t.” SPARE ME.

I was so exasperated I said, “Of course you suck at me! Everybody does!”

He didn’t like that. We didn’t argue about it, but I am still brooding about it today. He has complained to me before about people riding the shuttle buses who wear headphones and tune everybody out. I’ve tried to tell him there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe these people don’t want to hear some yahoo’s loud cell phone conversation. Or maybe they are just tired of conversation and want to be left alone. What the hell is wrong with that?

Now, I do think that when we are out and about in public, we should not be so absorbed in our phones or our music that we’re not paying attention to our surroundings. We need to stay mindful of what’s going on around us. I ride my TerraTrike on bike paths and it drives me nuts when I try, as is proper bike path etiquette, to let a walker or jogger know I’m about to pass, and they can’t hear my horn or my voice because they have their earbuds in and their music is so loud. But that doesn’t mean we should never use our earbuds to listen to music quietly or even just to send the signal, “Please don’t talk to me.” I see nothing wrong with that. Why is my desire to be left alone any less important than somebody else’s desire to talk?

I really resent it that some people like “X” seem to think that I should just be available 24/7 for anybody who wants my attention, that I have no right to disconnect, tune out, and refresh my mind. What the hell.

What do my fellow introverts think?

My Little Lifesavers

Headphones

Worth every penny I paid.

Here are my little lifesavers, my pair of Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones. Sometimes, they are the only thing standing between me and insanity, at work.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in my opinion, when you work in a sort of open area, in cubicles, you should use headphones, if you want to listen to audio of any kind. Am I wrong here? Where I work, nobody does that, even though management has asked them to. Sometimes I’ve got the guy in front of me watching YouTube videos while the guy behind me is playing music. (Yes, my boss runs a very loose ship; he only cares about the work getting done, so this kind of thing goes on a lot) Anyway, I cannot concentrate with that kind of noise. Even if they are trying to keep it down, I can still hear it, and it distracts me.

If he’s not playing music, the guy behind me is attending webinars or he’s on conference calls and he never uses headphones for those, either, so I always have to listen to all of it.

Ironically he is the first to complain if he is trying to work and others are making noise, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post . . .

There could be a server running in my cube and it wouldn’t bother me. “White noise” doesn’t bother me. But I can’t stand to hear human voices in a video, or music, if I’m trying to work.

Music is a particularly interesting problem to me. If I like it, then I start paying attention to it and not my work. If I don’t like it, it irritates me.

So my only recourse (because both of these guys know that I have this problem, but they don’t seem to care, even though we are all friendly) has been to wear these babies, and play oscillating pink or brown noise through them. It’s very effective.

I just don’t feel like I should be the one who has to wear headphones. Seems like common courtesy would dictate that those who are disturbing the working environment with their audio should have to. But what do I know?

How to Exhaust an Introvert

Cat and I had a busy day yesterday. We went into the city to the big public library to hear a well-known author speak about her book. It was very crowded, which was a good thing, of course – as a reader and a writer, I love to see people interested in books. We ran into a couple who we know from work, and invited them to join us for a drink after the event. (I am generally most agreeable to spontaneous socializing if alcohol is available; I’m not too proud to admit that) We went to a nice hotel across the street from the library and had a cocktail together. This couple, Erin and Bryce, are two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, and we enjoyed talking with them. After that, Cat and I went to dinner at a Slovenian restaurant we’ve been wanting to try, and loaded up on European comfort food. Then we went to the grocery store to do our shopping for the week.

Perhaps for some people, this would just be a normal, rather low-key day. For me, it was exhausting. From about 2pm until after 8pm I was in the constant presence of other people. Lots of them. Talking, talking, talking. By the time I was finally able to collapse into my favorite chair with a highball and my iPad, I was completely drained. I bet you all know the feeling. Even when we’ve enjoyed our time out with our partner and/or friends, the energy we give out in social situations is like a constant trickle away from a battery and when it’s gone, it’s gone. The only remedy is to get home and to recharge with some quiet time. Am I right?

Here’s the thing, though. I am still tired this morning, feeling more than a little cranky and out of sorts. I’ve figured out why.

