Practicing Introversion

It’s 9:30 p.m., and I’m an hour out from the ending of this week’s emotionally demanding “change group.” One of this week’s conclusions included the recognition that I don’t have (don’t take) enough time to introvert. To sit with my thoughts and be, and process, and feel, and think (conclusions optional).

It’s a funny awareness. It’s like a low-level hum that zeros out as white noise, but adds to the busyness (demand) on my senses.

I’ve said many times that I’m not a quality-time person, I’m a quantity-time person.

That is, I don’t know how to simply focus on a person– at least, I don’t think so, because every time I try I get bored, irritated, or annoying. It’s just easier and more sustainable to simply be around someone and do stuff in each others’ vicinity. Converse, say. Or play a game. Or read, or watch a movie. Or eat, or cook, or ignore each other while you sit on the same couch with your shoulders touching and a screen in your lap.

See, I’ve got all sorts of ideas for this. A real-life set of examples.

But none of these let me be absolutely alone, or off-duty.

I was thinking of this on the ride home, thinking it would be bedtime, I’d send the no-longer-littles off and stay up a bit myself (as I did back in the toddler stage) to think by myself and compose a complete idea. This feels like it shouldn’t be so reactionary any more, but it is.

The dog is sleeping under my legs, and it both creates and soothes an achy part in my chest to have her near.

Two-months-from-13-year-old Melody comes out, and my gut falls. I was alone, “Why do you need me an hour after bedtime?” I ask. And I go on. “This is my time to be alone. I don’t get time during the day, you know?” I feel like she’s deciding whether or not to be hurt, and I keep going. “You know how you go off on your own, no matter how much you adore your mama, you spend time alone during the day.”

She nods, and a grin creeps onto her face.

“Well I don’t get that during the day. So I need you to let me have that now, after bedtime. And to try and solve your problems yourself right now– preferably by going to sleep, because it is after bedtime.”

And she accepts my ultimatum with a smile that I intensely need to see, because for all my assertions, I’m really not okay with her feeling alone with her problems. It’s one of my old wounds and something I wish away for everyone. Maybe even one of the shapers of my life-purpose: not to fix everything, or anything. Or anyone– but to be a witness, a resource, an encourager, rather than know anyone sits alone in their pain.

This is the beauty of written words: from blogs to poetry to novels and love notes. When I hold a book, read an article, I am engaging in something magical. I am inside the mind and emotions of another fully aware and generous human being.

When you read these words, or an email someone crafted especially for you, know you are the recipient of a gift of faith. As a writer we may write for ourselves, but we also write for the reader. I have an image of you, the reader, even now as I type this with my feet propped on the coffee table that never holds coffee.

You are an incredibly patient, and probably curious individual. You’ve made it through 600 words of mindful rambling, and you’re still reading now, maybe wondering what profound (or empty) conclusion I will come to, because I’ve just about exhausted your patience.

I don’t have one.

Not really. I’m writing because this Tuesday night group (and the women in it) have challenged me over and over to look at (for) my true self, and what has been missing from my peace and wholeness. Two of those things are writing and stillness. So that’s what I’m making happen tonight.

This was 30-minutes.  Exactly. And the peace of the exercise is its own testimony. Maybe it will say something to someone else, too.

Peace to you.

 

Courage– Revisted

Image courtesy of Colin Brough via stock.xchng

It takes one kind of courage to look straight at  your life, compare where you are to where you want to be, and then dive into making your life the one you want to live.

It is another kind of courage (more in line with General Sherman’s definition) that has us look straight at the cost of something, and choose it anyway.

Both have been coming into play in this “year of courage” (as I labeled 2013).

I have had a string of successes and delights this spring.

  1. I adopted a dog that was just what I wanted (still learning how to train him ;])
  2. We had a family vacation in Hawaii that was almost completely stress-free and got me far enough into my novel that the momentum meant something.
  3. I finished my first 10 speeches to achieve my “competent communicator” award in Toastmasters
  4. I finished my novel last week, and am now letting my story-brain rest, working on non-fiction writing instead (blog, WynMag).
  5. I’m wrapping up a last few editing of WynMag projects and the first issue will go live soon. (And I’m ahead on my submissions for the next issue).
  6. I’ve got the children signed up in a homeschooling program for next year (that we will actually start this summer), so that we have more financial flexibility to explore and experiment with curricula to find what will work best for our family.
  7. We’ve sold the rabbits (most of them, anyway), bringing us down to pet-levels.
  8. Our second round of baby goats is due this week (and we know better what to DO this time, so the enjoyment level will be even higher).
  9. The children will complete their first year of “away school” next week, and I won’t have to be the bad-guy, sending them on with empty hopes that people might change, and the slightly less-empty hope that there’s not many days left.

These are all tied, in my mind, to the first type of courage.

Now comes the second kind.

Image courtesy of Sarah Peller via stock.xchng

In the process of getting healthy on a mental/emotional level, I’ve come to recognize a series of needs that I must not just balance or juggle, but meet.

