2013 Journal

I am committed to trusting that, when it is time, a new sort-of-monthly or six-weekly Journal "blog" will emerge and be posted here sharing tales of how these earlier learnings are continuing to shape the ways I deal with whatever unfolds in my everyday life.  One of the Rememberings and Celebrations Card will be posted with it.

I stop to sit down, reflect and write only when something deep inside calls me to it. The call is completely unpredictable, though usually it comes late at night and near the end or middle of the month - unless, sigh, it doesn’t because it’s not yet time to step out of the flow and look at it.

 

Honoring our introversion in a culture that idealizes extraversion:

Like so many of us (from 30 to 50% of the population depending on which statistic you credit), I revel the quiet richness of solitude. I feel deeply nourished and replenished by the time I spend with only my self as company. Honoring my voracious hunger for this kind of time, I’ve designed a life that provides me with lots of it, regularly. Arranging this life has required owning, advocating for and celebrating my introversion in a culture that generally idealizes extroversion and – for the most part – pathologizes introversion.

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(I think the most meaningful definition of the difference between introversion and extroversion is that people on the introvert side of the continuum are replenished by solitude while those at the extrovert end are nourished more by social interactions. Truth be told, we all have some of each side of this continuum in us even as we define ourselves more to one end than the other.)

Like many folks at the introvert side of the continuum, I’d rather have a root canal without anesthesia than attend a large social gathering or a dinner with more than a half dozen people. I’ve often felt like an alien in this world that values ways of being that make little sense to my spirit. In years past (before I became more selective of with whom I’d spend time when I felt like connecting), people in my life sometimes wondered if I might be depressed because I spent so much time alone. In those earlier days, I’d sometimes actually worry that there might be something wrong with me because I had such a strong preference for time alone and so little interest in the more socially acceptable time spent with others.

While I no longer worry about any of this, I still feel as though I live in a world whose values baffle and disturb me. Lately, I’ve been feeling crazed by the endless repetition of references to research which demonstrates how necessary strong social networks are for healthy aging. “How many self-described introverts were part of these studies,” I want to ask. Clearly, if one is an extrovert, social networks are crucial to wellbeing – otherwise one is apt to feel empty, lonely, bored and/or isolated.  Yet, introverts – those of us who have rich inner lives – are rarely likely to feel empty or lonely or bored with our own solo company. 

It really is possible to live into celebrating the healthy joys of introversion, solitude and the more contemplative lifestyle. Those of us who live and enjoy life at this end of the continuum can choose to honor, more openly affirm and claim the juicy richness of this different path that we walk. It’s a path that’s existed for centuries and, until more recent years, been a valued thread in the tapestry of all life. The current cultural overvaluing/idealization of extroversion actually undermines the capacity for self-awareness and emotional fluency that allows one’s soul to develop and flourish.

Happily there’s been a recent spate of books to gather if one needs/wants support for this lifestyle. I particularly love this quote from one of these books:

“You’re not shy; rather, you appreciate the joys of quiet. You’re not antisocial; instead, you enjoy recharging through time alone. You’re not unfriendly, but you do find more meaning in one-on-one connections than large gatherings.” – Laurie Helgoe

I particularly love the various titles of these books (which seem to be garnering a large readership  – introverts of the world, unite!):

Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introversion in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Sophia Dembling’s  Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.

Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.

Nancy Okerlund’s Introverts at Ease: An Insider’s Guide to a Great Life on Your Own Terms.

Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert  Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths.

Cheryl Card’s Discover the Power of Introversion: What Introverts are Never Told and Extraverts Learn the Hard Way.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I am a gregarious hermit: an introvert who enjoys intimate sharing from time to time. With this, as with everything else about me that is somewhat different-from-the-acceptable-norm, I discover that when I’m true to my own nature – living from my own center/reality – what other people think or say about me clearly becomes their issue rather than mine. I’ve always loved Terry Cole Whittaker’s  famous line (and the title of her book) “What you think of me is none of my business!”

