“Get your nose out of that book and go outside and play! You need some fresh air,” my mother would say.
I’d go begrudgingly, where I’d sit in the front yard and pet the cat. And steal glances at the neighbor boy playing basketball in his driveway. I had friends. But I liked my books, and our pets, better. Fast forward 40 years.
“When are you going to get a man friend? How can you stand being alone all the time?”
“Mom, I’ve always liked being alone. I always liked my books and the cats better than people. Remember?”
“Well then you’ve found your level.”
I’ve found my level? She said it not unkindly. But it had me pondering, as I’ve done for decades, whether there is something wrong with “my level.” What my mom was really saying is that I’m living in a way that suits me. And mom is right. Even so, for years I’ve struggled against my introverted nature. I’ve forced myself to go to parties when I wanted to stay home. I’ve made myself join groups and get “0ut there.” I’m not shy. Or socially awkward. In fact, when I do join, I can be the life of the party. Particularly if the party is no more than a dozen people. But I am more content when I’m alone. Like right now. Sitting on my sofa, writing, and gazing out the window between sentences, watching the birds in the feeders.
(Birding Tip of the Day: If your finch feeders have been devoid of activity despite being full, dump them out and replace with fresh nyjer. Finches are most particular and will not eat stale seed.)
Lately, I’ve given myself permission to spend more time on my own. The recent deaths in my family have freed me to embrace introversion. (I wonder how much time can pass before you stop calling them recent.) I no longer have to wait to be stricken with the flu to hibernate. I have an excuse that is always valid. My friends understand. I’m grieving. As time passes, they’ll think I need to get out more; rejoin the living. And then I’ll have to make a choice: either do things I don’t really want to do (for my own good, of course), make the usual excuses (work or illness), or declare and publicly embrace my true nature. But should I embrace introversion? Is it entirely healthy to spend long stretches of time alone, in the company of cats and nature; books and writing?
I’m at long last coming to the realization introversion is given a bad rap in this culture, much as aging is viewed as weakness. I would truly love to find the inner strength to embrace both. I can picture it perfectly: living quietly near the ocean, lounging about in yoga pants and long flowy skirts, letting my hair grow out into its natural color (much gray) and not obsessing over my changing shape (the extra bits having migrated from my hips and thighs upward to my midsection). I can imagine delighting in the solitude, spending my days writing, walking on the beach, and watching the dogs play in the surf and the pelicans flying overhead.
I think I just planned my retirement.
See, Mom, I am enjoying the fresh air. Just not with people.