  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Right eating
  • Sleep

These are the non-negotiable for internal stability.

But having those covered allows me to see there’s a second tier that really enhances the first tier.

  • Clean Space
  • Calm companions
  • Achievable, completable goals
  • Spiritual pursuit (singular)

I suppose having spiritual pursuit in the second category is going to look bad to some people, but it’s true. Until I am stable physically and mentally, asking the hard questions and pushing in any realm that has Deep Meaning is simply asking too much.

One of my biggest problems, all through my mothering journey (I can’t remember much thinking about it before then), was an image of a robot changing its own batteries. That’s how I saw “self-care”.

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Is there a way to stop caring if I look like a fool?

I’ve been (re) reading the bit in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy about the logic of Elfland, and how the wonder that exists in that story-world is to remind us of the wonder we forget of our own world.

And I’m filled with this surge of remembering. Of my capacity for wonder and delight.

Then just as quickly it is checked, by the cost of that wonder and delight.

To immerse without reserve means there is no net when I fall through the broken parts of this world.

I lost a whole litter today.  Mneme’s, that I just mentioned on Monday that I was eagerly looking forward to. My first litter since just after Christmas.

At 7:30 this morning I found nine naked kitsicles.  Three on the straw outside the nest were misshapen, and one was bit open and laying on the wire, but the other five looked perfectly formed.  On a last wisp of hope I immersed those in a bowl of warm water, up to their noses. My wonder expanded with my hope when four of those five began to kick weakly, and make gasping motions with their tiny mouths, revealing incisors as delicate as toothpick tips.

But the motion gradually slowed.  They were so cold the water cooled almost at once, and I couldn’t leave them to refresh it or their little noses would sink under the water.

I did what I could but eventually dried them and returned them to their nest, warming in front of the fire. But I knew I’d lost another litter.  And I grieved it.

And I hated grieving it, because it wasn’t necessary.  There were other things I’d expected to get done today.  I also wanted to not-care because if it can happen now after what I’ve learned, it can happen again any time.  And if it can happen any time, I am continually vulnerable.

And since I had just let two new babies into my heart, I did not want to be reminded of my vulnerability.  I didn’t want to think of all the ways I could lose these delicate little lives.

~ ~ ~

But what reading Chesterton tonight reminded me of, was that I am exchanging– surrendering– deep delight for the cheap payment of neutrality.  That is, in exchange for connection, and awe, and wordless wonder, I can now anticipate the worst and practice being numb both before and whether or not it happens.

I don’t limit my pain to events that are actually painful.

But the other cost of the delight– of indulging it– is being willing to look (or at least feel) like a fool.

To be surprised, burnt or wounded by something any pessimist or “realist” could have told me would happen.

I want the delight.  But I’ve forgotten the road. And I still care too much what others think.

But  am praying about what to do about that.  And what not to do.

Reading, Rabbits and Arhythmofwriting?

Eh. I’m just trying to decide if I can do “3 Rs” here at Untangling Tales without boring my delightful lurkers.

So here’s your chance to tell me.  I’m always shocked at the number of hits my stat-counter tells me I’m getting, and while some of it is Google sending people to my archives, I’m curious what makes the rest of you come back.

This is the place where I feel like I’m talking to myself in an empty room.

I am having a great deal of fun with my rabbits.  I’m thinking of starting a category for pictures and projects.  (For example, we have Before:

and After:

Both pictures and a project. Whee. About an hour it took me to shear him; I hope that gets shorter as I get more practice.)

And really, the only connection to what I already do here is the atavism I mentioned yesterday.  The idea that animals and fiber arts are a part of life as much as reading and writing (storytelling).

But then, perhaps that’s just my life.

But you’re welcome to peek in and enjoy.

So there’s the question: Are you interested?

It’s that time of year again…

But if I hold my breath, maybe the feeling will pass…

~

The NaNo forums are growing more active again as November approaches (and with it National Novel Writing Month).  I have only (as in, in the last 24-48 hours) found a measure of balance (this is without daily training sessions for the dog.  I vaguely regret now signing up for her class– but I prayed about it too…).

Add now my heart is in a flury of excitement over possibilities and delights.

I did update my status and proffer a title and synopsis, but (so far) that’s all the indulgence I’ve allowed myself.

I’m off to make fairy tutus now.  Maybe that (or the preperationless class tonight) will pull me back to reality.

But then there is that dear woman whose offered to watch the children twice a month for me to write…

On to the task at hand.

Yes, I Am No Extrovert.

I am in an exhausted daze today.

Not the lack-of-sleep kind, either.  I am simply drained.

It’s been so long since this happened that I was digging for what I used to explain it in the past.

There is a sine wave theory that I used to subscribe to, that any amount of high-energy or “upper” experience would then be followed by a crash of equal extremity.  Once I recognized the pattern I learned to expect it.  And while I never liked the crash I at least wasn’t caught by surprise.

Having this way of thinking firmly embedded led to some surprises as I got older.

