Introverts Are People Too

Type “introvert meme” into a search engine and you’ll find a million and one results. This is good for those of us of the internal variety not only to realise we’re not in there alone but they provide some handy resources to circulate in an effort to help the extrovert world understand our weirdness.

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There’s a common misconception that introverts are anti-social. We’re not. It’s just that being social can be exhausting for an introvert. Some people (extroverts) are energised by being around lots of people and talking. Introverts get their energy from spending time in their own heads.

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Does this mean we don’t enjoy being with other people? Of course not. Admittedly, we’re not always good conversationalists. We don’t do small talk. And for those of us with the double whammy of introversion and shyness, maintaining a conversation, especially with someone we don’t know well, can be agony. On the plus side, we make great listeners.

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Introverts can do social. We can even like it. It’s just that we prefer meaningful conversation with one or two people we know well. In a large social gathering, you’re more likely to find us clearing the table or in the kitchen doing the dishes. We like a large gathering if we have the option of moving in and out of social interaction with a job to do.

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Unfortunately, introverts – along with those ubiquitous memes about us – can sometimes be our own worst enemies. A plethora of memes about how we’d rather stay home or how social occasions cause us anxiety can have unintended consequences. Often it means that other people hesitate to invite introverts out for a social date. Let’s face it, an introvert will never be the life of the party (although personally I kill it with the Under 5 crowd) and rarely tops an invitation list. People think we’d prefer not to go, that we’re happiest at home alone.

Okay, yes, we are.

Just not all the time.

Introverts are people too and people need people (cue Barbara Streisand…). We can do alone but we also do lonely.

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So, if you’re not an introvert yourself but you’re lucky enough to be friends with one, don’t forget your homebody friend may be getting too much of a good thing. Ask them out for dinner or a drink or to see a movie. They’ll welcome it. Just don’t bring ten people with you.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Actually, given it’s from an introvert, this has been a Privately Expressed Suggestion.

 

Another year over

A new one just begun… (almost)

I believe it is customary at this time of year to make resolutions for the year ahead. I’ve never been a fan of New Year Resolutions. It always feels like setting yourself up for failure.

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But I’ve been reviewing my resistance to resolutions.

Common areas for improvement have traditionally been based around losing weight, getting fit and giving up some vice or other.

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I don’t need to lose weight. Even with a chocolate-laden diet. Lucky me.

I already belong to a gym and have control over my fitness. It’s what allows me to have my chocolate-fuelled diet. It’s all about motivation.

I don’t smoke and I don’t….oh. Well, okay, I could probably make alterations in my imbibing rates at times. I like wine. And beer. And gin. That’s grapes, wholegrains and berries. I’m pretty sure all of those appear in the healthy section of the food pyramid, right? So I’m all good there, then.

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So I have been musing about resolutions and their purpose and have concluded that they are about improvement of oneself and benefit to others. In which case, I’ve come up with the following resolutions for 2019:

1. I will politely decline whenever anyone asks me to take a photo of them. I am a shocking photographer. This will reduce disappointment in the world.

2. I will perfect the politician’s skill of answering a question with a question thus avoiding talking about myself. This will reduce eyestrain in the community as people are no longer required to dart their eyes to the side looking for a way out whenever I am speaking, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

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3. I will write all emails and messages based on the competition standard of 25 words or less. Then I will delete them. Only if I can be bothered rewriting them will I send them. This will increase productivity across the land.

4. I will limit my consumption of American late night talk show host monologues to once a week. This is for my own general wellbeing and mental health. It will also reduce boredom in those less obsessed with US politics.

5. I will utilise the gym more regularly but will not talk about it on social media. (Okay, so I lied about having control over my fitness. Seriously, who doesn’t drop the ball over Christmas/New Year?)

In the tradition of New Year Resolutions, I expect to have broken every one of these by the end of January.

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Sorry.

 

Got some New Year Resolutions of your own? How do you think you’ll go?

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When The Universe Cares

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What’s your relationship with the universe? Is it friend or foe? Or is it more like an annoying parent doing things you don’t like for your own good?

I joke a lot about the universe having a sick sense of humour. Like when I decide the universe is telling me not to do something because nothing is working out and then suddenly everything falls into place.

