My Exhausting Extroversion
We’ve met before, you and I.
We were in the elevator; you got there first and promptly pushed the button. Eighth floor. Not enough time for a conversation. You move to the back and stare ahead: The only interesting things in that little room are the buttons, predictable and sequential, right up to thirteen, when the engineer started second-guessing her knowledge of structural science in preference of a little superstition. You stand, as do most people in the same situation, staring at the rectangular metal twins that sweep in and out at the sound of a bell, expanding and contracting at the whim of an impatient button-pusher. None of this strikes you as discussion-worthy.
But for me, my head fills with verbiage. Engage! Engage! We are close enough to rub shoulders and my body is screaming to talk to you. Eight floors! It is enough. I make a joke about being in a tiny meeting room and laughingly thank you for attending. You smile politely and aggressively press the eight-button as if that will release you from our uncomfortable confinement.
I hate myself for not being able to keep my mouth shut.
We were at school pick-up. You had gotten there a little too early, as well. The wind is blowing your coat open and we stand there awkwardly, two adults who have accidentally arrived in the middle of grade six gym class, asphalt full of pubescent knees and elbows, and we smile at each other. Look at us, our eyes say, how stupid of us not to time our arrival with more educated precision. You look at your phone. I walk over and ask what class your kid is in. If you are happy with his teacher. I ask about your job and then make a joke about my own career. Ha ha, starving artist, stay at home mom, really nice to meet you. I make a couple more jokes: you are an easy audience and I pull out a couple of my usual party tricks. I’m good at grand body gestures to nail home a joke. I am an expert at comedic self-deprecation. We are laughing when the bell rings. You liked me; I was funny. I liked you too.
Dopamine is carousing through my brain. I smile and wave at two dozen other parents I have met over the past few years. I squeeze an arm; if there were babies to be kissed and photos to be taken I would be in political top form.
I grab my kids and get in the car. I return half a dozen texts and organize lunch for the next day.
You’ve met me in a business meeting. We get along famously, right from the outset. In a quarter of an hour you’ve told me about your extended family and we’ve laughed about my train ride and my RunDMC-loving seatmate. We solve our company problems and smile, promising to have the next meeting over dinner.
You’ve been to my party. Or maybe the pub night I organized, or possibly that time a group of us spent all Friday afternoon in the local park. I am disgustingly inclusive, which means I dilute the time I get with my close friends by adding more acquaintances. I’m discriminate in my invitations to the degree that I have to like you, and I’m genuine when I do. My heart believes I have space for more great people, more great friends.
I make a loud first impression; this is my comfort zone. I am a people gatherer. I gain energy from meeting someone new. People are so captivating and interesting to me that I sometimes feel like I’m going to miss out if I don’t talk with more of them.
My heart is wide open; a faucet turned on full into a bucket of limited capacity. I try to carry it, sloshing, splashing, heavy, too heavy. It rarely occurs to me to fill it only half-way.
In the same way an introvert has to force themselves to engage or even turn up in social situations, I have to force myself to disengage. Some days, my bucket is so full that I need to kick it over and let it empty a little so I can carry it.
If I’m not careful, my schedule is full, back-to-back with coffee catch-ups, meeting someone new, a book launch, a lecture series. Sometimes I barely fit in a date with my husband or a lunch with my best friends. Worse, sometimes I find that I haven’t had any time alone with myself.
For someone who declares friendship with the universe, the people who truly know me are near to none. I hide behind my jokes and my openness so that I don’t need to let anyone down with my utter mediocrity.
Gregariousness is my armor.
The friends I keep the longest are the ones who don’t need me to smile all the time. They are the ones who don’t expect me to be the constant fun friend, who have seen me cry, who have stood next to me, one resting bitch face next to another resting bitch face, in the quiet.
I am uncomfortable with the quiet.
Even now, writing this, I’m terrified someone I’ve met will feel belittled in some way by this confession. Please believe me when I say this: I loved meeting you. Maybe one day you could meet the part of me that stops talking long enough for you to hear the quiet things that happen in my heart.
Stephanie Wyeld made her writing debut in grade eight when the teacher read her story about the Titanic aloud to the class with the lights off for effect. She has a B.Sc.(Kin), an M.Eng, and a penchant for volunteering. She has recently given up the prestige of counting money for the PTA and is now on the executive the of the Canadian Author’s Association - Toronto branch, and the Writer-in-Residence at Heliconian Club. Her first novel is currently out on submission. While she waits she bites her nails and writes her next book. Her words can be found in Sammiches & Psych Meds and Huff Post Funniest Parents. She is on Twitter, @steph_the_twit and on Facebook.
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