So this post won't be a horse post, despite the fact I have plenty of horse-posts ready to write.
Instead, I think it *may* hit on something that's applicable to some of my fellow bloggers, and if not, well, it's just a little interest piece just because.
Birthday week. I told you all I was headed off to a week of celebrating and enjoying my 28th birthday. It started with a dinner with my friends and family, 12 people, including my closest friends from elementary school, their husbands/fiances and children, my two siblings, and my man. It was awesome.
Then there was a family dinner, a trip out to visit my man's parents, and a steak dinner with his best friend.
A bowling party with my man's staff.
No biggie. I was excited. I'd met 4 or 5 of them previously at a social and from stopping by his store, so I wasn't worried.
And it was great. We bowled. I met three new staff and one of their boyfriends, and had a great time. Upside down bowling, and leaving high five's hanging, and throwing the ball too soon and smoking those little pin cleaners.
I was having a blast. They're just really great people and I love that staff and management just seemed like a family, not a dictatorship. How I envy it.
Then we went back to one of the fellow's home's for some eats and kareoke. No biggie. I'm tone deaf, but I'm content to eat food and hang out watching people sing.
This is where the whole point of my post comes in.
How many of us bloggers are introverts?? I sometimes imagine a lot. I think introverts often have an awful lot to say, but we're just not the type of people to be comfortable saying a lot to a large group of people publically. Though we certainly can develop the skill set and be quite capable...I'm not sure we ever love it the same way or have the same fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants persona as extroverts do.
Blogging I think, allows us to share our thoughts and ideas with the masses in a way that allows us to be well thought out, prepared, and give a great deal of thought to the words we're sharing. Observe, reflect, share.
At least for me.
This blog is exactly that. I'm not sure how others write their blog posts, but for me, they often start days ahead or at least hours, where I'm writing them in my head, talking (in my head thankfully!) about the idea or experience that I want to blog about. This internal dialogue helps me process and work through it, until finally I sit down at my keyboard to share those thoughts.
I love the process. This one, stems back from that kareoke party.
I was having a blast. A couple of the bowling group were off hunting down ice and co-workers, so it was about 6 of us to start. Cheering and laughing and enjoying some silly singing while chowing down. Awesome.
And then some more people showed. I *knew* them from earlier. No biggie.
And then new people I haven't met before. And their boyfriends or girlfriends. And more strangers...
The place got really loud. There was people dancing and people singing, and a lot of strange faces...
It's hard to even describe, but this scenario to me, was terrifying.
I went so far as to call it an introvert's hell.
Strangers trying to drag you up to sing. Strangers video taping everything on their cell phones. Strangers yelling at you if you step into the motion censor of the xbox. Loud and strange.
Especially when you're tone deaf like me.
I've been trying over the last year to better understand what it means to be an introvert, since I work in a profession that values extroverts. We're in networking and connecting people. Is shy and introverted really what is needed?
And in my search for better understanding myself and my behaviors, I slowly became aware that I might not just be introverted. There's something called Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP).
HSPs can be introverts or extroverts, shy or not. But they are easily stimulated by the world around them, which makes it an interesting adventure to be in a highly stimulating environment like a party.
I for the longest time since first stumbling on the literature on HSPs, wondered if I was introverted, shy or HSP. And that kareoke party was an eye-opener for me.
I have not been to a large (by definition for me, over 10 people...there were probably 20 there) house party in...years. I avoid them like the plaque. I was at a New Year's Cocktail party this year, but it was filled with folks over 40, I spent the whole evening sober chatting with my man and a friend from work...that was all. And no one spoke above a low conversation voice while classical music played softly in the background. Not stimulating in the slightest (my buddy and man almost called it...*boring*!). But an actual house party...me avoid.
As more people filled the room, I withdrew into the quiet of myself. I watched, I happily hung out at the back of the room and enjoyed just observing.
Except people at a party want to include you. My man's staff adore him, and they wanted to make sure his lady felt included. *This* I find is often the sweetest gesture, but the most *terrifying* thing you can do to an HSP. Try to draw them in.
"You HAVE to sing this song!!!"
"Just come up here with the rest of the girls and dance!"
"We can sing together!"
"Everyone else is in the group! You join in too!"
Of course, I just couldn't. The thought was terrifying, never mind actually doing any of those things. Except I *knew* that they were just trying to be nice and include me, which made it worse. I'd have to pretend to be kinda interested and find a way to politely turn them down. And then see them walk away knowing I'm coming off as a loser who doesn't want to participate in their party.
And then today I read an interesting article on HSPs and parties.
Which specifically said, that because you're highly sensitive to the wants and needs of others, you feel compelled to please yet ashamed when you can't, because of your sensitivity.
The other thing it said?
HSPs don't get drunk at large parties.
I never understood that. I have a lot of introvert friends. My man is an introvert. But they'll all find themselves in groups of strangers and seem to use a couple drinks to loosen up and become outgoing and extroverted. I know so many introverts who can do this and I think it's awesome. I mean, after a couple drinks with friends, I'm just as outgoing! How awesome!
