Satisfaction flutters through my body as I sit here, quietly, in my own house. Yes, it is satisfaction, but admittedly, it is mixed with a certain amount of relief. Some big assignments came my way this spring, all involving a lot of effort, organization and managing of other people. Two of the largest assignments (where I was the point person) and one of the smaller assignments (where I'm in a support position rather than the lead) are over. The last big thing is next week.
I accepted these assignments (very willingly, let me emphasize) about the same time I discovered the work of Susan Cain and her book about introverts and how we function in a world of extroverts. Most of us, she posits, put on a sort of "extrovert costume" and fake it till we make it. That's about right. It's perhaps my greatest single test in my life--to travel well the sometimes peculiar path that takes me through life. I often feel (to myself at least) like a puzzle wrapped in an enigma stuffed into a paper bag and stumbling around in the dark, (you know?) and working on stuff like this helps me function in the real world.
I digress. The bottom line is that projects like these constitute excellent personality calisthenics, because I do actually want to be helpful and involved and I don't want to be isolated or alone all the time. I love people, it just takes me a while to get to know them. That's the unexpected thing. Not all introverts are misanthropic hermits, much as we might aspire to be. We actually like being productive, useful, and even spending time with other humans. We just like to do it in ways that extroverts sometimes don't understand.
While working on these projects, I was able to articulate a few things about myself that help me understand why I feel cornered sometimes, and why if you know me, sometimes you WILL have to be patient with me if I get all defensive and sharp and sucked inside myself.
Here are some things I know:
1. I'm not an introvert who doesn't like people and collaboration, I just prefer to figure things out on my own rather than be told how to do things. I certainly wasn't told how to do these projects, I was given lots of trust and latitude, so it worked out great. However, in my extreme perfect world, I would be given an assignment then left alone until I show up to do it. Not realistic, but yet desired.
2. In this world of email, I generally hate personal messages that are sent as broadcast or cc'd emails. I am very much appreciative when someone tells or asks something meant for me in an email addressed to...me. Go ahead and send a summary or a solution out to the group, but converse with me. In spite of my public blog and my facebook presence, I like what I intend to stay private to actually stay private.
3. I'm not a committee-builder. Some people are. I'm not. That doesn't mean I think committees are bad or that I can't be part of a committee or even lead one. It's just not my preferred method. I work best in very personal collaborations with individuals that I trust.
There you go. Everything I've been asked to do lately has caused me to have to stretch each one of those boundaries beyond what feels comfortable, and that's good. It is a price I'm willing to pay because the payoffs are many and actually pretty profound. They include personal growth, interaction with people I treasure, and activities that uplift me and keep me from becoming selfish and out of touch with what is real and true.
My whole life, I'll keep doing things like this and (small sigh here) will probably never move to a small cottage on a Scottish island. Hikes and service projects; meal preparation and youth retreats: these represent opportunities that matter to me. People might think it's easy for me. It's not, but it is my life's work and I will continue, happily, until I finally figure myself out.