Sunday, November 04, 2007

Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small. We haven't time - and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.*

Well, Sunday seems to be my "respond to something on BTS." Babelbabe (whom I often affectionately call Babs) just wrote a post about friends. Which was really a post about introversion. Oh, we introverts. Try being friends with an extrovert--my current BFF is one...GAH!

So this was my comment on BTS:

Hon, I understand. I work two nights a week. So on my nights off, I usually DO not want to be doing something with people. I could write a whole post on fact, since I have to write something every day this month, I just might. Heck, at least you'll come comment...


It's an introvert thing. I think we think that once we reach a certain age we know how to be friends, as if it's the same thing as learning how to walk, or ice skate. OH, this is becoming a post.

I have a friend. She is a dear woman who I met a few years ago. And she has a busy life, inside her house. And she is the most intelligent friend I have. But she is like a bear. She hibernates. But she is also not like a bear, because at least a bear, you know "hey, it's winter, I bet she's hibernating." When we first met, we got together a lot. We spoke on the phone a lot. We were BFFs (in my mind at least) for a while. Now we talk less, and haven't "had coffee" in a long time. For ages I thought it was me. That I had said/done/not done something. But as time has passed, I've come to cherish this woman, and because we had all that face-time back in the day, I can slip into her life for an evening and her children know who I am, and her husband has no problem inviting me in for soup.

As an introvert, I cherish this kind of friend, and I cherish this woman.

So back to my comment. It's an introvert thing. I think we think that once we reach a certain age we know how to be friends, as if it's the same thing as learning how to walk, or ice skate.

Last night I went ice skating. The local Christian radio occasionally sponsors a night of skating for $5.00 at nearby ice arenas. Last year, I went, by myself. Loved it. This year, I went by myself, loved it. Sure, I had those moments when the guy who was teaching the girl (obviously HIS girl) to skate, but I'd be teaching Max, who point blank told me he won't skate. He's out of town this weekend, so it was a perfect time for me to go. BY MYSELF. There were people I could have emailed "hey, come skating with me," but skating is like taking a walk. You can do it by yourself. It is not like walking in the sense that if you know how to skate and you are an introvert, you don't really want to be skating with people who only came to "get out and see people." (NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT!) I only stayed for an hour, but that entire hour, I was pretty much skating, because I wasn't talking on the sidelines, or talking in the middle of the ice on my cell phone. (Kids these days!) I got pretty annoyed by the dad who was trying to take pictures of his kids with his cell phone. But then I found the other rink, the one where the ice wasn't as scuffed up and where there were LESS PEOPLE. And less children. It was divine. Well, until they went and ran the Zamboni on the other rink and my idyllic less crowded rink became the busy one again.

Learning how to ice skate is something we all do or decide not to do. It's not necessary, like walking or talking. If someone doesn't walk by a certain age, the parents worry. If someone doesn't have any friends and they're thirteen and they wear black and write morbid poetry, the parents worry. But when you're thirty five, it's a different story. They don't write books called "Your Thirty-Five Year Old: Nesting and Defiant." (Or for that matter, "Why isn't my Thirty-Five Year Old Ice Skating?")

At thirty five, it's another story. It's not how to make friends, or how to make sure you're friends with the "right" kids, or even how popular you are. It's how to BE friends. Which differs greatly for introverts and extroverts. The woman I am closest to right now is a woman who doesn't have a lot of close women friends. She has a lot of people she does stuff with, and she has those parties, and she has kids, and cats, (one cat?) and a husband. But since she didn't have a lot of "intimates" that weren't in her family, she was learning how to be a female friend by being my friend, I didn't realize she was (an alien) an EXTROVERT. After that, things totally made sense. (Well, no, it never does, being friends is a total mystery after the age of ten--once you have a crush on a guy, friendships are never simple again.) (But that's for another day.)

I'm a hybrid. I am mostly an introvert (like my mother) but often an extrovert (like my father.) My sister is most definately an introvert, I'm not sure about my brother. What is it they say? Opposites attract? I can get on the phone with my dad and talk for HOURS. (Mostly it's him talking, but what can I say, he's an extrovert.) The man remembers EVERYONE'S name. Once, in an airport, as my family was walking with me to my gate, my father stopped to chat (and not just hi, bye) with his barber!! If I call to talk to my mom (whom I adore, in case there was any doubt in your mind), I usually get "oh, I was just sitting down to work, your dad just left." Which I have finally (after years of feeling rejected) unscrambled to mean: "I need to be alone right now." And sometimes I can let her work and sometimes I have to be all up in her face, because, you know, she's my mom. And as much as I love my dad (see above) there are some things that are just in my mom's domain.