And when the strangers were pouring into this party, the idea of doing just that occured to me.
...except I can't.
I *never* can.
I have never drank past a legal driving limit when with a group of strangers. The only time I'll get tipsy or drunk is in a group of close friends, who I know, trust and feel safe with.
And this party was no different.
I was 100% sober, and nothing shy of waterboarding could convince me to drink. As much as my head kept saying "Alcohol will loosen you up!", my HSP nature was saying "Keep control. You need control of this situation to survive."
HSPs are *not* risk takers. We sit back, observe, reflect, make a logical sound decision. That's me.
At one point of being dragged from my semi-cosy comfort of a couch placed in a corner, far from the kareoke but still within the party "zone", I found myself sitting on the floor.
The group of folks, almost all of them, were singing their lungs out directly in front of me, half-an-arm-span away. Standing, so I was well below them all. And I stopped and thought about myself, because as much as I wanted to be the cool girlfriend my man brought to the party, I knew something was wrong with me.
...I had withdrawn.
My shoulders were tucked up practically under my earlobes, while I intentionally kept my body language open (I didn't want to seem stuck up, so no crossing arms or tucking my legs to my chest like I desperately wanted to), but I was still a tight knot of tension. My jaw was set, my eyes were big, and I felt a level of panic I haven't felt in years.
I was *terrified*.
I remember my man standing off to the side of the room talking to a pretty chick, and she commented on how shy I was. I barely caught my man reply that he'd met my mom and she was much the same. Completely shy.
I was now not only terrified, but embarrassed.
Gawd. I am *that* loser. That shy loser who won't interact with anyone and won't enjoy the party. And ruins it for everyone else.
Now, let's throw in our own little insecurities into the mix of being HSP.
My experience in life, is that being HSP is not well received. I was lucky as a child (probably because I suspect my mom is likely either highly introverted, shy or HSP) that my parents were extremely accomodating to my personality. I always had lots of alone time, we did not have a house of parties and strangers *ever*, and when things would spontaneously cause me to burst into tears, my parents would give me a hug and carry on. No biggie.
But at some point, you head out into the adult world. And when you're employed and suddenly burst into tears when in a stressful situation, it's horrific.
I spent years working to cover it up and wasn't so bad. But in my current job, it was much more intense. I remember having so co-worker struggles and my boss sitting us all down in a room to "hash it out". He figured if we could just talk about it, we'd be fine. I burst into tears in the first minute.
The next 10 times or so my boss and I had a sit down conversation with high tension, I would cry. Totally embarassing. But thankfully he was right in the midst of manager training that was telling him that everyone is different. And had a genuine desire to give it a go.
I remember him asking to talk about it once. I asked if we could walk around the block outside instead of sitting face to face in his office. Surprisingly, I could actually speak to him without crying in this environment, because it took all the pressure off. I could hold a normal, casual, sincere conversation in a relaxed and open way. We were just going for a walk up the street, chatting. And I remember telling him how weak it made me feel that when a situation became intense, I would break down.
It isn't the stuff managers are made of. It isn't the stuff that strong staff are made of. It was girlie, childish, weak, embarassing, baby-like and wussy. And while I hated myself for it, I had no control.
He (and I still think he was lying) told me he didn't see it as a weakness. Just a character trait to how sensitive I am to the environment, and that in time, I'll learn how to position myself so that the environment suits me, instead of me trying to fit into it.
He later apologized for ever forcing me into a room with an irritated coworker and expecting me to hash it out. The last time we had a stressful talk, I made it almost the whole way without a tear. Until he told me that he had a soft spot for us. And then I cried. Gawd-damn HSPs. You just can't tell us sh*t like that!
Where was this story going?? It was trying to illustrate just how much I loathe being HSP, being introverted, being shy. Whatever combo makes me what I am.
I believe that men want confident woman, who are outgoing, petite, delicate, feminine, sexy and adventurous. That's what they want in my head.
There I was, being "shown off" if you would have it (and so it seems to me, because let's be honest, I was evaluating all of them myself), and I was the epitamy of what you wouldn't want in your woman. I was shy, weak, frightened, wussy, boring, and to add to the awful, I'm freaking 5'9" and this freakish gangly all arms and legs. I was failing my man.
Yes, that too is a bit of an HSP trait. We want to be what we perceive those we love want us to be.
I had to blink back a *lot* of tears.
At one point, I fled to the bathroom, and nearly lost it. I mean, LOST it. Body shaking, bawling, never gonna leave lost it. But I *knew* that would be even worst, so I wiped the two tears that escaped, fanned my eyes like a nutter and headed back into the party praying it wouldn't get any worse. I was a failure.
So I found myself at the back of the kareoke mob, and the ASM sat down beside me. I like him. I've met him before. Nice fellow. He tells me that eventually I'll get into the mess with them. I told him they're far more outgoing than I.
