catch me if i fall

i feel as if i am a woman of polar opposites. i am fiercely strong, yet unendingly weak. i am a woman at peace,a woman at war. i am a person of introversion, a person of strength an inner depth…but i am so dependent.

i need others. i need someone to catch me when i fall. i depend so heavily on family and friends. i can’t feel alone. i go crazy if i feel alone.

obviously, i enjoy solitude. i like being physically alone. i mean mentally. i need to know i have a safety net, a web of friends. i need people who support me by kicking me with their heels to get me into a run. i need people who comfort me and life my hands in theirs and patter me with kisses and hold me like a cracked ornament.

i need people, i do. truly. does that make me a bad introvert? 🙂

i couldn’t survive alone. i dump my problems on those around me. without my friends, without this blog, without you, my problems would not get dumped, and they would sit in my head like a steaming pile of garbage, stinking and rotting and driving me out with their stench.

i am selfish.

i try to support. i try to hold others up, but my arms aren’t as strong as i want them to be, as they need them to be. i feel useless to others.

My joints are stiff with baseless anxiety.

Kids

I have the three most adorable younger cousins I could possibly ask for. Aged 5, 3, and 8 months, they are one of the things I will miss most during my three months away.

Today, the oldest (and most emotional) found out that I was leaving.

“No you’re not,” he said after my dad told him. I was unaware we were telling them, just sitting on the floor with the baby. “I’m gonna ask my dad.”

“I promise you, she is.”

I told him to be excited! I was going to stay in a castle! He told me castles didn’t exist, they were just pretend.

I told him I wouldn’t be gone long, and I’d be back before Christmas. Soon I got him to stop crying. He said it was OK as long as I was going in a plane instead of a car.

I love those kids so much. It hurts me to hurt them.

 

Whenever I see them, I leave either wanting to have kids immediately or never ever wanting a child, ever. I’m twenty. These feelings are probably rather natural.

I certainly don’t want a kid now. I’m too young, I’m too immature. I certainly want to be settled down with a stable job before even thinking about kids. However, a time in which I’m stable is likely not too far off.

I think being an introverted, anxiety-prone parent must be difficult. I would never get time alone, and I’d never get time to work on hobbies (or writing!). I want to travel and eat in nice restaurants and have nice clothes and sleep through the night, and it feels like kids take that away.

On the other hand, I love kids. I love teaching, I love reading to them, I love hearing their stories, I love showing them new things. I love them a lot.

I guess the deal is that I know I would be a good mother to a child. But it may not be good for me. I would give everything I have to it, but would have no energy left for myself, and I think it’s fair to not be ready for that.

Then again, what do I know? Like I said, I’m only twenty. There are probably plenty of parents and non-parents alike reading this and shaking their heads at my innocence, at my ignorance.

Ah, well. This is all a problem for Future Tina to figure out. Right now, Present Tina only has to worry about my job and preparing for Europe.

 

I really hate hurting him though. I know, little buddy, it’s hard to leave someone you love. But it’s not that long. And it will be easier than you think.

Holidays bring out…

The best in people. Hot dogs and hamburgers, bonfires, smiles. Babies and children, swimming and rolling in the grass. Parents yelling after them. Cakes and fruit baskets. Love, family, laughs, friends.
The worst in people. Bitter stabs, smirks, rolling eyes. Children hushed, parents leading them away. Fights, thrown dishes. Tears, screams, revved engines.
The past. Traditions. Cutting the cake, trimming the tree, lighting the fireworks, lighting the jack o lanterns, carving the turkey, singing the songs.
The future. New additions to the family. Engagements. New traditions, even. New stories to be told.
Everything. If they last too long, it all comes out. 

“Family”

I imagine the guy in the featured image of this post is wearing a party hat, not a dunce cap.

I wish there were two separate words for immediate family and extended family without having to call them both “family.” My grandmother once sat down with a pen and paper and counted over 100 cousins, stretching into second-, third-, and fourth- categories and even organizing them by twice-removed and so on. Are they all “family,” to me, too? Even though I’ve never met them?

