My friend shared a post on Facebook about people with anxiety and one of the things the author talked about was having a “people hangover” and I couldn’t stop nodding. A people hangover is when you have used up all of your energy being with other people and so you feel drained, tired, and desperate for some time alone. I think this applies to introverts just as much as people suffering from anxiety. I know it applies to me.
We spent 10 days driving to California, visiting family, and driving back. I didn’t get much solitude. The hotel rooms were small and with three people we were pretty much on top of each other. Hiding in the bathroom was not an option, although I made some attempts. Then we were non-stop visiting people (people we love dearly) and don’t even get me started on the driving. Three people in the car for three days straight (both ways) is a lot of togetherness. By the middle of the trip I was drained and by the end just plain exhausted.
I need solitude and alone time and quiet and space. That is hard for other people to understand or to not be insulted by. When you sneak off to be by yourself people take it personally sometimes. They just don’t understand the need for solitude. Art often gives me a way to be alone in a socially acceptable manner. I can say, “I have to work now.” People understand that better than, “I really just need to be alone to replace my energy.”
I recently found myself trying to explain why I didn’t enjoy crowds. It was obvious I wasn’t doing a good job explaining myself. How do you explain something so fundamental about the person you are? I don’t have an explanation for not liking crowds other than that is just how I am wired. I know it is hard for people who get their energy from being around other people to relate to introverts because the concept seems so foreign to them. Crowds pump them up, but crowds make us so tired. So tired. People make me so tired. Without time to recuperate in between social engagements I actually start to feel physically sick like I am coming down with a cold. I get a little grumpy too, similar to having low blood sugar. In short, I have a people hangover. The only remedy is to find some way to get a few hours (or even minutes) alone. Sometimes I do hide in the bathroom or invent a reason to take something to the car…or disappear to admire flowers in the backyard just to get some space.
I never thought about it before, but art-making is an excellent excuse to duck into a room and close the door. It’s a good cover for my introversion. Plus I love to paint so there is that too. I’m really grateful I have found ways to compensate for my introverted personality that doesn’t draw attention to it or make anyone uncomfortable, but I also wish people understood better, or, at the very least, accepted people like me just the way we are. It’s not personal. We just need to recharge our batteries without any company.
I am really bad at ending conversations. I just feel awkward because I can’t say goodbye gracefully and I can’t really ask people, “Is this conversation over?” I am pretty sure that would be rude, especially if I wanted to end the conversation and they didn’t. Which happens pretty often because I get tired of talking before most people do. Too much talking makes me want to take a nap. I’m better at thinking and typing or thinking and painting, or just plain thinking.
When I am talking to another person and I think the conversation is over I tend to sort of linger because I am not sure if it’s really over (and knowing I wanted the conversation to end about 10 minutes ago makes me feel guilty for being less social than other people). This is one of the reasons I am often late for things, but to be fair some people keep talking even as you are moving towards the door and waving goodbye. They seem to have trouble knowing when the conversation is over too. Body language helps me read other people. I can take a hint when they start packing up their stuff, but what do you do when the other person in the conversation doesn’t take the hint? What if you are about to pee your pants because they have followed you right to the bathroom door and don’t even pause to breathe so you can say, “Hang on a minute”? I know people like that. I know a lot of people like that. So, again, I wonder, is it me? Why can’t I end a conversation more gracefully? Why don’t I know when the conversation is over? Why can’t other people tell I am trying to leave or go to the bathroom? I feel like I am being incredibly obvious, well as obvious as I can be without being rude. So, I just feel awkward like I don’t have a full grasp on social engagement and conversational manners.
On the phone it is even worse. I am so grateful for the invention of speaker phone because at least I can carry the phone around while other people do the talking. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t seem to care if anyone is listening. They just like to talk. They don’t seem to pause for a response or care if they get one. Again, sometimes I have to pee and since I can’t get a word in edgewise, I will pee while people are on the phone. In my defense, they aren’t listening anyway. They don’t even notice when the toilet flushes. I am not even kidding. I can’t help but think if I just knew how to wind up a phone call and say goodbye better I’d not only know when the conversation was over, but I’d also be able to end it without being rude. I really hate to be rude so I usually let people talk. I let them talk for a very long time. I figure they must need to get it out and off their chest. Not everybody has a blog like I do, right? So, they talk and I cut paper and sweep floors and wonder if I set the phone down in one room and went in the other room for a few minutes if they would even notice (they usually don’t). I am probably being a little rude by experimenting, but aren’t they rude for not noticing I am missing from the conversation? I don’t know for sure because I am missing the gene for appropriate conversations, obviously.
If I am really lucky people will just text message me. It’s so much easier to end a conversation in text message because people have to pause to type which gives me a moment to say, “I have to go!” Plus, they will never hear my toilet flush and I don’t have to listen to them go on and on about their annoying co-worker while Tiny-Small is crying because she needs a nap and Rosie is barking at the car driving past our house. Text messaging reduces some of the noise and I am grateful for that too. Which leads me to my next paragraph. How’s that for a writing transition?
Text messaging and Facebook and Twitter are really awesome ways to communicate because you can take your time responding or finish washing the dishes or answer the door and nobody thinks you are rude. Still, I have my issues with this mode of communication. I mean, how many times are you in a back and forth type conversation when the other person just stops responding? You don’t know if they had to stop because their kid just barfed on their shoes or if the conversation is just over, but they forgot to say goodbye. Or maybe they didn’t think to say goodbye because they are on three different social media accounts on their computer and also texting on their phone so your conversation just got lost in the shuffle? It’s happened to me before. I’ve been on both sides of this type of behavior. It doesn’t feel good either way because I usually wake up in the middle of the night remembering I forgot to say goodbye to someone and feeling guilty and awkward over my accidental rudeness.