Today the universe decided to show me kindness.

As I approach the worst day of the year, anxiety is high and tears are close. I’m not sleeping or eating properly and everything feels difficult.

Today the universe chose to tell me I am needed, I am useful, I am loved and I am worthy.

After two failed past attempts and an almost third, I was able to successfully complete a plasma donation and know I have saved lives.

Chance sent me a stranger I could help with a meal and a train ticket.

A friend reached out, unwilling to let me slip away into social solitude.

I won a pair of trail runners because of something I wrote about running.

A day that began with stress ended with peace and happiness.

It’s still a tricky week but I’m grateful for the small things that help me keep going.

Desiderata Universe quote

 

 

 

How Do You Explain?

How do you explain a grief that never really goes away? How do you explain to those who’ve never experienced the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one why the grief still lingers after decades?

I’ve written before about losing my sister and niece in a car crash in 1993. (In fact, I can’t believe it’s already been nearly five years since I wrote about it.) It’s an experience that has become woven into the very fabric of who I am and the anniversary of their deaths is a day to be endured even so many years later.

Yesterday would have been my sister’s 60th birthday. I always find her birthday difficult, coming soon after mine, but the significant birthdays are the hardest.

I had to work. I am lucky to work with a very caring colleague and I had wisely already discussed what was coming up. So when I disappeared into the toilets not long after arriving at work and reappeared some time later red-eyed and subdued, she was attentive and protective.

The day was exhausting. While I was teaching, things were fine. I have a lovely class and they fill me with joy every day (okay, yes, also frustration at times but that’s teaching, right?) and they gave me bright moments in my day. It was just the ‘down’ times that were hard. And so, when the music played for the end of recess, I suddenly lost it and had to pull myself together in the kitchen before the kids came in. (To be fair, they’d chosen that day to play “You Are The Reason” by Calum Scott. Seriously. Luckily, for lunchtime, they switched to “Nutbush”.)

I made it through the day but I was pretty exhausted by the end. I was fortunate to have a community singing session that night so even though I was tempted to stay home and go to bed, I went and it lifted my soul as it always does.

Today, I got to work and my colleague asked how I was after yesterday.

“Okay,” I said. “But a bit embarrassed about yesterday.”

Because here’s the thing. There’s a part of you that wonders if others think it’s ludicrous that you’ll still burst into tears at the memory of someone gone for 25 years.

How do you explain?

How do you explain that the years don’t matter?

How do you explain that the pain never goes away?

How do you explain that you never really get over it? You learn to live with it and you learn to find joy and happiness in your life again but you never, ever get over it.

How do you explain that the sudden and unexpected death of someone so young leaves a lasting scar that tears open again at every birthday, every anniversary, every family celebration (births, marriages) that highlight their missing presence?

You can’t.

I’m lucky. I work with someone who is sensitive and understanding and she made it clear that I had nothing to be embarrassed about.

I hope, if you’ve experienced the same devastating loss, that you are also surrounded by people who understand.

The grief never really goes away.

It’s hard to explain.

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Streaking Out

Have you ever had rock candy? Hey, I’m talking about lollies not some euphemism for crack cocaine. This is a family-friendly blog. You know, that hard sweetie they roll into long tubes of sugary, colourful fun and then slice up like some sweet tooth’s version of kabana.

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Fruit salad rock candy from Red Balloon Candy

I remember standing at the window of more than one confectionary establishment watching the candy man or candy woman rolling out the soft and pliable candy dough and wondering what the end product would look like – would it be a rainbow of colours, an interior designer’s dream of colour scheming or, if they were really clever, would there be a word or picture through that sugar rope?

I wonder what you would look like as a piece of rock candy? What runs through the middle of you? (That’s not a literal question. I don’t need to see what a dissection of a human body would look like, thank you very much.)

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that someone may have a “streak of madness”. What’s your streak? Maybe you have more than one. Maybe you’d be a rainbow of streakiness if you turned into rock candy.

I’ve spoken before about my inherent streak of stubbornness. It’s what got me through training for and completing my first marathon. Despite the voices telling me I’d never make it, that stubborn streak just wouldn’t let me give up. That streak took over again recently when I put myself through a process I’d sworn I’d never do again because my first experience had crushed my self-confidence. But when the opportunity arose, that stubborn part of me just wouldn’t let it beat me and I felt compelled to give it another shot. That stubborn streak is so hard, I reckon it would rival an Everlasting Gobstopper.