It’s THAT TIME OF YEAR. The dreaded HOLIDAY RUNAROUND is approaching like a freight train on a mission to crush me. See, for me it starts NOW, with family birthdays at the end of October. Then we swing right into November and another family birthday right after Thanksgiving. Then, of course, the Crown Jewel of exhausting holidays – CHRISTMAS and its attendant obligations. Then comes New Years Eve which is also Cat’s birthday, after which I will breathe an enormous sigh of relief at having survived the holiday crazies for one more year.

Do any of you find “The Holidays” something to dread instead of something to look forward to? I am sitting here feeling oppressed and pressured because I have to shop for birthday gifts between now and Saturday. Last Saturday we spent the afternoon at my brother’s place. Next Saturday we’ll be at my dad’s. I just hate having social obligations every weekend; even though I love my family and generally enjoy these rare get-togethers (while being grateful that they don’t happen more often) I would far prefer to be in command of my own time when I’m off work, free to get out into Nature as I please, or just stay home in my safe nest, being quiet. I hate having to rush here and there, having to figure out gifts, feeling like I’m on a timetable I haven’t chosen.

From now until the first of next year, folks, I am going to be a Hermit CRAB, I’m afraid. Happens every year . . .

 

Beauty in Solitude

Lodge Pond

Peace.

I have been thinking a lot about the beauty of Nature. I get outside as much as I can, and I find that my pleasure in it is highest when I go alone. I am happy for Cat’s company when she comes with me, but I only connect with Nature on a spiritual level when I am by myself.

When meditation teachers talk about emptying the mind, I think they mean arriving at that place of “no-thought,” that place where you are fully present in the moment, seeing what is, immersing yourself in it, and not thinking about it. That is a glorious place to be, my friends. When I enter Nature alone, I often find that place. When I am transfixed by a fern growing in a natural planter halfway up the trunk of a tree, when I am spellbound by the sound and sparkle of a little riffle in a secret brook, when I am entranced watching a pileated woodpecker drumming along a rotted log – my mind stops its ceaseless chatter at those times, and I can truly rest.

You see, not only do I get tired of the constant yammering of other people, I get tired of my own. We introverts live so much inside our own heads, don’t we?  Always thinking, always daydreaming, telling stories to ourselves, trying to figure things out, our brains are in perpetual motion, and that internal dialogue rarely stops.

It’s a revelation to me that not only do other people exhaust me, in many ways I exhaust myself. Getting out into the woods, into the fields, to streams and rivers and lakes, to hills and ravines and little ponds, by myself, is my only hope of shutting myself up long enough to really be able to rest, to relax, to hear that little voice inside that speaks not in words, but in sensation, in feeling, the inner guide that knows what’s right for me, whose guidance I all too often drown out with my ceaseless mental chatter.

This went in a direction I didn’t intend, but I think it was supposed to.

This photo is from a park I visited last weekend, on a cold, gray, rainy afternoon. I was there for a couple of hours and did not encounter another human soul; such weather keeps most people indoors, I think. I had the entire park to myself, and it was wonderful. I didn’t hear another human voice. I heard the rain pattering on the leaves overhead as I explored the woodland trails. I heard the cries of hawks as I wandered around a huge meadow. At this pond, I stood and listened to a tree atwitter with cedar waxwings gorging on berries.

It was Sunday. I was in my church.

If a Hermit won the lottery . . .

I fantasize all the time about winning the lottery, and when I remember to do it, and have the cash, I buy tickets. My favorite game is the MegaMillions. I don’t know why. I guess it’s just easy to tell a clerk “Gimme five MegaMillions, with the Megaplier, please.” Because of course, being an introvert, I am not crazy about complicated interactions with clerks. In fact, if the blasted machines worked right, I’d just have a betting slip filled out and let a machine do it, but I’ve discovered the machines are often screwed up, so I have to talk to a human if I want to play.