Bringing Unconditional Love To Ourselves

The delightful interview/conversation (about the Go Only as Fast… book) that my dear friend Justine Toms of New Dimensions Media and I taped in Petaluma this late June has been airing on myriad NPR stations around the world this week (September 4 through September 10). 

In case you missed it, you will find the audio file below.

The response has been amazing. Emails coming in from several people who wrote to say how much they resonated with and were deeply touched by what I talked about. And then, on Sunday – when it was broadcast in the greatest number of geographies – there was a flurry of orders for both the paperback and the Kindle versions! The number of orders actually bumped the book into the #2 slot in Amazon’s self-help/inner child category: Yayy!!!It’s so exciting to know that the book and its message – of slowing down, listening in and honoring our inner knowing – is getting out further and further into the world!

Interview Reminder - September 4 - 12

"Bringing Unconditional Love to Our Selves," my interview with Justine Toms on New Dimensions Radio is slated to air beginning on Wednesday, September 4th. Depending on where you live you may catch the broadcast between the 4th and the 12th. Check out this link to find the radio station and time for your part of the world: http://www.newdimensions.org/find-program/.

For those unable to tune in this week, a shorter "Cafe" piece will be available for free download after the 12th. If you would like to hear the interview  yet cannot find a local station, the full interview is available for download at the New Dimensions website. The cost for this mp3 file is $1.99.

 

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Some Further Reflections on How We Grow:

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In a Developmental Psychology class way back in the early days of graduate school (in the 1960s) I remember learning about the Gestalt Theory of the stages of child development. The notion (at least as I remember it) was that as a child kept on assimilating new information/skills, its existing organization would keep expanding/shifting to accommodate to these newly added bits. Then, at some critical moment, the being’s organization would no longer be able to accommodate the just-one-more-new-bit. At that point, the existing organization would come undone. The child’s behavior would seem to regress for a while.

This coming apart of the existing order would allow for a whole new organization to assemble itself and for the child to suddenly take a giant step forward to a new level of skill and competence. The form of this emergent order would not only incorporate the new bit but would be capable, for a while, of continuing to assimilate other new bits until another critical moment arrived and it would have to disassemble and form yet a newer organization.

Somewhere in my old journals from the 1980s, I remember writing a poem about Coming Apart to Come Together (alas, I couldn’t find it today) that was about this very process as it continues on into our adult lives. I know it well.

For many years I would be perplexed by the arrival, seemingly out of the blue, of the periods of considerable discomfort that still arrive these days (though they no longer perplex me). At these times, I feel exhausted for no apparent external causes. I feel out of sorts, irritable, uncomfortable in my own skin. I go through not being able to find a place for my self. I wander around much like a dog circles and circles around as it tries to find the right spot to curl up in. I feel whiny, antsy, lost; teary for no apparent reason (much like I used to feel when premenstrual).  Often, these are times when I find my self unexpectedly doubting or questioning the choices I’ve made in my life, choices about which I’m usually quite clear as having been right for me. These old life issues resolved at earlier times reappear in new guises; the Hatchet Lady’s critical voice, long ago defanged, reappears grumbling some versions of very old litanies.

I can’t remember when I first understood what these periods were about but, when they arrive these days (as they do still, from time to time), I recognize them for what they are: thresholds times. Times when my old way of being is coming undone to make way for some new organization of me to emerge. The pieces come apart so that they can reassemble in a new way for the next season of my unfolding.

These interludes are still uncomfortable but, once I recognize them for what they are, they’re no longer so disquieting. Most times it takes a few days before I’m onto what’s going on and occasionally these between-times do last a while. I’ve learned to be exceedingly tender and loving with my prickly self during such threshold/transition times, to not ask very much from me and to do a lot of resting. The next step/new way always emerges at just the right moment. I’ve learned to trust that and not push my self. It's how we all can better deal with the threshold times in the spiraling journey of growing (see the earlier post: Growth Unfolds as a Spiraling Journey).