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You mean one of these?

However, if you sliced me up, it wouldn’t just be the word “stubborn” through the middle. I can be pretty streaky.

There’s the Freak Streak for starters. The one that makes middle-aged me go out in public in fluoro orange sneakers and a hoodie saying “I am a Whovian Mum. Just like a normal mum except much cooler.” The one that dresses up in a nerd costume for a trivia night even though it’s not a dress up event.

Then there’s definitely a stereotypical streak of madness. What else would make me take on a marathon at age 50? Or decide I could put together my own she-shed with no building skills whatsoever?

There’s a wobbly and uneven streak we’ll call a combination of over-thinking and lack of self-confidence. Sometimes it’s a thick streak and sometimes you can hardly see it.

A crafty/arty streak definitely flows through me. It’s not a particularly refined one and is probably a bit lumpy with undissolved sugar but it goes through my core.

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I want this shirt. (© Teeturtle.com)

 

I’m not sure the MOSY Rock Candy would be a bestseller and it certainly wouldn’t appear in any of your exclusive confectionery establishments. It’s more likely to be in the clearance bin in amongst the other imperfect packages. But it’s definitely a limited edition.

So, what would your rock candy look like?

Postscript: The day after I wrote the first draft of this post, the most famous rock candy manufacturer in Australia, Castlemaine Rock, announced they were closing their doors. Tapping into the zeitgeist…

Castlemaine Rock

Vale Castlemaine Rock 😦

Lament of the Lonely Runner

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She runs alone

with no partner, friend, coach or team

to while away the hours

as the kilometres plod by

 

Time in her head

her own company she keeps

She sings to herself

to keep the rhythm in her feet

and silently screams at the voices

that tell her to stop

that she can’t do it

that she shouldn’t be there

 

She revisits past troubles

and reviews ones yet to come

She rewrites past conversations

and rehearses ones that have to come

 

It has always been thus

and she has met the challenges

she has set for herself

and overcome them

Alone

 

And she has not minded

the time alone

She is alone

but not lonely

 

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Until today

 

Today the loneliness strikes hard

Even the usual fleeting connections

with strangers on the track

a smile, a wave, a breathless ‘Hello’

are rare on this cold and blustery winter day

as sensible people stay indoors

curled up on the couch

watching their footy team play

 

Perhaps, in these days of reduced social interaction

this introvert has had too much of a good thing

like an overly restrictive diet

As coffee dates and drinks and dinners out

have all but disappeared

perhaps loneliness has put a foot in the door

 

The loneliness in her life

finds its way onto the track

 

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As the kilometres of bitumen

pass endlessly by

under her pounding feet

she questions this life choice

this pursuit of isolation

And she knows

 

Because loneliness is hard

but also all too easy

 

She questions her value as a friend

to all but a tiny few

Reaching out is easy when one feels

one’s value to the other

 

She knows she is appreciated

for her willingness to help

and her acts of generosity

She knows she is respected

for her tenacity in the face of challenge

and her passion for justice

 

But she longs to be loved

for her sense of humour

and her addiction to American late night talk shows

for her innate childish silliness

and her ridiculous dance moves

for her love of cosplay

and musicals and themed birthday parties

 

She wishes her annoying traits

that keep her from friendship

could be softened and understood

couched in an understanding

of her shyness and social awkwardness

her need for order

and her belief that life should be fair and just

 

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As she reaches the end

the thoughts ease for now

and she knows

tomorrow she will lace these shoes again

and run

alone again

 

Always alone

but not always lonely

 

 

A Master of What?

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This blog began some three and a half years ago and at the time I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was good at and hence the title.

Over these past years, kindly folk have suggested various masteries I could claim as my own but I’ve usually shrugged them off.

I’ve always struggled to say “I am good at…” and always wondered why.

Recently, I realised that perhaps it is because I possess no socially acceptable standard that I am a master of anything. It is hard to claim something for which you have no proof.

