Flying Solo. Confessions of an "Open Introvert".

I was never much of a reader. I’ve tried fiction but I tend to lean toward the non-fiction titles. I like theological history, psychology and sociology. However, it’s always been hard to get myself to pick up and complete a book, unless it was for an assignment. But now I’ve discovered eBooks! Wow! I’m really enjoying the freedom and ease of being able to turn on my phone and just read wherever I am. Part of my recent reading has taken me to a topic I never thought I’d be interested in or identify with. It’s been a really neat discovery as part of my wandering ways.

Present Day: I’m now back at work after my sabbatical. My time away was more than I’d hoped for and deeper than I’d expected. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My new found prayer is that everyone would experience the true passion of God in sabbath. Whether you’re able to take a lengthy sabbatical or capture the depth of sabbath by taking just one day a week, I pray that you would be blessed in your discovery. Resting. Retooling. Refilling. I’ll write more on this later, but right now I have something very personal to share with you in hopes that you’ll live a little freer. I have some confessing to do!

I have to admit, Monday was a little overwhelming with the “information dump” from my coworkers. But I got through it. Tuesday was my second day back to work and it wasn't much better. After watering my garden and selecting a new Primary Care doctor (that was fun – not!), I cranked over my motorcycle and warmed it up for the ride to the office. I was in the saddle and my wife was next to me saying goodbye. Through the rumble of the exhaust, in a joking manner, I acted like I couldn’t get the bike moving. I looked at my wife and said, “I’m going to need a little push or I might not make it to work.” And, as only my wife can do, she obliged my silliness and off I rode into the not-so-setting sun.

Although I’ve been eager to get back to work (see my blog on work: By The Sweat of My Brow), it hasn’t been easy, even after just 3 days! There were so many things I experienced over the past three months, very personal, spiritually and emotionally uplifting things, that I crave that space again. But I know, deep in my heart, that the “mountain top” is not where people live. We live in the valley – with other people. And this is where my confession starts.

Flash back: In my undergraduate days at the “U”, yes, I’m a Miami Hurricane, when I saw the likes of football players Vinnie Testaverde and Warren Sapp on campus (I name drop but they don’t know me from Adam) I was involved with an evangelical organization. Now, here’s the confession: I didn’t like it very much. I didn’t like it because of the pressure I felt to perform in ways that although were good and noble, just felt completely unnatural for me. You see, in seeking who I am, I’ve discovered that I’m an introvert.

Duluth, MN. I spent some really good, quiet time with a very great friend, Sean, walking the rocks. Quiet and serene is essential to me and so many who know, in their hearts, they're introverts.

Now, for those who know me this may sound bogus, but it’s the truth. And this personal unearthing has been amazingly freeing for me. I came up with the term, “open introvert” to describe myself. I think this is a good moniker for me and explains how I can be very social and open for short periods of time yet crave my alone moments, quiet contemplation and serene solitude. I think this is part of why I love riding my motorcycle so much, it helps me to disconnect from all the busyness of life. Understanding who I am frees me from a performance mentality that I’d previously thought was driven by forces much more nefarious like selfishness and shame. It’s freeing me and I hope that in sharing this it helps to free you, too (Galatians 5:1).

The atmosphere in the group I attended was very gregarious in terms of faith sharing. As an evangelical I was supposed to share my faith with as many people as I could. But I found this nauseating – literally. I would get sick to my stomach and shake and I thought something was wrong with me. I would even make excuses and then feel guilty about it. It wasn’t much help that some of my peers would subtly express their disappointment when I didn’t join them. I battled with this greatly. I was told, if I really believe what the Bible says about Jesus I should be swinging from the chandeliers and shouting it from the rooftops. After all, as was often quoted, “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel basket!” (Matthew 5:15) But I wasn’t swinging or shouting. I felt guilty. I felt trapped.

Let’s fast-forward a bit. I'm now in my early 30s. I'm sitting in my graduate school's cafeteria, books stacked to the hilt, studying my class notes. I'm munching on something or other that popped out of the vending machine, probably pretzels they’re usually safe, just keeping to myself. Another student soon approaches me as I read and munch and I become nauseous, nervous, anxious, but not because he's approaching. It's why he's approaching!

I usually enjoyed talking with him and he was a good conversationalist but he would often invite me to the mall. Now, I’m all for shopping, but I always turned him down. I would say something innocuous as the queasiness rose. “Nah, I’m good, I have to head home. I’m beat, maybe another time.” I’d go one way and he another. But it wasn’t shopping I was fearful of, it was approaching strangers to start a conversation and it frightened the snot out of me. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Now, I do enjoy good banter, but this was just not my cup of tea. And it still isn’t.

For years I thought something was wrong with me. “Maybe my faith isn’t what I think it is or what others think it should be?” I would ask myself. Or, “Maybe I don’t love God. Does He love me?” The questions swirled like water going down a drain and that’s what I felt like, too.

Fast forward a bit more: Today I find myself in this predicament. I’m an introvert (or maybe an ambivert) in and extrovert world and it’s difficult. I’m an introvert in what has become an extrovert subculture and it’s frightening and exhausting at times. But there’s hope!

Enter eBooks! Whoop, whoop! I just started reading a book called, “Quiet”, by Susan Cain (‪Random House LLC‬, ‪Jan 24, 2012‬). In it Cain addresses the struggles that introverts have in the culture we’re in. She also highlights the positive things that introverts offer but are frequently glossed over because of their quiet, contemplative demeanor. She maps the shift from being a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality and it’s fascinating. Here’s her TED talk on the topic. As you’ll see, she’s clearly not at ease.

Here’s what I’m driving at: being an introvert isn’t an excuse to hide but don’t feel like you have to swing from the chandelier either. There are deep thoughts and creativity that you have to offer those around you. These are important, lovely and meaningful. Discover how you’re wired and be okay with it. Don’t use your quietness to avoid doing good and noble things, just find your own rhythm!

For the extroverts, swing away! Your expressiveness and joy is essential to motivating and encouraging many around you. We love you very much but we request your tolerance with us. You’ll benefit greatly from listening carefully to us quieter types, but it may take a moment or two for us to respond, please be patient. And above all else, don’t expect us to be like you and we’ll return the favor!

Regardless of who you are, be blessed as you wander and discover and utilize, in a healthy way, how you’re wired!