Sunday, March 24, 2013


"A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups."  --William James

If you knew me only in a professional context, you would have a difficult time believing I am an introvert; I put on a fun show, and in the moment?  It's me.  Unfortunately for my temperament, the work I care most deeply about, and the work I continue to do is so unflaggingly social in nature, that if I'm not carefully attuned to seeking out "restorative niches," I will flatline, and it's not pretty.  Anyone who has seen me after a five or seven day work trip when I've had to be "on" for 10+ hours a day with people has seen this state.

I'm in a new situation now that requires not only extensive travel and working with large groups of people (which I love) but also an intense office environment and endless slew of interactions when I return...and I live in the most population dense place I've ever lived...So I've been looking for a little more guidance. I'm in a place of working through what will allow for balance in these spaces.  I just finished Susan Cain's Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.   I cried through multiple chapters simply from the resonance of the ideas and case studies, not to mention the highlight of so many things I wish I'd tended to throughout my life (instead of beating myself up over); However, I was able to name so many things that I had previously just been confused by.   I have been clear for some time that I am introverted and become fully exhausted (not exhilarated) by too much social stimuli, but I'm also so drawn to deep connection to others that it has been difficult to reconcile these two ideas in my mind-- Turns out they're not mutually exclusive.  I have just had times in my life when I worked around these energy demands more effectively.

Cain identifies our ability to seem effervescent in large groups of people, to appear gregarious and extroverted in different settings as "effective self-monitoring."  And I am very glad to have developed the skills I have in this world, because I truly love what I do.  What I am working on developing skill in is taking the time I need for restoration, and figuring out what boundaries I need to draw around the energy output.  We all are to a certain extent, right?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All I Needed to Know

If there were moments when we could actually step back, step out, and view what's around us, then there would be increased opportunities to truly see, yes?  I don't know any one who doesn't get so caught up in the action of it all that there is little time for the thinking--all doing and no time for deciding if the doing is actually leading us where we want.  And I don't know anyone who doesn't feel the need to apologize when they take a much-needed moment to simply be quiet and still.

I was moving through some more "choose your own adventure" sagas in my mind this past week--where I realized I had turned to pages I didn't want to be on.  The scariest realization for me was that I continue to do so...even with all of the lived experience and the cues I've become aware of.  The cues most often are made apparent when I move without grace, when my words and actions don't reflect who I truly am.  I can make excuses:  I've been in constant motion for months; I've had too many transitions and too few days off...and on and on.  But these are just excuses in the moment.  When I look closely at myself and sit with the truth beyond the moment-to-moment, that's when I can see that some combination of a swift kick in the ass (metaphorical) and compassion for self must come into play.  And I can see that, once again, I'm one fallible human.  And I see that I need to step back and stop the motion to see clearly.  And I want to be able to do this without feeling like I need to justify my pause.  I want us all to be able to.

Do you remember that book All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?  [I feel like it was a late 80s early 90s text]...I accompanied a colleague on her journey to drop her son at his kindergarten classroom this week, and I was fully struck by the supremely logical trajectory of his morning:  We entered the classroom, chose a text, invited a few people to read with us, and read a good story; this was followed by a run around the track and a snack.  Seriously.  That is a beautiful morning routine.  I am pretty sure we could take our cues from small, graceful kindergartners.  Read, think, move about, eat food with your friends.  Tell people when you're tired and you need a break.  Ask for help when you need it.  I can't go back and change where I've landed, but I can sure as hell shift my routines to move with a little more grace.  Without apology.