For example, I never crashed after my fun times with Jay.  I never consciously came off the high of “the honeymoon phase” after we were married.  And while I get the “I want to get back to my book” and “I want to work on my project” urges, I’ve never had the I need my space moments I’ve read about.

Since being married I’d had so few “dropping” moments that I was near congratulating myself about how “level” I’d become.  Part of me wondered if I should be disappointed I was missing out on some wild “highs” but I was quite happy/content, and figured any more was worth missing if I continued to skip the lows.

Now, from my older-and-wiser perspective (and the little I’ve learned about introverts), with the experience of the last 24-hours fresh in my mind, I think I got it wrong with the sine-curve model.

The perceived high was real– generally supplied from a great deal of mental stimulation and rapid-fire conversation with a group of people.  The following crash, corresponding with what I’m feeling today, was not a whiplash or punishment for having fun, it is simply my inwardly-wired system trying to rebuild after a higher-than usual drain.

My interactions tend to be with one individual or thinking “in well-worn grooves of thought.” Rapid-fire conversation with a number of people, or very long conversations over many topics are exciting to me.  They sort of prove my brain to myself, and I enjoy that; but it’s distressingly similar to over-working your body in Ultimate Frisbee.

~

You don’t just quit because you’re tired or sore– you get the adrenaline (or mental) rush to get through it competently, even well, but you’re gonna feel it the next day.  And I am.

~ ~ ~

I used to think I was very different from Joule– her high-energy, outgoing, never-quit-ness.  But I was wrong.

(Stop laughing.)

Change the tennis ball to an interesting conversation, and I’ll chase it till your arm gets tired without slowing my outrun.  As with Joule it’s the “bringing it home” that will show my weariness.  I’ll attack the idea, catch it up in a neat little package, then forget the point or how to bring it home.

So you’ve been warned.

~

Just now I feel like Joule after one of those outings: flopped out; eyes squinched shut, hoping everybody will choose to step over her rather than make her move out of the way.

And even so, you pull out that tennis ball and the light goes on in her eyes…

I’ve been warned…

This morning was going to be a phone calling day.  I think that will have to wait till tomorrow.

“Now it can be told.”

I’ve always loved that “aside” in folktales.  (From Aladdin and the Magic Lamp by Kunstler:)

The magician howled and flew into such a rage the earth shook, and the boulder rolled back into place, sealing Aladdin inside the cave.

Now it can be explained.  This magician was nobody’s uncle at all but merely an evil schemer.  He had selected Aladdin only to help obtain the magic lamp.

~

A smile turned his thin-lipped mouth up at the corners as his bony hand grasped the ancient lamp….  And bidding the princess and her retinue good day he was heard to cackle with strange glee as the massive jade doors were thrown open for his exit.

Now it can be told.  This seemingly selfless peddler was none other the evil magician of Barbary, Africa.

~

It is with relief I may now exhale and say with joy that my family is whole once again.

Jay has been traveling the globe (or, at least the parts of it that lead to Antarctica) for the past four weeks, and I have been dealing with bedbugs, heartsick children, and a sick cat.  Alone.

And yet not alone, because there is always more to do than the emergencies.  What is to follow is the involved saga of the month of single parenting, condensed into a single post in order to spare any faithful readers the agony of being dragged through the content of the past four weeks in real-time.

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Obsolete Parenting Skills (& One Appeal of Pets)

The poignancy of my “last” baby phase passing has begun to hit me, but it’s nothing like I’d imagined.

I’m not craving a baby to hold, or wishing for more of my own. Mostly, I’m pathetically disappointed that my acquired skills in that area are now obsolete.

Isn’t that sad?

I’m convinced now that this is why those irrepressible ladies are always stopping to offer advice or books (oops, that’s me) to anybody they see pregnant or with a tiny baby.

They want to prove to themselves (and anyone else who might notice) that they and the skills they worked so hard for are still relevant.

I’m beginning to accept this passing (as I have no other choice), but it’s made me see why pets as objects of affection and nurture are so popular.

Yes, they are individuals, and they all have varying needs and quirks, but the reality is once you get out of the “baby” stage (and the “adolescent” stage, for some species) you have years of nurturing time that you can do the exact same thing with your critter and continue to meet all its needs.

This is just. not. true. of people. Ever.

Yes, Thorin adds to my work-load. It’s impossible that he couldn’t. But the sweet simplicity of him is a relief.

~

Thankfully, even as my former competencies become obsolete, I can trust that God will give me new competencies.

I’ve said before, when talking about children growing, that there’s always things we’re glad to leave behind.

And I could start thinking that way about skills too.

Yes, I know how to soothe a crying baby, but isn’t life more peaceful when I don’t have to?

It is sad to leave behind that first phase of language where I watched them make the delighted connection between symbol and sound, and enter the big world of communication.

But I leave that behind to enter a world that is filled with learning the substance of conversation and encouragement.

This is beautiful, too, and I will bless the Lord for his goodness— that he will continue to teach me what I need to learn.