Oh, if I could only win a huge jackpot, what I would do . . . I would quit my job so fast it would be like time travel. I’d quit YESTERDAY. I am always puzzled by the winners who say “Well, I’m going to keep working.” WHAT??  WHY??  My job is the biggest source of exhaustion and stress in my life. Yes, I am lucky and grateful to have it, but still, if I could afford to leave it, I’d run away and never look back.

Cat and I would buy a place either out in the country, or in a small town. Of course I have two main desires in a home – QUIET, and beautiful natural surroundings. My fantasy home would be on a hill overlooking fields and woods, with no neighbors in sight. I’d have a deck where I could sit and sip coffee on summer mornings, hearing nothing but birdsong. In the evenings I’d sit out with a Manhattan or a glass of wine and listen to the cicadas. I’d never have to hear one note of music I didn’t choose, or uninvited human voices.

I’d spend blissful hours alone in Nature, roaming the woods, exploring the meadows. I’d fish. I’d ride my trike in peace, free of traffic and yakking people.

Then, my friends, I think I’d have energy to write, to create, to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a book, a novel. I am having such a hard time figuring out how to do that when going to work every day, among noisy people, is sucking my very soul out through my eyeballs, leaving me drained and cranky when I finally get home at night.

I don’t want to be rich. I just want to be free.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

 

I am such a horrible blogger!

I keep saying I’m going to do better, and then I don’t do it. I apologize again to those of you who were kind enough to come here and read and comment only to have your comments left unapproved by me. Sigh. You’d think, as a tech person, that I would understand that simply unspamming a batch of comments, weeks and weeks ago, did not approve them. My bad. I’m sorry.

To make up for it, here’s a picture I took of a waterspout trying to form. I live near Lake Erie, and recently the weather forecast said that waterspouts were “likely” so I rode the trike up to the beach and waited around for about an hour, riding back and forth, freezing in the wind for which I was not suitably dressed . . . finally was rewarded by this little guy trying to form. Never attained full development, but was cool to see nonetheless.

Waterspout funnel

The human social rituals I somehow missed out on

Well, all the graduation hoo-ha is over with, and I survived it all. From the Senior Dinner to the English Department Picnic and the Alpha Society Dinner, through the Baccalaureate Service and the brunch and Commencement itself, I did it all, and while it was nerve-wracking and exhausting, I’m really glad I participated in all of it.

There was lots of food for thought in all this. I’ve realized that my entire immediate family is introverted. I mean my parents, and my brother. Our other relatives live in Europe. Due to this situation, there are lots of social rituals and traditions that many people take for granted, which I missed out on. When you combine introverted people with social isolation due to lack of family, you get what I think of as a “family of spiders.” Meaning that we are each very solitary, we keep to ourselves, we get together for special occasions and that’s about it. I don’t mean to imply that I think there’s anything wrong with that. It just means that I never learned to function in many areas that most people probably take for granted. I never went to a funeral until I was almost 25 years old, and then it was for someone in my husband’s family. I don’t know my extended family. I don’t even speak their language. My wedding was small and I didn’t have a reception. I wouldn’t have known how to plan anything. I won’t know what to do when my parents pass away – I don’t have a clue how to handle funeral arrangements. The few social skills I’ve mastered are because of Cat – because she’s gently led me and encouraged me and helped me learn how to deal with group restaurant outings, parties, etc.

I felt very strange throughout most of the graduation activities. For one thing, I was a minority, being an adult student. I think out of a graduating class of over 300 people, I perhaps knew four. I went through much of the whole process in a sort of peculiar isolation, wondering if it would have been different for me had I graduated thirty years ago, like I should have. Would I have had a group of friends? Would I have had a party afterward? What’s it like to be friends with enough people to even have a party, and would I even want that?

I don’t know. I just don’t “get” the social thing. I did experience a deep appreciation for the rituals and I understood the desire to share it with others – I think. It was a new feeling for me.

Today I went fishing, by myself. And loved every solitary moment of it.

Friends – want them, or not?

I think about friendship sometimes. I don’t really have friends, and I’m fine with that. I have work friends, I guess – but I tend to draw a boundary between “work” and “home” – just because I’m friends with you at work, doesn’t mean I want to see you outside of work. Or talk to you. Email is fine; Facebook messages are fine. That’s all I want.

