On Saturday afternoon we picked up Mike from the airport. He’d been in Las Vegas for 10 days. He’d texted me the day before, telling me that Vegas was a nuthouse. Coming from him, a guy who knows Vegas well, meant that it was a NUTHOUSE. Turns out there was an influx of visitors for something called the Electric Daisy Carnival. We have Sirius XM in our car, and on the way home he tuned into a channel broadcasting from the Carnival. As far as I can tell, EDC is an electronic dance festival that draws over 200,000 people to dance, party and revel in each other’s company from dusk to dawn for 3 days straight. Fittingly, it’s put on by a company called Insomniac.
After five minutes of one song I told Mike that if I was prone to seizures I’d be having one right then. Already I could feel the urge to stab somebody with an ice pick. The cornfields of Indiana 1800 miles away wasn’t enough distance between me and the throbbing mass of people and noise I could so clearly envision.
I’ve never been to Vegas, with or without Mike, and I know people wonder why I don’t accompany him on one of these poker benders even once. It’s not because I don’t love him or hate travel. It’s because after so many years of trying to put my finger on what makes me feel a little bit different, a little off, I finally figured it out.
I’m an introvert. Las Vegas, with or without the Electric Daisy Carnival, would probably do me in after 48 hours.
It doesn’t seem like that big of a thing. Those of you that know me well probably thought, “Well, duh.” But for years I honestly didn’t know. When I heard “introvert” I thought of words like shy, anti-social, quiet, lonely, recluse. That couldn’t be me, as I didn’t identify with any of those things. I don’t have trouble introducing myself to new people or making small talk. I enjoy people. I never feel lonely and I leave the house every day.
Instead, I thought I was moody, selfish, aloof, distant. I can tolerate noise, but it’s as if it builds like a slow tsunami. The noise is fine, and I can deal with it, until suddenly I just can’t. I enjoy my family and friends, but if too much time goes by without time alone, I snap. If it’s been a particularly hectic day, one filled with talking and togetherness and touching, I can feel a primal need to shrink within myself. Doesn’t matter if Mike hasn’t seen or touched me all day. On those days, when we finally settle into bed, I build my imaginary wall between us. Back turned, book in hand, earplugs in.
I can fake it if I have to, often for days on end. I can be chatty, perky, open and entertaining. But if I do not allow myself some moments of solitude and quiet, it was always end badly. And by badly, I mean someone (or everyone) in my little family will feel it.
Here and there over the last few months, I’ve been coming across snippets of information about introverts. I imagine much of it is fueled by Susan Cain’s newish book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The more I learned, the more I realized there was so much about introverts that I didn’t know, including the fact that I was one of them. It feels like a release of an enormous burden, to realize this need for quiet wasn’t just a petulant quirk, but that it was key to bringing out the things that people appreciate in me. Things like my cooperativeness, my patience, my listening skills. I can’t be me without giving myself the tools I need to be my best me. And often that means shutting down and walking away.
For so long I felt tremendous guilt and shame about it. Other people would miss their spouses and children when they were gone. And while it’s true that I am always glad to see Mike after being apart or my kids after a stint at the grandparents, those absences recharge me. My need to read anything and everything felt like I was hiding from being present. My love of writing but loathing of self-promoting my work felt like a failure in a world that rewards those who can draw the most attention to themselves.
Like me! I want to say … but not too much.
I think the hardest part has been coming to terms with the fact that I am an anomaly in my immediate family. My husband and kids are extroverts. There is a part of me that will never quite fit in with them. There is a part of me they will never quite understand. But now that I’ve claimed my introvert, I hope that they’ll respect it. I hope that as they meet other people like me (and maybe even end up married to one), they’ll appreciate our quieter nature.
And when our reserved ways get a little too boring for their boisterous selves, there’s always the Electric Daisy Carnival.