I’ve never found “family” to be a value of much importance. I love my family, sure, and I’m lucky to have a decent one. But do I love that extended family?

Only out of principle, and therein the problem lies. It’s a fact that I don’t know my family well out of the essentials, and yet I am obligated to say I love them.

I’ve mentioned before that we need different words for romantic, familial, platonic, and objective love. Perhaps if we redefined “love” and “family” I wouldn’t even be having this problem.

This is all stemming out of me having to spend the Fourth of July with a section of my extended family.

Why? Why do we force ourselves to socialize with people we don’t like? Why do we lie about liking them?

Ugh. I’ve been in a pretty bleh mood lately. Pretty pessimistic. The problem when I get in these pessimistic ruts is that pessimism is the most realistic way of thinking.

Happy toes

For my grandmother, whose birthday is soon:

 

A hole a sock a thread a pin

A stuffed tomato to stick it in

A thimble a button a needle a knot

Using her teeth to pull it taut.

Blue and black, white and gray

A tube of glue for a rainy day

A nimble thumb, the smell of rose

A mended sock for happy toes

 

A lemon cookie, a mug of tea

A grandmother’s hug, just for me.

Meeting the family: Conversation Starters

Your new significant other is amazing. They’re everything you’ve ever wanted, and the last few weeks or months have been like walking on air. They met your friends recently, and got along swimmingly. Now, they want you to meet their friends—or worse, their family.

Naturally you comply, though when they pick you up you’re shaking like a leaf. The night starts out fine, quick introductions, you talk about your job a bit. By the time the appetizer arrives you’re feeling pretty relaxed. It’s halfway through the appetizer that you realize you hadn’t said a word since you ordered, and that was nearly ten minutes ago. They’re all chatting up a storm, and you can barely get a word in edgewise. The topics are changing fast, and inside jokes keep coming up to inexplicable laughter.

How do you deal with meeting a group of people who are already close to one another?

Whenever this sort of scenario happened to me, I found myself being quiet, just observing the family. Whoever was introducing me would later tell me that their friends thought I was “nice, but quiet.” They would say I could talk more. I would be astonished, thinking I had done quite well.

Surviving an evening is different from enjoying one. While it might be beneficial and easier to sit back and observe, these people want to get to know you. They can’t do that if you don’t talk to them.

My suggestion is to act like a predator and go for the weak! Just kidding. Kinda. What I mean by this is to talk to someone who isn’t talking much. Maybe it’s the kid sister, or the father, or one of their quieter friends. I wouldn’t try to strike up a conversation with the person commanding the room, because then everyone will be watching your response. Instead, wait until the table separates into smaller conversations, and talk to a calmer person, to start.

Well, you’ve found your target. Now what? They’re quiet, seem friendly, and are close enough so you can speak at a low-to-moderate volume, but what on earth are you going to say to them?

Think. Didn’t your significant other talk about them before? A great way to start up a conversation is the good old, “So, Sam tells me you’re into [insert hobby here].”

People love talking about their hobbies, especially to new people. It’s also more fun to listen to than a flat description of their job. If you’re lucky, someone has the same hobby as you do, and you can bond over that.

Did your significant other not prepare you at all? Well, you’ll have to be quick…like a predator, again! Follow the conversation and don’t be afraid to jump in. Chances are, they want you to speak, and are waiting to hear you contribute. So, join in. I know, easier said than done (rather, easier said than said in front of other people). But if they’re talking about movies, a simple “Oh, I haven’t seen it yet, is it good?” could get you points.

I find that you don’t have to be a super talkative person on the first group adventure, but you do have to talk. Think of it like a class participation grade.

If it’s truly painful, try to get through the evening mathematically. There are a few different formulas I’ve used to make sure I’m talking enough. One is to try to talk again once I’m the last person to have spoken. Meaning, if everyone in the table has said something since I’ve spoken last, I try to participate again.

Another tactic is to use time and simply try to talk once every five minutes or so.

If you still feel like you aren’t talking enough, remember that a huge amount of language is in the eyes. Make eye contact, even if you aren’t talking. It will make you look engaged and participatory.

