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how social am I?

April 13, 2013

My dreams have gotten very lively lately. The recurring cast of characters used to be smaller; now I routinely have dreams where way more people have speaking roles.

Ever since this chronic fatigue thingy developed, I’ve had a really strong sense that it is somehow psychosomatic. That if I could just find what the underlying problems are, and fix them, my old energy levels would return. And one idea that keeps coming back is that . . . I’m not needed to be anywhere. I could stay in bed all day. Every day. When Spouse gets home from work, and I have clearly been in bed all day, he knows I’m sick. But sometimes I’ve been tempted to stay in bed all day because why bother getting up?

Spouse is definitely an introvert. And he has an avoidant attachment style (which I think both of his parents also have), so, in a social situation, as long as he has one person nearby that he likes, he’s fine with sitting quietly and talking to them. Or sitting by himself. Or roaming around, photographing.

The last time we were at a family wedding, five years ago (and just a few months before we moved to Maryland), I remember really wanting to mingle and talk to both people I didn’t know, and people I rarely see. I felt a really strong pull to the other side of the room, where all of those people were sitting. But, because I knew Spouse only feels comfortable with one or two people in my family, besides me, I stayed put at our table. And was bored stiff. Spouse talked, the entire time, to one person he likes. I did have one intriguing conversation with a cousin I see even more rarely than my other cousins. But mostly, I was bored and aggravated. So we got up to leave early. A cousin who hadn’t been at our table, and her husband, talked to us in the hallway for quite a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed that. (Spouse was itching to leave.)

I am tantalized by felt-memories of being very young and very sociable. My mother once told me that, when I was very small, I had a “bright and sunny” personality. That she always wondered what had happened to it, wondered if it would return. At the time she said that, I thought she meant that I used to be happier. But now I wonder if she might have meant this stuff that I can’t quite remember in any detail (so perhaps it’s pre-verbal?), where I was a lot more relational.

A year or so back, I mused on this blog about feeling like I’d been my mother’s heir to succeed to the family atriarchy, after her, but that somehow I got displaced. I wonder now, when that changeover in my fortunes occurred, did I somehow turn myself into an introvert to save myself from further disaster? Did I learn how to be an introvert ‘later’ in my child’s life, perhaps by watching the few people I met who were quieter? Was becoming more introverted a strategy, and perhaps only intended to be short-term, until the danger passed? Except that the danger persisted, even intensifying. So it was never safe to revert to an older form. Gradually, most of me forgot I had ever been something else?

I have thought, more than once, that being an introvert probably saved my life. Because I could turn inward looking for approval and a sense of rightness, instead of looking for those things from other people who could not truly see me.

I’ve known a few ENFP’s, and they’ve all been colossally self-absorbed. Almost narcissists. The relationships I had with these people were quite destructive (for me). That is not encouraging.

Spouse recently told me about a coworker who will be taking a vacation with some friends, leaving their wives and children at home. I asked him if he’d ever wanted to take a vacation with friends. He said he’d rarely had more than one friend at a time, so it wasn’t really a possibility. Then he remembered taking a road trip with one of his cousins to see their mutual friend, away at college in another state. I’ve seen photographs from that trip. But whenever Spouse talks about it, it just seems kind of sad. The three of them hung out in the dorm room. He can’t remember anything they talked about or did. And they never did it again.

Later, I asked Spouse if he ever thought about taking a vacation by himself. (I was thinking of my solo trip this summer to the Southwest.) He said he would like to go to New York City by himself maybe for a long weekend, rambling around photographing. But that when he thinks about going for a longer trip, by himself, it just feels really lonely. If he didn’t have someone to share the experiences with, it hardly seems worth going.

I did think that way for a long time. But, while I thought that way, I also thought that he would be interested (or could become interested) in everything I would like to do. And that is not true. There are things I burn, I yearn, to do that he has no interest in. Should I bring him with me, oozing his dissatisfaction or just disinterest, which I will then have to expend energy to ignore? And if I bring him on a trip that he doesn’t want to go on anyway, and I meet congenial people that I want to talk to, will he exert discouraging pressure on me, so that I stay with him? What if I find a small group of people that I have things in common with, and we want to get to know each other? What will he do?

Spouse tends to prefer structured social situations, especially those where he holds some authority. For instance, he likes teaching photography classes. There are social interactions, but he is the teacher, and the other people are the students; they are not all peers. I’ve never actually been in charge of anything. I have informally taught people how to do things, but I still thought of them, and treated them, as my peers.

Getting back to taking trips, some of the trips I want to take are to visit other estuaries. I want to spend time by the water, or maybe even in the water. Spouse likes hiking by water, but he doesn’t like to be in it. He can’t swim, and he doesn’t want to learn. He’s never been sailing. He’s never been fishing. He’s never waded in bare feet, looking for snails and mussels. When he sees a water snake, he’s not beside himself with joy, like I am. Some of my happiest childhood memories are those sorts of adventures, within the DuPage River. No other human beings around, but plenty of plants, critters, and rocks. Should I not take my trips, because Spouse never did those things, and doesn’t want to do them now?

Well, to his credit, he says I should go by myself. And I intend to.

+++

I don’t think I’m wholly an extrovert. Or wholly an introvert, for that matter. I think it’s situational. And I also think I can be social and relational with non-humans as much as with humans. Although I also go for walks in the woods just thinking my own thoughts.

+++

I think my social network needs to be a lot more robust. I’m just not sure who should populate it. Nor do I know what may result from having more social connections. But I would like to find out.

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