In praise of being introverts … together
You know that feeling of “being alone in a crowded room?” I do all too well, and I’m sure most introverts know what it’s like, too: that feeling of excruciating isolation when you’re surrounded by others.
It’s pretty much the definition of an oxymoron, but it’s a common occurrence with introverts. We can feel our internal batteries draining, and the only thing that will recharge us is that sweet, sweet alone time that we crave. Being at that party, surrounded by all of those people, feels like the equivalent of taking that battery out altogether and sucking out the last few drops of precious juice. Eventually, we shut down, until we’re able to shut ourselves away for a while and get back our energy again.
There’s been a lot of talk about introverts on the internet the past year. Headlines like “15 Things All Introverts Know To Be True” or “25 Real-Life Struggles That Only Introverts Understand” are plastered all over social media. And they all pretty much come to the same general consensus: introverts enjoy seeing their close friends, but their alone time is a precious, essential commodity: a need. A need that is commonly misunderstood, that is often mistaken for rudeness.
For most of my life, I ignored this need, thinking that I was supposed to be a social butterfly in order to, well, not be an antisocial freak (a common worry in the minds of INFJs). As I grew older, I started to acknowledge the rejuvenating power of going solo, and I cherished it. I grew to relish the moment when plans were canceled so I could relax on the couch and put on Netflix or read my book.
But after extended isolation, even introverts get lonely. Our energy battery may be filled to the brim, but our social battery? Not so much. (This is starting to sound a lot like The Sims, isn’t it?)
So we go back out, and we have fun with our friends, and we feel our social battery levels going back up as our energy battery levels make the inevitable decline back to dangerously low levels…and the process starts all over again. The two levels are practically never equal. It’s a constant balancing game between our social lives and, well, our sanity.
But does it have to be?
The other night, my BF and I were at his place, at a loss for what to do. We were both mentally exhausted, but we didn’t feel like going to bed. So here’s what we did: we relaxed on his bed, cuddled, and read books, all wrapped up in blankets. Simple as that.
We’d stop occasionally and comment on an amazing passage from one of our books. My BF was deeply immersed in Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking,” and he’d occasionally stop and read me a bit of her writing that he found particularly inspiring; I’ve been reading Lisa Genova’s “Still Alice” about a woman’s struggle with early onset Alzheimer’s, so I would occasionally gasp “Oh my god” and lament to him about the devastating life of Alice Howland.
But mostly, we didn’t talk. We just lay there together, content to be in each other’s company, but still in our own little worlds, reading our separate books. AND IT WAS HEAVEN. It was pure, golden, introvert heaven. I was immersed in my book, relaxing and rejuvenating…but occasionally, my BF would rub my hand with his thumb in the midst of turning a page, or kiss the top of my head. Both batteries were filled to the brim at the same time.
It’s great to go out every now and then. I love a good strong drink at the bar or a fun-filled Gatsby-style party as much as the next person. But that’s the fastest way to drain my energy battery to zero.
There is one in-between spot that tends to both batteries, thanks to modern-day innovations: social media. Texting, Twitter, blogging–all of that is, IMO, a godsend, as we’re finally able to socialize in a low-key way. But there’s nothing that can truly replace real, human interaction.
As I lay there reading, as my BF stroked my hair, I realized that I had found introverted bliss: the balance between energy and social life, the birthplace of creativity, where I could let my mind relax and my social butterfly flutter.
That’s the sweet spot: that amazing feeling of closeness when you find another introvert who just wants to be there, quietly enjoying life alone…with you. That’s an oxymoron, too, but the absolute best kind.