Finally, remember: even if your relationship is new, your significant other likes you. They care about you, and want you to have a good time with their family/friends. Ask your significant other for help, if need be. Tell them you get nervous around big groups of new people. Ask them to make space in the conversation to you. Ask them not to leave you alone in a room with them. Ask what so-and-so likes to talk about, and if there are any sensitive topics not to bring up. Ask them to do whatever you want, and they’ll likely do anything to make you more comfortable. After all, they’re probably about as nervous as you are.

If all else fails, just make sure you say something, at some point. It’s okay if they think you’re quiet, because, well, you’re quiet. Things will get easier the more time you spend with them, so just bite the bullet until it becomes second nature. Until then, best of luck. May the flow of conversation be ever in your favor.

A sisterhood of night and day

I have a sister…but I wish I had sisterhood.

My grandmother sometimes called my sister and me “night and day.” When I was young, I asked if I could be night.

I realize now—and then, too—that she just meant that we were total opposites. It’s still true. I went into the arts, she went into athletics. She’s a loud social butterfly, I’m…well, come now, I run a blog called Introvert Playground. In so few words, she prefers the beach and I prefer the mountains (so meta).

Some of the ways that we are different amazes me. She refuses to try most new food, hates going to the movies, and will only play a board game if its Pictionary, and even then only if her friends don’t see her. My friends and I have Catan tournaments, have heated discussions about Fight Club and cook for fun. Then again, I don’t particularly like photography or any of her bands or any of her television shows. One is not better than the other. We’re just so different.

How did this happen? Born nearly exactly three years apart, raised by the same parents in the same house in the same school system until high school (she went to a technical high school to study nursing). I will always believe that nature has the advantage over nurture.

It does sadden me that I don’t think we’ll ever be close, especially when I see how close some siblings are, like my parents and their siblings. I really think that we could be good friends, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m open minded and she refuses to be anything but my opposite.

Closed mindedness keeps us apart. She seemed to decide one morning years ago that she disliked me. I don’t understand why she is so stuck on hating me, but nothing I do can ever seem to change it. Just when she seems about to sway, the winds change and she becomes shockingly nasty to me. Nearly everything we argue about is rooted in her refusal to see things from my point of view.

Night and day was an interesting comparison, but I think we are closer to ice and fire. She burns merrily, crackling and bright. I enjoy her light, but when I get near her I suffer. She wears me out, and occasionally lashes and scorches me.

So I keep my distance from my little sister. I don’t want to, but I do. It breaks my heart, but distance hurts less than her pointed attacks.

Night and day were never meant to coexist anyway…but I hope one day we can compromise and meet at dawn.

Human Culture Shock

Today my friend from high school is coming to stay the night, since he’s on spring break and I don’t have class on Fridays. I’m a little nervous about it. Sure, we’re friends, but we’re usually in a group. Also, I haven’t seen him since December. Are we the kind of friends than can click back in place after so long, without anyone else? I guess we’re about to find out.

Human culture shock is a term I use to describe the feeling of seeing someone again for the first time in a long time. If you’re super familiar with their “culture” as a person, like with your parent or sibling, no shock happens, but the less familiar you are with them, coupled with how long you’ve spent apart, the more shock you get. When I run into someone I haven’t seen in awhile who falls under the “shockable” threshold, I usually find myself in a constant state of awe. I like hearing their voice again, seeing their little mannerisms, remembering where their freckles are and how they walk and laugh. But it’s always a bit nerve wracking, too.

The small talk factor is always terrible, naturally. But also, I can’t help but feel like I’m being sized up. Who won? Since we saw each other last, who is doing better? Who’s gotten hotter, or less attractive? Who got their hair cut, who’s in a relationship? Who still dresses like they’re in middle school? We’re both judging each other to a point, whether consciously or not.

Woes of an introvert…

I don’t know how much of this is going to happen with my friend tonight. Probably not much. It’s the awkwardness I’m more afraid of. Going from never seeing him for three months to seeing him for nearly 24 hours straight might be a lot to handle.

I also feel this way about family gatherings. Who knows how to act around people you don’t know that well, even if you once knew them perfectly?

