The Introvert’s Obligatory Daily Existential Crisis.

It is after midnight and I should be sleeping, but having just awoken from falling asleep at 9:30, sleep eludes me. What better time to blog?

I have been away from my computer, working more hours, traveling, preparing for Christmas… Edits of my novel, kernels of ideas for the next one, the scorned mystery, all lay in the periphery, like cast off slippers peeking out from under the sofa.

Since the rejection of my mystery, I have, once again, daily reconsidered my life. The introvert’s obligatory daily existential crisis. What should I be doing? Where should I do it? What am I capable of? What will my anxiety allow? It is interesting how the mind never tires of these questions and still, after fifty years, provides new and unique responses. In some ways it is a curse for aptitude tests to indicate you can be anything other than a surgeon. With a million paths before you, how do you know which one will have the staying power? My dad worked for thirty plus years at Ford, most of the time doing the same job, daily packing the same bologna sandwich, well not the same sandwich literally, but you get what I’m saying. Me, I top out at five years. Except for being a stay-at-home mom. That never got old. But my kids did.

So, what are the new paths I consider as I do my daily rounds? Lately, I’ve been going back to my earlier choices. Conservation. Music. Things I had decided I was too old for. But, maybe not. Maybe I can resurrect old passions. Time will tell. For now, I am anxious to have the time to complete the revisions of my novel and send it out to be shot down by dozens of agents with curt replies. I’m not anxious for the last part to transpire, but it is the nature of the beast. I do so want to place my creations in a publishing house that will give them their best chance. That is the goal.

So, for now, I have goals and a job that makes the car payment. And tomorrow, the cogs in my brain will turn again, pondering, puzzling this thing called life.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

Rejection.

There is little in this world that hurts more than rejection in all its forms.

The break-up, I’m not even going to touch upon. Why bother when so much has already been written on the subject. No, I’m thinking on all the little rejections we face from the time we are born. The times as a tiny infant we cried and no one came. The times we weren’t picked for a game. The teachers who favored others first. The jobs we didn’t get. All the times we were looked past and yes, the boys or girls we didn’t get.

I think I’ve always felt I placed near the top of the pack in many things. Near, but never at the top. Doing well, but not the stand-out. Like in the Great British Baking Show in the early weeks when several hover in the middle. Not Star-Baker, but not going home either. Mentioned in the tent during Paul and Mary’s musings as having done something well enough to stay but not in the limelight.

Near the top isn’t a bad place to be. In fact, most of the time it’s a preferred spot. Safe. Respected. Less pressure.

It isn’t a bad place to be unless you want the spotlight.

I’m a writer. I’ve written three novels, three collections of short stories and a self-help book. I want these works in the spotlight. Somewhere in the pack in this industry means available for purchase but rarely seen by the public. It means I write books that nobody reads.

Somewhere in the pack isn’t good enough.

Eleven weeks ago I submitted a novel. Diligently, I followed the publisher on Twitter, both before and after the submission. Followed not in some creepy, stalkish way but to educate myself. I learned the submission process was taking up to twelve weeks and the longer it took, the better the chances it was being considered. As the weeks ticked by, I searched my inbox several times a day, relieved to not get the dreaded rejection.

Then, last night, at eleven weeks and one day, I got the e-mail. The form letter, thanks but no thanks. Heartbreak. If you’ve never put yourself out there in the same or a similar way, you don’t know the pain of being told you’re not good enough. But then, maybe it’s the same pain as every time we’re told we’re not good enough.

Rejection. Is it any wonder I probably tried to protect my children too much from rejection. It’s a tricky business knowing the balance between enough to learn healthy coping skills and the tipping point that overwhelms and leads to dysfunction.  I know, as my mother often told me, I’m too sensitive. Rejection creates a burning hole in my heart that in my older adult life is tamped down by tears, yelling, swearing and vowing to make good. Tamps down the fire, but has as of yet, never extinguished it.

So, today, I re-evaluate. What I submitted was written to their specifications. I don’t do that well. I have to tell my stories in my own way. Not that I reject the submitted story. But, if I hadn’t been fettered by their vision, there were things I would have written differently.

Rejection creates internal narratives. For some it’s the spark that drives them on. For others it’s the reason they can’t get out of bed. For me, it’s both.

My internal narrative tells me my tagline is – I write books that nobody reads. Another tells me, I write books that nobody reads – yet.

What’s Writing Got to Do with It?

I used to be an avid reader, but somewhere along the line, I’ve fallen off. In part it is laziness. Visual media does so much of the work for us. In part it is the introvert in me that shies away from meeting new people, even in print. And, in part it is because, as a writer, I am constantly in editing mode. I cannot turn it off. I even edit people’s conversations.  Thankfully my edits are contained in my mind, unlike Sheldon Cooper. It’s horrible. There is no off switch.

