I hope Jenna doesn’t mind me using her photo from last night here. She was amazing, as were all the other readers at the Water Street Writers open mic event.
I’d brought three poems to read, just in case. But I had a feeling I wouldn’t read, beginning a few days ago. I spent my life in front of people: teaching, talking to parent groups, and speaking at technology forums. Presenting seemed easy, natural. Then I went through some life changes that, well, changed my life. Suddenly, I experienced anxiety, gut issues, and sleep problems. I ignored them for a few years, but then realized I needed to learn how to manage them.
After two or three years, I do feel like I *can* manage (not fix) them. And one way is to honor what I am feeling. I try to say “yes” when I mean yes, and I say “no” when I mean no. I knew if I read, I would feel the flutters in my stomach turn to waves. Then I’d have gut issues that wouldn’t subside for days. And I probably wouldn’t have slept last night.
I *chose* not to read. Instead I totally enjoyed sitting outside in the freezing weather listening to my Water Street writers read. The evening was relaxing!
I have become more introverted as I age. I crave solitude. Nothing makes me happier than writing, listening to podcasts, walking on the beach, or sitting in a garden. That’s not to say I don’t love my friends. It was so good to see the writers whom I usually only see on Zoom! So many smiles, so many hugs.
The past few years have taught me to honor my feelings and do what is important for my body. I don’t always make the right choices, but they are choices. That feels right.
For nine months out of the year, I live in a historic town where we walk to the library and coffee shops. The sounds of the city seem to shout 24-7: the garbage trucks beeping, the motorcycles revving engines as they show off on our small streets, horns honking, people talking as they walk home from a bar at 2am, and, since we live on an emergency route, the never-ending ambulance and fire trucks blasting horns as they race past our house.
In Rhode Island, we live in a small community situated on a salt pond with access to a barrier beach. Birds start chirping outside my open bedroom window at 5:30, waves crash rhythmically in the distance, and I hear the occasional hushed conversation of friends taking a walk. Otherwise, the quiet surrounds me.
My body likes Rhode Island better. I’ve been thinking a lot about solitude, being an introvert, and how I feel physically different when I am living an authentic life, one that “feels” right to me. This article caught my attention, and I get it. There is privilege to this life I have. Yet, to me it’s more than that. Noise hurts-physically hurts me. I feel actual pain when I am surrounded by a group of people all talking excitedly at the same time. And heaven forbid people start arguing. My heart races, and I look for the nearest room to hide in.
I have learned that my need for quiet, for time and space alone, isn’t just personality type– it’s truly biology.
One of the main differences between introverted and extroverted brains is how they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is the endogenous (originating from within the body) chemical that gives us pleasure and motivates us to seek rewards. Extroverts have more dopamine receptors and are thus more likely to seek dopamine-releasing stimuli…..Introverts have fewer dopamine receptors than extroverts and are more sensitive to the negative effects of exciting situations.
These days, I am learning to accept the differences in people AND recognize the privilege I have in finding ways to live fully into who I am. My volunteer work is almost always behind the scenes. My social life revolves around family and relationships with people who value meaningful conversations. And come September, I’ll be refreshed and ready to handle the city’s noise.
Your tendency to be inward-directed or outward-directed is huge; it governs every part of the way you live and work and love.