If you can say in society, “I have a degree in Literature/Creative Writing/Journalism. I am a good writer”, everyone around you will nod their heads, admire you and agree “You are a good writer.”

If you can say in society, “I have a Masters of Education from [name your own prestigious university]. I am a good teacher”, you will be regarded as an asset to any classroom.

If, however, you possess a degree in Mathematics but do not work in the field, what is it worth?

If you are qualified to teach science and mathematics but teach in an area where those skills are irrelevant, what good are you really?

And yet, I know I am a good writer. I know I am a good teacher. But my evidence for such claims is circumstantial and personal.

It is the people who tell me, “Write more blog posts, we love your writing”. It is the staff who smile happily when they realise you will be teaching in their classroom.

Fine for me.

Not so much for society.

One of my (pathetically) prized possessions is a photocopy of the front page of a training manual I once wrote which was reviewed by the upper management Training Manager (for some reason that I do not recall).

On the page, he had written “This is the best training material I have ever read in my 13+ years of training”.

Like all positions of employment I’ve ever held in my life, I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be employed as a training developer but for some reason they gave me the job anyway and I got this review within my first year on the job.

But it doesn’t look as significant hung on the wall as a Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve never even sat a music exam. So I have no proof that I can sing, play piano or guitar or write music. Well, I do have a school report from Year 9 Music that says, “She has a good working knowledge of music theory at this level and in the end-of-year examination scored an impressive 100%” so there’s that, I guess but I’m not sure how that would play out.

“So, what Grade level did you reach?”

“Me? Oh, well, none. But I have this great report from my Year 9 music teacher. Want to read it?”

“Probably not.”

The prompt for this post was a comment that found me consumed with jealousy for those who can claim a qualification to legitimise their obvious skills. I’d offered some assistance with a task on the basis of believing I possessed some relevant skill but was countered with the explanation that the other person possessed a high level qualification in the area in question and would therefore not require my unqualified help.

I can’t argue with that.

Of course, if it concerns me so much, why don’t I go out and gain such qualifications? Because I’m a Jack of ALL Trades. Which qualification would I pick?? I’m not sure I’ve got enough time or energy (or money!) to pursue a degree in literature, journalism, music, fine arts, computer programming, IT support or a Masters/PhD in Education, Science, Mathematics or a trade qualification in building, carpentry, painting, textiles, electronics, costume design, cake decorating or car maintenance.

So I think I’ll just go on as before, having a stab at anything that takes my fancy whether qualified to do so or not, and live the life of a Jack of All Trades.

And hope that someday someone introduces a Master of All Trades qualification.

I’d like to hang that on my wall.

MofAT certificate

 

The Gift That Counts

Last year I celebrated a significant birthday. As much as I tried to bury it in a marathon effort and fundraising for refugees, there were friends and family who still snuck in some gift-giving.

I received some wonderful presents from people who clearly know me well. The generosity of my work colleagues blew me away and also their perspicacity in choosing a gift that happened to be on my bucket list – a session in a flotation tank.

Birthday gifts that also made me happy were the many friends and members of the family who generously supported my bid to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Surely the best birthday presents help someone else in need.

ASRC Fundraising

However, the birthday gift that touched me most deeply and for which I was most grateful did not come wrapped in colourful paper.

A few weeks before my birthday, a friend asked if I could babysit their baby son so she and her partner could go out for a date night. I eagerly agreed. With three now-grown sons, time with baby boys is always a joy. With an arrival time set on 6pm, my friend insisted that she provide me with a meal. I argued that it was ridiculous to be going out for dinner and still have to provide a meal and I was more than happy to provide for myself. She insisted again and stated she already had it planned. I reluctantly agreed.

I arrived at the appointed time and was surprised to see her mother and brother there but then inwardly shrugged and decided it must be a family dinner out.

As I stood there, waiting for them to leave, my friend looked at me, smiled and said, “You’re not babysitting.”

“What?” I said.

“You’re not babysitting. My brother is babysitting and we are taking you out for dinner.”

“What?”

“We’re taking you out for an early birthday dinner.”

I stared at each of them trying to comprehend. Then it dawned on me. And then the tears welled up.

