Monday, April 09, 2007

I want to stay home!

Have you ever read a book or talked to a person or heard a speaker that seems to articulate the feelings of your soul that you could never put into words? Somehow this book or person is able to put into words things in your life that you know but just can't seem to describe or relate to others. Suddenly the world makes sense. Suddenly you feel okay - like you're not a freak after all because someone else knows EXACTLY what you are feeling and has validated you - in a sense you now have credibility because someone else can put it into words.

This is how I feel about the book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. A friend of mine lent the book to me and I have been reading it slowly over the last month or so. Almost every time I open the book I feel as if Marti Olsen Laney is describing ME - me, not a kind of person, but ME, specifically. Suddenly the world makes sense. And you know what? Because she is able to articulate ME so well, I now feel I am able to do things that I need to do in order to keep my sanity. I'm not wrong for feeling the way I feel, but it is who I am.

I'm not going to go on about the author and her qualifications - you can read it online or in the book. I don't want to do a book review - suffice it to say I think the book is amazing and anyone would benefit from reading it. An introvert would benefit for the same reason I do. An extrovert would benefit by being able to understand - even a little - the introverts in his/her life. Can you imagine if you were handed a user's manual to your spouse? Wouldn't you devour it as soon as you got it? I feel like this is exactly what this book is for Cornbread and I'm hoping that he reads it when I'm finished.

So let me share a little bit from the book that has been so incredibly profound for me...
You may think that an introvert is someone who is shy. Anyone who knows me at all knows that this is not true of me after I'm comfortable. I'm not shy. I bring that up as a way to explain that introversion is not defined by whether or not a person is outgoing or shy, rather it is defined by the fact that a person on the introversion side of the spectrum gains energy by focusing inward. Extroverts gain energy by focusing outward. In simpler terms - introverts recharge/refresh/gain energy by taking breaks, being alone, getting away. Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge/refresh/gain energy by being around people, being in the midst of "stuff" and others. The thought of being in a crowd for a significant amount of time terrifies me - not because I'm scared of the people or because I'll be uncomfortable or won't know what to say - I do very well in crowds - it terrifies me because I know I will be exhausted afterward and I can anticipate how I'm going to feel afterward.

You should know that on the continuum of Introvert/Extrovert I am on the Introvert side but am pretty close to the middle. Cornbread is almost my exact opposite - on the extrovert side, but very close to the middle. We compliment each other very well, I'd say:) We have friends who are on the opposite extremes of the spectrum and it amazes me that they do so well together, but then again - since they are each so extreme, opposites must compliment.

Let me share some examples of this in my life -

* I am a stay at home mom. I am the definition of a stay at home mom - I STAY at home. I could possibly come home from church on Saturday evening and not leave the house again until Saturday afternoon to go to church. This does not bother me - in fact, this is how I enjoy life. I do not like to be busy. I like to be at home. I have friends, though, who go stir crazy if they are in the house for more than 24 hours. They have to go somewhere. My mother-in-law, actually, feels like she has to go somewhere everyday or she's bored and going crazy. If I go somewhere everyday I'm miserable - I just want to be home. Thats not to say that I don't go places or I'm opposed to going places, but I can't do it everyday and I NEED to have down time to get my energy back.

* The girls and I are going to Michigan this week to visit relatives. We are leaving on Wednesday and Cornbread will be flying out to Detroit on Friday to meet us and we'll drive home on Sunday. I'm trying to figure out how to see some people in my short 24 hours in Grand Rapids - I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the number of people I WANT to see and I'm dreading it. I'm not dreading seeing the people - I'm dreading the busyness and the go go go feeling of seeing so many people. Cornbread is dreading us being gone - he needs to fill up the evenings that we'll be gone with friends. If he doesn't he will be going crazy by the time he comes to Detroit. I would pay significant amounts of money to have 3 full days by myself at home - he can't stand the thought of it.

* As a stay at home mom, I NEED breaks from my kids. Not that they bug me or annoy me at all. They don't. I love them, obviously, but if I don't take an hour break here and there and let them sit in front of the tv while I am by myself, I feel smothered. I can't be with them 24 hours a day or I have a meltdown. This was especially awful when Ryann was sick as a baby because she was incredibly crabby and clingy and I could never get away from her. By day two I was going out of my mind - not because of her crabbiness but because I could not be by myself for any amount of time.

* When we were dating in college Cornbread and I would often have pretty large fights about going out on Friday nights. He wanted to go to the dance clubs with all of our friends. That sounded like about the absolute worst thing I could possbily think of to do. I wanted to sit and watch a movie together while all of our friends were gone, or go out for a little bit and then come home and watch a movie. We were in college - we didn't understand these differences in each other and it caused much friction.