I met some great people on the Northwoods trip, and felt like I really connected with some of them. I probably “fell in love,” in a friendly way, with several of them. But in spite of having what I thought were genuinely warm feelings towards them, I haven’t stayed in touch other than through Facebook. Cat and I did meet one fellow and a group of his friends for dinner one night, but that’s been it. Several times, different ones have extended tentative invitations and I’ve always sort of weaseled out. I’m so protective of my private time. I guess I get everything I’m looking for from “virtual” relationships; I have no desire to interact with people in real life, any more than I have to.

A fellow I really liked a lot messaged me tonight, suggesting we get together for a bike ride when the weather warms up. Now, this is someone I was comfortable with – he’s funny, easy-going, smart, and easy to be around. So why did I panic when I received his message? Everything in me said “no!!” In a way, I’d like to be able to be happy about such an invitation. I’d like to be able to accept it and just go enjoy his company. But I feel like I can’t. I feel like I don’t want to.

Do any of you out there relate to that? How do you handle it? Do you ever find that even though you really like someone, you just don’t want to spend time with him or her “IRL?”

After my initial panic, I gave him a friendly but “uncommitted” response. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I don’t want to piss him off or make him think I don’t like him. But the thought of everything we’d have to coordinate to meet up for a bike ride, and of having to talk to him, maybe get lunch, whatever – I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

I was out for a solitary walk at lunch last week, and ran into someone I know. (I hate when that happens) This fellow is really nice, I like him just fine. But I couldn’t stand there and talk with him. At one point, I ran out of “small talk” and just stood and looked at him, with nothing to say, feeling like an idiot. I want to convey friendliness and “non-harming” but I wonder what people think when I just stand there and look at them and don’t say anything. Awkward . . . I was so glad when he finally said “Nice to see you” and went on his way.

I wonder how other introverts handle this stuff . . .??

 

Daring to Dream

Underwood

It started for me on one of these

So, school’s out. It’s beginning to sink in. No more homework. No more reading assignments, no more class weekends. My life outside of work is my own again.

People keep asking me, “What’s next?” Professors are trying to talk me into entering a Master’s program. Either the school’s own “Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies” or an MFA in Creative Writing somewhere. At work, I’m being asked if I’ll consider pursuing an MBA. (considering that the word “business” makes my skin crawl, that’s highly unlikely)

The idea of getting an MFA in Creative Writing is attractive, but I have no idea how I would pay for it, for one thing. I know that my employer’s tuition reimbursement plan would not cover an MFA. (It would cover much of the cost of an MBA, but I don’t want one!) I’ve got student loans to pay back as it is. For another thing, I’m dead-tired of being in school. I’ve been at this since the fall of 2009, taking at least 10 credit hours of demanding classes a semester on top of working full-time and taking care of a house and yard and animals. I’m done.

But I, too, have been asking that question, “What’s next?” For a while now, I’ve been saying, “After I graduate I’ll have time for my own writing.” Well, I’m done with classes and graduation is a little over a month away. So, what am I going to write?

I’ve had to think hard about this. I tried my hand at several things, in the course of earning the Minor in Writing. I played with poetry and did all right – won a contest in formal poetry for a pantoum, and poems of mine got Honorable Mentions two years in a row in a regional writing contest. I enjoyed my efforts at creative non-fiction, and earned a second place with an essay in the same regional contest. I’ve been told that my genre seems to be the personal essay. I had fun working with fiction and am waiting to see if a short story I wrote in class will get anything in this year’s contest.  So, what to do? What do I want to do?

I have to be honest. And it’s scary to admit this because it just seems so big and so nervy. I want to write fiction. I want to write a novel. Hell, I want to write many novels. I have always wanted to do this, from the time I was a twelve year old with an old Underwood typewriter. In school, I learned to be a good mechanic of writing – but my creative story-telling self went into hiding a long time ago. I need to find her and bring her out so that she and the mechanic can work together to write stories that people will want to read. That’s my dream. To write fiction. To get paid for it.

I have some ideas. I’m writing out notes. It’s time to write the dream into reality.