So, to encourage my reading habit, I have decided to include on this blog book reviews. Books I have read recently. Books, though published years ago, I consider to still be relevant. Books by authors of renown and books by authors unknown by most.

As a rating system, I didn’t want to give thumbs up, or stars so I have decided I will assign each review a ducky rating from one to five.

I hope through my reviews you may enter into a relationship with books you might have otherwise never met.

Is This How You Spell Existential Crises?

Just looking at that word – crises – I’m in a panic. Not because of any event, but because it looks so very wrong.

Words. Spelling of words. Appearances. All things I’m no ducky about.  All things I need a macintosh for because they aren’t sliding off my back on their own.

To shed some light into my insight into brain gymnastics, it should be shared that I’m a trained mental health counselor. Education, experience and personal insight. Too well, I understand the acrobatics the mind can perform.

So how does this lead to my routine existential crises? (I’m going to keep writing that word until it becomes more normalized. Doesn’t it just look weird?) It goes back to the shoulds of yesterday.

What should I be doing?

I’m not saying this is the case for all introverts, only this one. Creativity, introversion, ability, guilt, insecurity and shoulds roil around in a tiny internal cauldron sending out paralyzing fumes. Fumes that twist and twine around the parts of the brain that define the self and the parts that instigate action.

There is a reason people set out with enthusiasm and hope and end up in bed under the covers. The existential crises. The inability to function in the world laid out before them.

So, the next logical step is to create their own world, one where they define their existence. Seems like a plan, doesn’t it? But existential crises constantly question – why am I here – what am I supposed to be doing – how am I supposed to do it  – and on and on.

It’s like being asked to design your own personal Eden. Seems like a dream, right? Not so much.

We all need boundaries. My object lesson in this happened when I was a teacher for an outdoor education center in my twenties. I watched the director set clear expectations for the children and saw the most rebellious child relax into the frame. Like lanes in a bowling alley, boundaries set the path. Like a warm hug from a parent, boundaries make us feel safe.

Life is better with boundaries.

That’s why jobs and school are soothing to an anxious mind. (They really are, more than it seems when you’re in it) We all need direction and boundaries.

Freedom from anyone’s control seems the pinnacle, but if you achieve it, then what? Now, you are the master of your fate, you must set the course or flounder about in a sea of overwhelming opportunities.

Which leads back to the existential questions – why am I here – what am I supposed to be doing – how am I supposed to do it…

The answers fluctuate with time of life, state of mind, availability of courage, belief in the self, level of external expectations. I’ve come to terms with knowing I will probably never be free of these crises.

After all, even Snoopy asked the questions.

Thou Shalt Not Should On Thyself

I recently had minor surgery and I’m off work. No real pain or discomfort. Should be a jolly time of Hallmark movies, Law and Order episodes, reading and resting.

But…

The brain that is wired to the guilt string never lets there be peace for long.

Oh the ‘shoulds’ that undermine happiness.

I should be reading

I should be writing

I should be making my presence known on social media

I should have a brand, followers.

I should have a platform

I should be focused and not emotionally invested in twelve projects at any one time.

I should be focused on healthy living

I should be volunteering

I should be, should be, should be…

Happy

I should be happy.

I should be happy, for the only thing that lies in my way is my own manufactured angst.

Don’t misunderstand me, angst is angst, manufactured or created by circumstances. There’s just more guilt in manufactured angst – I should be able to control it.

I have been introspective all of my life. I just can’t let pesky thoughts and feelings alone. Like a scab that must be picked. I just can’t let myself be happy.

But for the rest of today, I am going to pick a direction and go with it. I am going to fight the shoulds and focus on the random beauty about me and the small joys. I am going to be curious about the future and find things to look forward to.

I hope your day is should-free and curiosity piques your mind.

Lord Love a Duck

As I said before, all introverts need a ducky or two, those wonderful people who balance our excessive need to hyper-analyze. The Yang to our Yin.  But, perhaps I shouldn’t speak so generally. For me, duckies are the ones who release me from paralysis. Without them, I stagnate in my comfortable cocoon.  They provide a judgement-free zone that frees my tormented mind.

Duckies have always taken on a bit of rock star aura in my eyes. They jump right in as if they belonged, have no doubt of their welcome and ignore nuanced reactions that would send me scuttling back to my den. They are like mythological heroes, larger than life, ten-foot tall and bulletproof.  I follow in their wake, starry eyed, close enough to their orbit to float along their gravitational pull.

But perhaps I am crossing up extroverts with those just comfortable in their own skin. A ducky can be an extrovert but just because someone’s an extrovert it doesn’t make them a ducky.