He countered that they're actually all introverts, but they've known each other for 6 years. So they're comfortable and outgoing now. In time and getting to know them too, I'll be there.
This is where I once again caught a glimpse of the difference between just introverted and introverted HSP. I will *never* get drunk with this group of people. I will never sing tone-deaf kareoke with this group of people. I will never enjoy the large loud party in an outgoing way like they were. But I will, I do see myself, eventually smiling, laughing, joking and having a good time with these people. In my neurotic HSP kinda way.
And I liked that. I liked them.
Then he did something else. Something many people might never think to do, that he probably doesn't even realize had such an impact, but was key. He told me that they were planning on surprising everyone with a Happy Birthday Serenade, so myself, the two other birthday folks and my man would have to stand in front of everyone during this.
THAT heads-up was all I needed.
And when the time game, I dragged my man up to the line and we smiled and laughed through the funny happy birthday song. And I enjoyed it (for the 30 seconds it lasted, and then retreated to the back of the room). HSPs can do the "spotlight" if we have time to prepare for it. And that time, I had it.
Then two hours later, somewhere around 3 am, everyone was in the other room and my man had just finished challenging someone to Xbox Dance (or some thing like that). I wanted to try. So we did. Him and I, no one around.
By the time we finished, I was enjoying myself and two or three people I knew had joined us and were messing around. I laughed. I enjoyed it. It was a good time.
Then I retreated to my corner while everyone else shuffled in and the group got loud and strange again. Until finally at some ridiculous hour, my man was ready to head out.
Except we offered a ride to one fellow...who talked a lot. So leaving the loud party for the silence of my car, I found instead the ongoing chatter of this guy. Nice guy, but as an HSP escaping a *very* long and overstimulating night, I just wanted silence. No stimulation. Man, I was happy when he got out of the car. Silence.
Thankfully my man doesn't push when he asks if I'm alright. He asks, I say yes, he accepts it. If it's anything else, I'll tell him. Eventually. So while the party was too much, he would never push it. Otherwise, I would have broken down.
But getting back to his apartment, climbing into the darkness, crawling into bed, my body just fell apart. As though I'd been holding myself together mentally for so long, that now that I was in the quiet peace alone, I no longer could survive the stress of keeping it together.
He asked me if I was okay. I said I just needed to decompress.
"Decompress?" was all he asked. And waited, arms around me.
After a minute of silence and tears falling down my cheeks, I told him just how absolutely terrifying that was for me. How there were times I was looking for an escape route, somewhere to hide, calculating how long I could stay in the bathroom before it became weird. That I was sitting there, cowering in the corner, wishing like the devil that I could *just* relax, have a drink, be fun. Someone that he'd be proud to call his woman. Someone that men want, adventurous and outgoing, and the life of the party. Instead, he brought the lame loser hiding in the corner looking awkward. I tried like hell to be what he'd need me to be, but I couldn't. And I was ashamed of that, I wish I wasn't an introvert, but I can't change, I tried, and I failed, and I was sorry, but I can't be anything else for him.
Let me say, that my man has many amazing traits, characteristics, skills, talents and know-how. But the number *one* reason why I love him to bits and believe that he is *the* man of my dreams, is that the things I see as my greatest flaws, the worst and most terrible things about me, he perceives as the most wonderful, cute, sexy things of my being. I maintain that he's nuts, but I'll take it.
Because he told me that he wouldn't want me any other way. That everyone adored me and thinks I'm super sweet. He said that every time he looked across the room at me, he was so intensely happy to have me there with him. He wouldn't have wanted to be there without me, and he enjoyed himself because he could enjoy it with me. That he sees no failing, no flaw in who or how I am. He loves me for it.
And I can tell you, that made it all better. Every terrifying moment, I'd endure again for him. So I'm an HSP. My man doesn't see it as a failing. He doesn't tell me to grow up and stop crying (dated those guys before...let me tell you, not everyone can date an HSP), he always waits for me to figure out what's wrong, tell him and he makes it all better.
As he just cuddled me, chuckling that I could possibly think he couldn't love the shy introverted me, I realized that I also made a terrible leap with my own insecurities. Yes, men like a petite woman. A confident woman. Feminine, sexy and adventurous.
And to my man, I was just that. 5'9" to a 6'4" man, *is* petite. Feminine in the love notes and girlie things I do. My man sees my confidence in my job, the way I work my land, ride my horse, discipline my dog. I'm sexy to him in my gangly scrawny body because that's what he likes. And I'm adventurous because I'll build a house solo, I have a reputation of not being scared to get dirty, I'll try anything once and I'm willing to just be me.
I fell asleep that night, half still wishing I could be that outgoing woman, and half so pleased to just be me. Highly sensitive, introverted, shy. Loving, sensitive, caring, always wanting to help those around me, creative, thoughtful, careful...
Sometimes you just have to stop and see yourself differently.
I'm not so bad as me.
And the next time you meet an HSP, remind them that they're not so bad being them either. Then give them fair warning before dragging them into an Introvert's Hell. ; )