How Missing People Is Actually Better For Me
CN: Anxiety, mental health, talk of schedules and politics, the 45th President
I include the above photo to show that I am actually pretty happy lately, especially compared to the end of 2016 and the beginning of this year. Some of that is, well, because I’ve been resisting — calling my elected representatives, signing petitions, doing all I can to emotionally support protests even as mental and physical health keep me at home; it feels good to be involved, though titrating to avoid burnout is definitely still a work in progress. Some of it is because the sun is coming back out, with all the joy and Vitamin D that brings. But some of that is because I’ve just finally accepted a truth about myself: I’m an introvert.
I used to tell myself that I was an extrovert, and for a long time that seemed to be the case. I mean, I like being around people; I like (love…really love…cannot stop) talking, listening, having discussions and exchanges of ideas; I sometimes find it difficult to be silent for too long or to go too long without seeing people. When I have plans, I can find it arduous to do something in the hours leading up to them, unless those things are directly related (which may be a secret reason I also love hosting, but…more on that later…). But as I rounded into my mid-thirties, I started recognizing a pattern in my behavior:
- I make recurring plans with friends
- I make recurring plans with other friends
- I start also making one-off plans
- I discover I have weeks and weeks where I have almost no free time
- My anxiety starts to rise
- My anxiety actually outgrows my body and I achieve flight, traveling everywhere by floating on a cushion of pure terror
- I start skipping out on recurring plans
- Skipping out intensifies
- I cancel recurring plans
- I realize I have a lot of free time
- Go to 1
Being human, I recognized this far ahead of actually doing anything about it, but recognize it I did. It was, frankly, diabetes that finally broke the spell. When we received our diagnoses, we had to step back from a lot of plans while we a. took time to be upset at the bad news, and b. figure out how to live life with this new dimension. So regular gaming started to dry up. Standing plans started to dry up. We spent our nights learning how to eat properly, how to exercise, how to take our glucose readings, watch for symptoms, etc. And in and among learning how to do all this, and the vast oceans of stress that came along with it, came a realization: I felt better. Not just physically, but mentally.
I liked having free time. I liked spending the bulk of my evenings at home with Sonya. I liked being able to focus on my writing, to catch up on books I meant to read and video games I meant to play, to have quiet weekend mornings where I just sat and read comics while I sipped my tea. The apex of the experience came at Christmas 2015, when due to a confluence of events, Sonya and I wound up having a quiet Christmas Eve at home, just the two of us, and it was one of the best Christmases I have ever had and I was more refreshed on returning to work than I have ever been.
I think my aversion to the idea I was an introvert came from a boy I knew in middle school, who was the first person I ever heard use the term “introvert,” and who used it to mean “self-centered.” Even when I learned later in life what it meant, I had taught myself to think extroversion was good and introversion was bad. It doesn’t help that Western culture in general privileges extroverts, so I was inundated with the idea I needed to be that to get anywhere. (Never mind that the stereotype of writers runs counter to that, no, don’t reflect on that, that’s silly.) But loving a proud introvert, and being forced into introversion for a while, showed me the truth about myself and gave me a chance to see it in action: yes, I love people. I am also an introvert. And finding a balance is fine.
So these days, I don’t see people as much. Yes, I have some regular (monthly) gaming groups. I have a bimonthly board game night. We have friends over sometimes, and sometimes we go to friends, and those things are fun and fine and good. But unless people ask for us, most days are left open for us to do us things. I won’t lie, there are times I want more; there are days I miss people, especially people who live farther away from us. But the truth is, at the end of the week, having a Saturday that I am just spending with Sonya is often the most amazing feeling in the world, and on your average weekday, a rendesvous with her and with my writing desk is all I would ask for. This isn’t because I love or treasure my friends any less, but because I am finally figuring out the truth I wouldn’t let myself learn for years: I actually am OK being a homebody.
So, yeah. The world is a struggle right now; but in this time, in these moments, I have found a way to make myself happy. And any time that happens, for any of us, is a victory.