My husband’s a ducky. An introverted ducky. Very little rattles him and if it does, it’s not for long. He’s learned to waterproof his feathers so the slings and arrows of life do not penetrate.

I’ve had extroverted friends who are duckies.  I would sit back and shake my head at how unaware they were of other’s reactions. How could they not see? But, who was the happier? It certainly wasn’t me.

But, extroverts have many friends and eventually, I get pushed out of the gravitational field. Or I linger too long along the edge and fall off.  Probably more that latter. Because, and here’s the secret of the introvert, nothing feels better than canceling plans.

So how’s an introvert to maintain relationships with her duckies?

I Still Don’t Know How to Friend

I’ve had so many thoughts whirling about in my brain over the last twenty-four hours for blog posts. Now that I’m at my computer, they’ve seemed to scurry under the covers like I should be doing. An old dog barking to go out at 4 a.m. is hell on my sleep schedule.

Conversation

Do all introverts over-analyze the minutiae of every interaction with other human beings? What was said, how it was said, what wasn’t said. Was I too loud? Did I come on too strong? Did I remember to verbalize the appropriate responses? Did I keep from rolling my eyes? Was it obvious I wanted to escape? Did I cling to the one person who made me feel comfortable?

Is the angst worth it?

I was ten when a new family moved into the suburban house across the street. A good Catholic family with six kids. Three of the girls were within a year of me. The dynamic of the neighborhood changed overnight. I’d lived there all my life. I was comfortable. But now, these kids were outside, playing, laughing and suddenly I felt like the interloper. I didn’t know how to fit in, join in, to my changed landscape. I stayed in the house most of that summer because I couldn’t go across the street and ask if I could play. The stakes were too high. What if they said no? I would be extricated from my own neighborhood. It was easier to retreat than to be forced out.

Eventually, I crossed the street and made a friend. It was okay for a year, until the day the little girl across the street, my best friend, stopped speaking to me. Darkness and despair followed. As well as embarrassment and self-recrimination. It lasted for six miserable months. Six months of exile without a clue why. Then the family moved.

Are friends worth it?

I know many people who can sort through the flotsam and jetsam of relationships, picking up the good and letting the sea take the rest. Ignoring the difficult without a second thought. Like water off a duck’s back.

I have to pick up each piece, catalogue and store it all, even the tiniest shard. Later, I take out each one and turn them over in my hands, examining every detail. Lists of defects are gathered, pondered over and blame is placed, usually upon myself.

Is it because friendships are so much work for an introvert that we have so few of them? Or are our circles drawn to only allow a few?

Or maybe we just don’t know how to do the friend thing.

I remember my mother sending me off to camp with the words, if you want a friend, be a friend. So much pressure. It was all up to me. I could have friends if I acted right, but then, if I didn’t have friends it was all my fault.

And what was acting right? What were the rules, the expectations? Did the other kids know them? How did they know what eluded me? Or did they never think about these things?

I still don’t know how to friend. Yes, I made that a verb. Friend. Definition: To act in the acceptable way to be a friend.

Over my life, my friends have mostly been simple extroverts. Simple because they don’t overthink life, they live it. Duckies who let it all roll off their backs. I don’t have to worry about offending them by making a misstep. They aren’t sticklers for the rules of friending. They are the safe ones. The ones that live in the moment and give my brain a rest.

God bless the duckies. All introverts need a ducky or two.

Welcome to Introvert’s Life

Hello, my name is Laurie and this blog is not anonymous. I’d like to tell you I spelled anonymous right the first time, but in the spirit of transparency, I gave spellcheck a workout.

Now, you know three things about me.

I am an introvert, my name is Laurie and I am spelling challenged.

I believe that is enough self-disclosure at this point.

This blog will be the observations of a life-long introvert. What’s written here may not align with clinical definitions but will fall under the umbrella of Webster’s.

Don’t confuse introverted with dull. If you want to know what’s happening in a room, ask the introvert. You’ll find them, often in a corner; watching, taking in, absorbing, pondering, looking for the exits and checking the time.

Unless they’re not.

Introverts aren’t always silent and uncomfortable in crowds. Crowds can be segmented into comfortably sized sections. Then the introvert may be the one holding court, talking loud, gesticulating, and entertaining those about them. It drains us, but we like interacting with people too.

Remember, many professional entertainers are introverts.

Don’t put us in a box.

Nobody puts introverts in ….  you get the gist.

Introverts.

We are comfortable alone but want to be around some people; the ones that don’t expect us to be someone we’re not, who are comfortable with silence and who don’t need us to validate or define them.

That’s an overview of introversion.

Until next time, feel comfortable in your own skin however striped, spotted or plain.

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