Learning to be Quiet

 I recently read a book about “the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” Or, what it means and feels like to be an introvert in a culture with a clear extrovert ideal.

This book has changed my life (again) by guiding me towards acceptance and appreciation of my introverted nature. Such as: I don’t like public speaking but I will do it for something I am passionate about. I shy away from making small talk in the school yard, but I enjoy the parents I’ve come to know. And while I love being surrounded by people I love, I also need time every single day to be alone.

I remember being a child and going to church with my parents and loving it for the choir practice and Sunday School, communion and  contemplation, but dreading the social hour that took place afterwards. When my elementary school offered the opportunity to stay inside at recess and help the teacher, I filled up those “job cards,” one after the other.

In learning about introversion, I’ve found a deeper understanding about my priorities, and the ways I’ve hidden from my self using the computer screen, alcohol, and even work in its many forms: creative, family, house, entrepreneurial, professional, paraprofessional, nonprofessional.

In the past few weeks, I started letting myself stay home more often with my two year-old daughter. It seems we are usually on the go, whether volunteering or hitting the playground or the gym or kiddie classes or the grocery store. But I’m finding that when I spend more time at home, I have more time to play and be completely present with my daughter. I have space to journal and read (in brief snippets, to be sure). I clean more, and the outer order contributes to inner calm. I don’t need to run around the city, the city is running around me.

Interestingly, on quiet days, I also need less of the validation and distraction provided by social media. I do not need the stimulation of the polychromatic playground  and the camaraderie of my fellow caregivers, and neither does my daughter. She is happy to hang at home and play.

In our culture, we often follow the mentality that we should do more in order to be more, that we must get out into the world as often as possible because we exist to make connections, and yes, we are all social creatures, but in profoundly different ways. We must honor our individuality. I’m learning.

Some days its enough to be social with only our family or closest friends. We may live in the most extroverted nation in the world, but roughly one-third to one-half of humans are skewed towards introversion, which makes you wonder, how much of American extroversion is contrived? How often are we “forcing” ourselves to get out there when we would rather curl up at home with a book or a movie or a loved one or all three?

Human existence has the funny habit of feeding us all sorts of ideas about the purpose of life and our place in it, and accordingly, many of us train ourselves out of our natural tendencies. The separation hurts. We feel stretched tight on a continual basis without quite knowing why. Like something is missing, perhaps.

I see beauty in the journey home, in choosing every day how we change. Because we do, we change, every day. We evolve back into ourselves, finding our sweet spots and editing away the nonessential, and simply being Quiet.

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