Sometimes you wonder if you just offended someone with your awkward and dorky joke (not everyone gets your sense of humor, right?) and they just don’t want to talk to you anymore, but you don’t know for sure because they aren’t saying anything. The worst is when the person doesn’t respond at all. You don’t know if they just missed your message or if they just don’t care to talk to you. That happens to me on Twitter all the time. So, not only am I wondering if the conversation is over, I am also wondering if it ever started. I imagine they just don’t like me or have better people to talk to or just have a lot of kids barfing on their shoes all at the same time. It’s awkward. I’m awkward. Everyone is awkward. I hate to be rude so then I just message them more to be like “Hi I am not as awkward as I feel, but am now proving to you that I am even more awkward than you originally suspected”. Phew…being social is hard work. I just want to know if the conversation is over and whether or not I did something wrong (or right). So, I over-text and use too many smiley faces and do an excessive amount of exclaiming things. It’s not pretty.
Conversations can be difficult, especially when you are an introvert. It’s not my special talent to be all chatty and high-fiving people. I have to fake that stuff sometimes and hope I am being appropriate. Maybe we are all faking it (I hope so because then I might be less awkward than I think I am). Maybe we all feel awkward (please tell me this is true). Maybe we all wonder why some people don’t respond at all or why they respond so much that we don’t know what to say back. Sometimes I over-respond to people in a frenzy of excitement (usually because they actually said something back) so the next time we chat I try not to be so excited or don’t respond at all because I think maybe that is the “right” way to interact (instead of lavishing attention on someone) and I just want to seem slightly normal and less awkward than I really am. I often wonder, am I doing this right? I really don’t know, but I think all of these uncomfortable feelings stem from my inability to know for sure when a conversation is over. It’s like I am blind to that type of social engagement. Is there a diagnosis for that?
Like right now, I can’t even end this blog post. Have I said too much? Have I said too little? Am I now rambling because I don’t know how to end this one-sided conversation?
I know I am just thinking too much about it, but that’s what I do best, right? Do you ever feel awkward about ending conversations? Do you struggle with knowing when a conversation is over? Am I the only one? Don’t be afraid to tell me I’ve lost a few marbles. I accepted that about myself a long time ago.
Sometimes I walk around with my iPod on just to avoid talking and listening. Mostly it’s the listening. I get SO tired of listening. My ears literally hurt and I run to the mirror to make sure they aren’t bright red and oozing off my face. I put on some talk show and don’t even really hear it. I just use it to drown out any conversation going on around me and to thwart any attempts to engage me in a discussion of any kind, on any topic, at any moment. I use my iPod like a “do not disturb” sign hanging out both of my ears. I’m an introvert trapped in an extroverts world. And by world I mean my house. Or any other place my family happens to be.
Jim and our daughter are two peas from the same pod. They will talk to anyone and by anyone I mean complete strangers. People they met five seconds ago at the grocery store will be important enough to require a ten minute dialogue and shopping intermission. If Jim gets a hold of you he will find out the inner most secrets of your life. He will know where you were born, your favorite color, and what your favorite cocktail is. He’ll know what your father did for a living and your mothers worst fears. He’ll know about the mole you had to have removed and how your first husband cheated on you with the woman he met at the roller rink. He’ll even know your second cousin’s middle name. The amount of information he can extract in such a short amount of time is amazing. He’s a talker and he loves to talk, especially about himself. Or the news, or any topic he can get you to listen to him expound upon. He’s the social butterfly and I am the hide me under a leaf caterpillar. I duck down the next aisle when I think I see someone I know. I let my calls go to voicemail. I hide behind the couch when the church people come to our door. Our daughter has inherited Jim’s gift for gab and will talk to any Grandma, Cowboy, or baby that comes her way. She demands attention from store clerks, cashiers, and cranky old Grandpa’s that seem to hate everyone around them but her. She adores 20 something good looking young men. Of course she does. She already knows how to push my buttons. On our last outing she screamed, “Guys! Guys! Guys!” at these two young men until one of them finally turned to her and said, “What’s up?” Of course it took everything I had not to snap back, “She’s too young for you buck-o so stop with the googly eyes.” One time at the Dollar Tree she walked right up to a seven year old boy and tried to hold his hand. The little boy was appalled because it was clear by the look on his face that he was positive he had just contracted a rare and fatal form of cooties. It takes hours to do the shopping especially when they are both with me. It can be a very long day.
It’s no better at home. All I want to do is sneak into the bathroom or hide out in a closet and read my vampire book or collect my thoughts or plan my revenge, but they always discover me. Jim wants to read every story in the news magazine to me so I don’t miss anything by reading it myself. Our daughter wants me to hold her sippy cup while she shows me that she can open the bathroom drawers and remove every item I have hidden deep in the dark recesses of the drawer. It wouldn’t be so bad if she did this silently, but she is usually shouting, “Mess! Mess! Mess! Fast! Fast! Fast!” while she does it. I’ve let her do unthinkable things to my most cherished objects just to get a moment of peace and quiet.
So, my iPod saves my sanity some days. I just pop it on and the sounds drown out the world around me. I saw a college-aged young women at the grocery store with hers on the other day and thought she was probably the smartest woman in the state of New Mexico. I wonder what people would think if they happened upon a mom rocking out to Tom Petty next to her husband chatting up some cute sales girl and her daughter giving high fives to all the men walking by. They’d probably think she was crazy and they’d probably be right.