July 05, 2007

Alone, And Not

I’ve never tried to write with someone else in the room before. It is proving to be a unique experience. I generally write when I am alone. Not always completely alone. I often write in my office, which is in the shop, with all its many comings and goings. Before I came here, I would often write in studio. While I share my studio with fourteen other students, I would usually be the only one there before noon on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (unless someone was still asleep under the drafting tables from the night before). Sitting here now and trying to think, and being distracted by the quiet presence of David (who will probably read this later) working on his herd of Macs next to me, I realize just how often I am alone.

John just popped his head in. I remember now it was he who asked me, those many weeks ago, if I ever get lonely. The answer has not changed, I am not lonely. Being by myself, even being isolated, is normal, preferred even.

My boss (my eternal boss, though she is not my boss at this moment), Sandi, once explained to me a difference between an introvert and an extrovert is where they get their energy. Extroverts draw energy from their interactions with other people. They need these interactions in order to give their world context and meaning. Introverts draw energy from within themselves, and need to retreat from the world at large in order to recharge.

After many years of sharing a five bedroom house with anywhere from four to seven other people, I finally moved into my little condo when I went to school in Lincoln. I had been living with irritable bowel syndrome since I was a child, though I was only diagnosed and medicated when I was fourteen. I refilled my prescription, small white pills taken only as needed, religiously every month for ten years. After moving in August, I went two months between refills, then six. Finally it took a year for my last bottle to run out and I didn’t refill it.

I had always been told that IBS was stress related, but I never particularly considered myself stressed. I still don’t really. Though I am an introvert, I am still naturally very sensitive to others and will do my utmost to accommodate their needs at all times. Finally living on my own I realized that I had spent my entire life with a part of my consciousness always, eternally, vigilantly, unknowingly, silently dedicated to noticing the people around me. Suddenly, there was no one else to notice. It was just me, and my cat, Isis. I no longer had to worry about leaving my dishes in the sink, taking a shower at the wrong time, choosing a television show someone else just couldn’t stand, or cleaning up some else’s spilled juice in the refrigerator. I would never have thought the difference could be so profound.

Now, after having lived alone for three years, I come here. I need my prescription again, but I do not regret it, and after having it filled have used it far less than I feared. After having lived alone for three years, I have developed a desire for something I never sought when I lived in that big house: a relationship, close and long, with another person (preferable male, single, smart, and funny).

So now I sit here and write with someone else beside me and I am aware of that presence, every click of the mouse, every tap of the foot, and I am aware of my own presence, every type of the key, every pause, every song that comes up on the music player.

It’s not so bad.


greenfrog said...

I had spent my entire life with a part of my consciousness always, eternally, vigilantly, unknowingly, silently dedicated to noticing the people around me. Suddenly, there was no one else to notice.

It took meditation for me to discover this aspect of myself. This week, I'm up at my family's place in Idaho, with both my immediate family as well as my parents. The proximity makes it hard to practice yoga or meditate, as I'm almost constantly in a state of mild alert to the others around me.

That group situation alternates with long solitary hikes in wilderness, during which I also find it hard to practice formal yoga or to sit in meditation, but I think the difficulty in those situations arises because I don't see the need for the formality, as I'm a part of everything around me. (I get rather little-kid-like when in wilderness.)

Stuff said...

I always thought that extroverts drained the energy from the introverts. At least that's how I've always felt.

I've also thought that extroverts get a bit unsettled, even annoyed, when you don't want to do things with them, which seems a bit more like a personality disorder than being extroverted.

On the other hand, I might have just been hanging around the wrong sorts of extroverts!

Monica said...

Now Stuff, be nice, extroverts are people too you know. Think of a world with only introverts in it. We'd all just sit around reading books, watching tv, and playing on our computers without talking to anyone. No need for social gatherings. No need for bars. No need for beer...

Different is good, yes?

Stuff said...

Actually, it seemed to me like my country was always a country of mostly introverted, shy, people. In fact, that's why I thought most people drank - so they would be more sociable. Then the next day you go back to being quiet and no one annoys you because everyone is suffering with hangovers.

Works out well. The last thing you need is extroverts yelling at you to do stuff with them when you have a headache!

Really, extroverts just always seemed insensitive to me. But like I said, I may have just been hanging around with the wrong crowd.