In a year when my trust in friendship had been badly shaken…

In a year when I wondered if my worth lies only in what I can do and not in who I am…

In a year when I felt so confused about how to read people’s motives that I have become increasingly socially reclusive…

…Such a gift was unexpected.

More was in store as I arrived at the restaurant to find other friends part of the secret. More emotion. More confusion and joy.

I received some wonderful gifts from people who took time to think carefully about what I would like and I will treasure them always.

But, in the end, all any of us really wants is to know we are loved and wanted for who we are and for others to want to spend time with us. That is a gift that truly counts.

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What is the gift that truly counts for you?

 

You’re A Shitty Human

An Ode to PMS

“You’re a shitty human”

Say the voices in my head

They often make me wonder

If I’d be better dead

 

Men don’t understand

And neither do the boys

They sigh and roll their eyes

And then return to all their toys

 

They’ll never understand

The monthly torment that I feel

The anger and depression

How nothing feels for real

 

“Wow, you really screwed that up!”

“You’ll never have real friends.”

“They all find you annoying.”

“You’ll never make amends.”

 

They mutter and they scream at me

From when I wake til bed

So often I just want some peace

From voices in my head

 

Supplements and therapy

Have helped just now and then

But mostly I just stagger on

In search of something Zen

 

I wonder how long will this last?

How long until the change?

How long ’til I stop feeling like

They all think I am strange?

 

But then I can’t help wondering

If what I’ll really see

Is not that it was PMS

But really it’s just me

 

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In My Forties

I turned 50 recently. Crikey, even writing that phrase feels weird. I’m still 23 in my head.

Yep. I reached the half ton (if you’re a cricketer), the half century (if you’re an historian) and I can no longer deny that I am middle aged (if you’re an anthropologist).

So I have used this somewhat significant milestone to do a bit of an analysis of the previous decade.

And?

I’ve just been through possibly the most life-altering time of my life since puberty.

In my forties… (in no particular order)

I had my nose pierced. (Since given up.)

I travelled with my husband and three boys to 15 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

I coloured my hair for the first time and proceeded to dye it a rainbow hue of various colours over the next ten years.

I went back to theatre and found lifelong friends.

Bearded Outlaw

The wickedest (and funniest) outlaws ever to appear in Two Gentlemen of Verona.

I found a new community singing group and a musical home and family in the process.

I took up running and ran in three half marathons and the Scotland Run in Central Park in New York City. And I got to train with Olympic marathon runner, Steve Moneghetti.

I began writing my own songs. (You can check out some on my Songs page.)

I completed two community projects with World Expeditions, building a bridge in Peru and a school in Nepal.

I bought and learned to play a banjo and ukulele.

I took up crochet for the first time since my mother taught me how when I was a kid.

I became a special education teacher, a job for which I was not previously qualified or experienced but that I found I was good at. And I love it with a passion.

I discovered I can draw. (There’s a whole gallery here.)

I broke six ribs and punctured a lung falling off a wooden box after trying to kill a tiny moth. (That story never gets old.)

I completed the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km challenge twice – in 2012 and 2014. And raised thousands of dollars for Oxfam in the process. (That’s what it’s really all about.)

I took up rowing and then dropped it again.

I lost my father to mesothelioma.

I learnt that I can sing. No, like, really sing.

I became a Great Aunt. (Not that I wasn’t already one but now it has capital letters.)

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Joy and sadness. My late sister’s first grandchild.

I started a blog.

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I’ve already started building a bucket list for the next decade because I know anything is possible.

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Related posts about some of the things in this list that may be of interest:

(Re)Living The Italian Life

Living The Dream

Hope is a Beautiful Dream

When A Bad Day Turns Good

Getting a Grip 2: A Dose of Perspective in the Third World

It Takes A Village

Master of the Speaking Circuit

Move Over Etsy….

Is This The Real Life?

Delay In Service

A Popup Nomadic Community – Oxfam Trailwalker 2014

When A Night Owl Meets The Dawn

How To Get Better At It

My Dad Died Today

Saying Goodbye

Run Forrest, Run!

The Flying Beetroot: Scotland The Brave And The Fast

The Flying Beetroot: Crossing The Finish Line

(Plus any post starring the Flying Beetroot. Use the Search function.)

A Sister Lost – Remembering Keryn

Nothing ventured…