According to the book, extroverts outnumber introverts in the world 3 to 1. Three to One - There are three times as many extroverts as there are introverts. So extroversion is the norm - hence, introverts feel inadequate and unaccepted (at times) and underappreciated because they do not fit the norm. It almost feels like we are wrong to feel the way we do - like it is wrong to prefer staying home rather than going out. I can relate to that - I've thought for a while that I must be a pretty crappy mom because I'm not bringing my kids here and there and everywhere during spring break or the summer. My friends do it, so I must be lazy or a subpar mom because I don't. The truth of the matter is that I'm okay. Its okay to not bring my kids to the zoo, the acquarium, the mall and the museum all in one week. Its okay to not want to be in the crowd - other people feel this way. Just because 3/4 of the world doesn't does not mean that I'm weird or wrong because I do. THIS is part of what I'm learning from this book.

I intend to share more over the course of the next couple of posts. Of course I want to journal on this for myself, but by doing so I'm hoping that some of you may get to know me better - maybe if I turn down the invitation to the zoo you'll remember that it isn't because I don't like you, its because I can't handle the thought of the hassle and the crowd. And if someone reading this gains a better understanding of his/her introverted spouse, family members and/or friends, then all the better.

Based on what I've described, are you an introvert or an extrovert? What is your spouse/significant other? Do you have an example that you want to share?


Kristy 12:11 PM  

Very interesting Jana!!! Hmmm that really has me thinking. I'm not sure which one I am,I think I'm in the middle somewhere. I love being home all day,BUT while at home I can not sit and relax. I have to be doing something. I think to relax I need to get out and do something like going to the zoo,a store,the park with the kids etc.. My husband would stay home for days and love it :) He would not miss getting into the car with his wife and 3 kid,driving in traffic and being in a huge crowd for 2 hours in a store HA!
I'm home all week with my kids and also babysitting kids so when the weekend comes I'm rearing to go. Craig on the other hand works outside all week so he just wants to stay at home on the weekends.
I too,would LOVE to have 3 days at home by myself :)
I'm excited to hear more about your book!

Kristy 12:12 PM  

PS. Cornbread???? LOL. Will ya explain that one to me please?

Amanda 1:36 PM  

Kristy, we've asked for an explanation for MONTHS... :)
Jana, I'm an extrovert, but probably closer to the middle than the extreme. I hate being by myself (most of the time). I like more social activities. Jared, on the other hand, is an intovert. Again, more toward the middle, I'd say. He loves to be home when he's not working, and doesn't feel the need to get out and do things.
I'd love to read that book sometime. Unfortunately, until I pay down my library fine, I can't put any books on hold! :)
Oh, and am I on your list of people to see in GR???? Huh, huh, am I??? :) Just kidding. If you had considered it, please don't push yourself. I know how busy trips 'home' can be. And if I wasn't on your list...we are no longer friends. LOL! :)

Amy 3:20 PM  

I am an extrovert. I am one of those people who need to get out everyday even if it's just a walk around the block or I go crazy. Sometimes I have these spur of the moment feelings where I just need to call someone just to talk to another person. Rob and I had similar fights in college--he wanted to leave the party early and I wanted to stay until the very end. I liked being the last one to leave. I told Rob one of these years I would like to go to Times Sqaure for New Years Eve. He says that's the last place he would want to be on New Years. I also cannot go clothes shopping alone. I don't think I'm overly social or less shy (I actually can be very shy) but I do get energized by being around people.

I always dated introverts and most of my closest friends were also more introverted in high school and college. I think if I married an extrovert we'd drive one another crazy. I have become more introverted especially the last 5-7 years. I do like sitting at home, doing my own activities like scrapbooking, reading, or watching a movie by myself. I really appreciate introverts, because secretly I think I always wished I was not so extroverted.

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

hi jana- i still read your blog- and i'm still procrastinating making one of my own- i just read everyone elses:) anyways- i thought i best pipe in and say that i want to see you too! maybe dennys at 2am for old times sake?

Jen 9:17 PM  

Hard question. I think like all the others I am near the middle but on the extrovert side. I would have said I was firmly in the extrovert camp but I am married to one even more than me! I am married to the man who is ALWAYS the last one out of church because he needs to talk to everyone and their brother.

Every January I say how happy I am to be home on the weekends after the craziness of Christmas but by February I am bored. I am starting to go nuts being the house all week with this "bedrest" thing. By Saturday I am begging Tim to take me anywhere.

Kristy 11:57 PM  

For months Amanda?? Really? UGH!
When I think of Cornbread (the actual bread),I think about how ever time I make it it's always way too dry,that when you take a bite and try to swallow it you actually start coughing and choking because it's too dry to swallow without a panic gulp from your water! Jana,did he cough cornbread all over the table? :)
Ohhhhh I better stop now because the not knowing is going to drive me INSANE!!!!!!!!!

Carol 6:57 AM  

Bravo, Jana! Well put. I love your insights. I am a definite extrovert, my husband Dave a definite introvert. Maybe I should get the book! Thanks for sharing.

Mommy Brain 8:44 AM  

I am an extrovert. If I have to stay home more than one day in a row I'm miserable. When Doug was in residency, I used to go to Target just to talk the cashiers. I've been known to make huge impulsive buys simply because I was so starved for human contact that I'd try to make friends with anyone who came to my door or called me on the phone.(I don't do that anymore) But as a stay at home mom, I am learning to really enjoy a shopping trip by myself or an hour on the road.

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