Often you can tell introverts or extroverts by the jobs they choose (librarians=generally introverts), or the hours. For instance, I work Tuesday-Saturday. Yes, I work every single Saturday. Part of that is because my cohort in the Cataloging Dept, Janice, also works Saturdays. But part of that is because as an introvert, I used to hate weekends. I never did stuff with people and I felt that that was why you had a weekend. But I liked sitting at home watching stupid movies on FOX. But when I work every Saturday, I get to choose. I can say, "nope, sorry, I can't just hang out, I'm working on Saturday." It protects me as an introvert, it gives me Monday afternoon to sit at home watching stupid movies (although not on FOX, because most people want to watch people fighting over cars and cats on weekday afternoons.) It's my shield. It's my version of "leave me alone, I'm working." But if something comes up, I have the flexibility (how I love the flexibility) to say, I'm going to work on Monday so I can have Saturday off. But it saves me from a lot of needless socializing.

One of the comments on Babelbabe's post was from David, whom I've never met, but he seems like a real swell guy. He also knows Katy. He said, "this realm is definitely a quality not quantity thing. Still, its nice to see nice people occasionally."

Another way to spot if you're dealing with an introvert or an extrovert is to look at their hobbies. Bloggers are often introverts. It's easier to have online friendships with people you'll never run into at the grocery store. It's easier to have an email friendship with someone who lives half a mile away because you don't have to plan when you're going to meet. (A la the plan for invading Normandy, see BTS.)

Oh, and introverts, if you're looking for one, check their desks, they generally have stationery. Because they actually write cards and letters. I'll let Garrison Keillor say it as he says it best:

We shy persons need to write a letter now and then, or else we'll dry up and blow away. It's true. And I speak as one who loves to reach for the phone, dial the number, and talk. I say, "Big Bopper here - what's shakin', babes?" The telephone is to shyness what Hawaii is to February, it's a way out of the woods, and yet: a letter is better.

Email is too easy. I have a friend that gets weekly (sometimes daily) updates on me, she's part of a group of folks I banded together back in the day when I needed a suicide watch. Nowadays it's more like, please pray, I'm overwhelmed, or this is when I'm going to the doctor. Or, I totalled my car. I know she reads the emails, but she never responds. Well, most of the folks never do, unless it seems I'm going off the deep end, which is when I start adding cc's. Again, I thought, she doesn't love me anymore, she doesn't care, I did/didn't do something. Nope. She's just an old fashioned introvert. When we last met for coffee, the next day, she sat down and wrote me a letter. I got a card in the mail, and I thought, oh, it's an invite to her open house, and lo and behold, it was a letter. On a beautiful card that had a picture of a lake on the front.

Again, it's that whole how to BE a friend. Making them is easy. Folks love to make friends. But like Georgia says,

A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower -- the idea of flowers. You put your hand to touch the flower -- lean forward to smell it -- maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking -- or give it to someone to please them. Still -- in a way -- nobody sees a flower -- really -- it is so small -- we haven't time -- and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it no one would see what I see because I would paint it small like the flower is small.

Which is to say, time in going for coffee or just hanging out at home, but also time in years. One of my dearest friends is a woman I've known since high school. We have had our ups and downs and we had almost a year where we were not talking because of a bad fight. But her birthday is coming up (so is mine, hint hint) and I know we'll talk then.

All this to say, Babs, you are in good company. Just let's make a date to go to the Sharp Edge sometime soon. Like at three in the morning when neither of us has other plans. We'll invade Normandy or something. It will be fun and there will be lots of things to buy like lingerie and Tupperware.

*Georgia O'Keefe, American artist.


Katy said...

I feel so honored that you and BB came out for O fries with me when I was in town. Thanks for a well-written post.

SneakyPeek said...

This was so interesting. I can't decide which I'm more like, sometimes I'm both.

Can I be both? :-)

KitchenKiki said...

As someone who is definitely both, yes it is possible to be both.

Now I understand why sometimes when i call your parents (which is really quite rare) your mom will sometimes talk for a (little)while & sometimes cut it very short.

Sadly, I think about writing notes more than actually writing them.

Amy A. said...

I am an introvert with exceptional people skills, which is why others think I'm an extrovert. I prefer to set limits on my social time, too.

Some of my friends are confused by my 'hibernation' times and feel like I'm not being a good enough friend. I hope my friends know that I am always available to them, though.

I like this post. Lots to think about.

Amber Bahler said...

I love this post! I am an introvert but because I'm somewhat close to the middle and because I've been expected to be an extrovert, I can function pretty well as one sometimes....I too think more about writing notes than doing it...

You should check out "The Introvert Advantage"-fascinating book about how introverts are wired and how our society is often not nice to introverts.