I think I just have to relax. After all, we used to be such good friends, and all culture shock, human or otherwise, fades away eventually. We’re adaptable creatures, and nothing stays awkward for too long.

A Thoreau Pilgrimage

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau.

My friends tend to be a bit cynical. Nothing is sacred—when I brought up that I was reading Thoreau in class, they immediately took to calling him nothing but an over-read hippie living in his parent’s backyard, who didn’t even live off the land like people think he did. He was a Ralph Waldo Emerson-wannabe whose 200-page-long rambling was somehow called a masterpiece.

Well…sure, yeah. But the thing to remember with Thoreau was that while he appreciated nature deeply, it was never his mantra to leave civilization altogether. After all, a lot of his work is quite political. He did love Emerson, and actually lived on land owned by Emerson (not his parents). However, beyond the cynical retaliation my generation sometimes tends to have, Thoreau is a pioneer of minimalism and the positives of solitude.

“Simplify, Simplify.”

My grandfather once gave me a shirt two sizes too big with that quote on it. He’s also given me about three different copies of Walden, and once mailed me a copy of Civil Disobedience, with his own highlights and notes in the margins. He’d often sketch trees, birds, lakes and mountains in the corners of the pages before giving them to me.

I think he saw introversion in me from a very young age. He too is an introvert, and spends quite a lot of time walking alone in the woods, fishing, reading, and sketching. He once sent me a letter with the only “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude,” written in it, another Thoreau quote.

It’s nice to have someone like that to look up to. Someone who won’t call you anti-social for wanting to be alone, but who will actually encourage it—in healthy doses, of course. I do think he was smart to tie nature to my ideas of solitude, though. Being alone in nature allows for all the positives of being alone without any of the negatives. You don’t feel lonely or unproductive when in nature.

While I think I have the “solitude” part down, I still have to work on “simplifying” things. That’s alright. Perhaps this summer I’ll go back to Walden Pond. Maybe being in that sacred place will help me understand, just as it helped Thoreau so long ago, and my Grandfather when he was my age. Perhaps this is our version of a pilgrimage.

What do you do when they sing “Happy Birthday?”

What do you do when they’re singing happy birthday? What do you do, when you’re opening presents, and it’s one gift card after another, like you asked for, but you still have to act surprised and delighted?

My family insists on having a birthday dinner every year. It’s subdued by the fact that my sister’s birthday is the day before mine, so at our joint celebration dinner the attention is split between us. However, it’s still way more attention than I want.

I really just don’t like my birthday. Why do we have to celebrate being born? I prefer when my friends and I just go out for dinner. At least then we all get something out of it. And they never make the waiters sing for me.

My godson and his two older brothers are my saviors, because it’s always acceptable to leave a dinner early to play with the kids—as long as their parents say it’s okay. They don’t care if it’s your birthday as long as they can plunk along on the piano with you and play superheroes. I love ditching all birthday responsibilities to play with the Barbies my mom digs out of the closet. Kids are easy.

Kids don’t make me feel the need to escape and be alone. I guess it’s because they don’t expect much out of you, but still (unless they’re bratty or too young) treat you like a respectable person. My cousins especially are fun to be with, and they always amaze me with how smart they are for their ages.

I also like them because no one else spends as much time with them at parties as I do. People always eventually get tired of them and want to go back to talking with the grown ups, but I prefer chilling with the kiddies, so eventually I get them all to myself.

What is it about kids, and certain other people, that negates the “I need to be alone” factor for me (and presumably other introverts)? I naturally always like time to myself, but with most people it’s like a countdown timer to “I can’t stand this anymore.” With kids, my boyfriend, my best friend, and my sister, the timer seems to be put on hold. I could hang out with them forever, singularly, without ever feeling the need to run. Perhaps I’ll need to be alone, but I never need to run.

I think it’s acceptance. I know they all accept me for who I am, so I don’t need to hide anything or pretend to be something I’m not. Knowing I can act like myself around them means I don’t have to leave them to act like myself. And that’s really what being alone means for me—being myself.