Archives for posts with tag: introversion

the path ahead

This past summer with W was wonderful. We hung around town most of the time but made a couple of trips to Asheville NC and to Washington DC.  One trip was to visit cousins I hadn’t seen in 25 years … a side of the family W had never met at all.  He fit right in with them and it truly did feel like a warm family gathering instead of a meeting with near-strangers. What a lovely fun smart humorous bunch of people. ❤

W spent the last 2-3 weeks of summer with his dad before going back to campus.  Suddenly my house was too quiet again. Suddenly I was talking to the cats about things that probably don’t interest cats at all, such as what household supplies I need from the grocery, and how @#$&ing stupid and obscenely wasteful the tenure application process is here. I’m pretty sure that these talks did increase the cats’ vocabulary, and I’m just as certain that they will not be able to show off those new words in polite company.

After a week or so back at campus, W called and stated, “I have decided that I am not busy enough.” I’m thinking, You take a full course load, work all the hours you’re allowed at your work/study job, are an orientation leader for new freshmen, are in student government, and host prospective freshmen several times a year. Plus you have 50,000 events you attend and people you hang out with. How could you not be ‘busy enough’?  After I stopped laughing, W said that he was going to become a tour guide for families visiting campus and he was going to try out for an a capella group and … a couple of other things I can’t remember.  Sure enough, he went through the tour guide training and a capella tryout, in addition to setting up meetings to talk with the internship office about summer opportunities  and the study abroad office about the trip he hopes to take next school year.  He was not accepted into the a capella group, but that turned out to be a good thing because he had discovered that he had more affinity for the campus players improv-like theatre troupe and joined them instead.  One of the troupe leaders sent out a message asking members how they identify and what roles they would be willing to play. One of W’s friends responded, “I am a banana.”  W’s response was, “I identify as a man, but I am willing to play anything including an amorphous asexual blob, should that need arise.”  Another of W’s friends wrote, “Please don’t make me a Nazi again.”      Obviously, this is the perfect group for W.

In that phone call I told W I felt as if he were expanding before my very eyes, still using the familiar tools and abilities I’d always known he had while also pulling out new and unique and unexpected tools from heretofore hidden compartments. I told him it was a pretty neat thing to see.

Later I examined my own life and found it wanting. Do I have hidden tools? Are they rusting away in there? Once the madhouse rush of W’s leaving and my tenure application process and the semester start was past, life settled back into a pretty empty-seeming pattern. Classes are going well … and that’s pretty much all I do now. I did try out a new church a couple of weeks ago – it’s tiny and meets twice a month in a youth center in the hills – and the people were very nice but for the most part way older than me and retired. I have friends I go out with occasionally. I have stacked my language books on the floor in my room so that I can begin to recover my Spanish and German skills. Occasionally I eye the saxophone case in the corner; the other day I went so far as to imagine assembling the instrument and bellowing out a few dreadful scales. I am sure that I can become the next Clarence Clemons if I try, despite that one time when a little neighbor boy (who had the misfortune to walk by my house with his daddy when I was practicing) shrieked ‘Daddy, what IS it?!’   

I have discovered that I am easily overwhelmed. To get around that, I think I must make things  very easy for myself, perhaps by breaking each big action down into a million ridiculously easy steps and then doing one of them at a time. Getting those language books out was a step. So was thinking seriously about the saxophone.  I need to poke around inside my battered old case of a self … to fish around to see what tools are still in working order. Impossibly tiny tweezers?  Filet knife?  Corkscrew?  Maybe they’re all in there just waiting to be used.  Next step: Choosing one of those language books and clearing workspace for it on my desk.

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  I detest roller coasters. The first (and only) time I went on a big one I was 14 or 15 and felt certain I was going to die. We inched clacking up the first big hill, came over the top and there was nothing below. As my car dropped over the edge into the abyss I opened my mouth to scream, not in pleasure or enjoyment but in terror, and maybe to make some noise that would mark the end of my life in this world (I wasn’t particularly concerned about what would happen when I/we hit the ground at a million miles per hour because I knew my heart would stop long before that point.).  No scream would come out; instead I rode, whipping around sharp curves, up and down violent hills, open mouth issuing staccato  “Ah!  Ah!  Ah!” sounds, harsh, forced, and totally unsatisfactory for proclaiming ‘I was here, however briefly!’

I have a similar dislike for emotional roller coasters, so the past few weeks have not been particularly enjoyable here. I did get a paper written and submitted for consideration by a journal, which is important and kept me busy and involved for quite a while – a good thing when trying to avoid drops into nothingness. Now, however, there is nothing of substance between me and the hill drop. I’m thinking desperately, trying to conjure something to get me through the weekend. Maybe a long walk in the mountains? A drive to the shore? Window-shopping somewhere fun?

W has brilliantly weathered several important firsts at his end: his first illness, his first close-up view of alcohol poisoning, his first birthday away from home. A week or two ago he came down with a bad cold. His voice dropped an octave, he couldn’t stop coughing, he was dizzy, and he sounded as if someone had held him down and stuffed his nose full of wet wipes. As I sat helpless at home, fruitlessly searching the web for health food stores and/or restaurants that would deliver hot chicken soup and cold remedies, his friends rallied ’round, providing him with EmergenC and ginger crystals for hot tea, checking on him when they hadn’t seen him out in a while, and making sure he had what he needed. He got himself to the student health center for cough medicine, slept and ate well, and … got better. Without me.

One night he sensed something amiss on his floor…. some commotion in the dorm bathroom across from his room. He checked to see if he could help. A young man had alcohol poisoning. The students summoned the RAs, the RAs summoned medics and the boy was taken to the hospital. He’s fine now, W reports, and actually thanked W for spending a couple of hours comforting his friend who had felt terribly guilty for encouraging him to drink. I think the whole experience was eye-opening for W, as much of college has been.  And he weathered that just fine without me.

His birthday – his 18th! – arrived and I had again been online for hours, searching for places that would allow me to pay for dinner for W and his friends by either buying a gift certificate for him over the phone or giving them my credit card number. Turns out he and his friends had already made plans. I told W if he bought them dinner, I’d send him a check to cover it all. They went to a local Thai place, had a great time, and W really enjoyed his birthday ….  say it with me, now  … without me.

All these firsts, and he’s managing wonderfully. He’s doing exactly what I had hoped he would be able to do out on his own: building relationships, making his own decisions, taking good care of himself and others, and enjoying life. All the things I wanted for him!  I feel proud and comfortable in his abililties and very happy for him.

At the same time I feel lonely on days when I don’t have a plan or a distraction. I’m an introvert – don’t care to mingle or chat or go out much unless it’s with someone I already know and enjoy. W is doing much better than I am in that regard; he does what he is supposed to be doing, and does it well.  Now it’s my turn to show some awareness of what *I’M* supposed to be doing.  I need a plan.

After the big roller coaster near death experience, my friends who had enjoyed it immensely  teased and teased me. They badgered me to go on it with them again but I wouldn’t. I DID go on the great splattery log flume ride, repeatedly, and enjoyed that a lot, and I eventually discovered that I could go over into the kiddie ride area and enjoy the Scooby-Doo (the coaster for little kids). That was the perfect amount of thrill for me. My friends laughed at me and I laughed at myself too. But I did NOT go back on that monstrous clacking ride from hell. I knew what I needed, and that was not it.

Now I just need to figure out how to handle this different type of coaster.