“I am an introvert,” Owl said. Followed by silence and Robin burst out laughing. “No, really, I am,” Owl insisted.
“Oh ya! And, Obama is King of the World,” Robin got up and hugged me, while still chuckling.
“Well, in a way he is. And, I am.” Sparrow had her hand over her mouth. “I mean I am not King of the World. Obama might be. But, I am an introvert. I do not enjoy company. I am happy being on my own. In fact, I avoid people. With a vengeance.”
Robin made a faux glum-face, “Oie don’t be mean now, we have been friends for so long. We know you love us. Plus you are so social.”
“That is the whole point. I do love you. But from a distance. I care deeply. But you make me anxious. Very anxious.”
Sparrow poured us some more tea, “These red velvet cupcakes are to die for.” “Do you know Kingfisher’s birds have flown from the nest? Poor girl she is so restless now.”
Later, much later, after four, or five years, this episode was narrated as the day Owl had her moment. “Remember that time she went all introvert on us.” Laughter. Hysterical giggles.
“Oh no you don’t,” Owl said, hitting Sparrow with the cushion.
Once upon a time when Owl was young her mommy used to throw her these massive birthday parties. The cake was a basket decorated with delicate flowers. There were pink roses, blue pansies, and violets, white daisies layered over a weave so exquisite and edible. The table had heaps of treats – mushroom and chicken patties, mini burgers, sandwich rolls, animal-shaped cookies, mountains of spicy diamond cuts, sausage wraps and melted cheese straws. This was for the children. For the adults that accompanied them there were freshly fried hot puris, dahi vadas, aloo dum, chicken drumsticks and garden salad. Games were organized; a treasure hunt that had prizes at each step, passing the parcel, musical chairs and dark room.
As the silver metal hexagonal shapes on the front gate swung a bell used to ring in the front verandah. By the time the cars rolled up the gravel and came up the front porch the servers walked out with their drink trays. Each guest was welcomed with care.
Owl always had new shiny clothes. She was asked to be polite and wish everyone. However, there was a big problem. Owl did not want to meet people. Owl hid behind her mommy and refused to budge from there. As she was prodded and poked to dip her head out to say hi she would more insistently hold on to her mother’s dress. She got attached to it. Being dragged from end to end, trying to smile, but clinging on behind became a habit, till mommy got exasperated. “This party is for you. C’mon you have to make your guests feel good. Stop being so painfully shy.” Everyone in Owl’s family loved to talk – they hooted the night away, making merry with lots of noise. Owl wanted to curl. Owl wanted her books. Owl wanted that corner between the twigs and rags. And, thus, every party, every year became a dreaded affair for Owl. The more she was asked to step out the more she hid her face in the pleats.
One year, when Owl was a bit grown-up (but not-fully a grown-up) she decided to make mends. She let go of the dress she was desperately holding on to. She was amiable, friendly and almost gregarious – all to prove she was anything but shy. She did not lack confidence. She wrapped her not-want-to-meet-people into neat folds and put it in her back-jean-pocket. Mommy Owl felt a lot better. No one prodded or poked. After five hours of hopping around and eating too much Owl had a moment to herself. Everyone had left. Their pet dog Poodles was slumped on the floor. Owl leaned on him. National Geographic was playing on the television. She could get through this. As long as there were these moments – after. She could glide through events. Post these, she had the pillows, the corners, the little feel-good-factors.
Below is a letter Owl sent to me to post here on her behalf:
A lifetime of — being social, cheerful, peppy, chirpy, for occasions — is tiresome. It is a performance. One, which I can assure you, can be skilfully mastered in order to let people (you care about) feel that you do. Because people (aka we) have been conditioned to constantly crave affirmations.
But, here’s the catch, I want to sincerely apologize if my introversion has caused you any hurt. I don’t care any less. I do think of you, often. I do miss you. But, I am not lonely when I am alone. I am happy. Content. Peaceful. Excited. All of those. And, I do love you. Very much. And, lastly, this will make you laugh out loud: this is not about you – it is about me. Funny, eh! Not. Oh ok. I tried.
(image courtesy: buzzfeed)
Caring for your Introvert – Jonathan Rauch (an excellent piece to understand how presentations and parties are different from groups and small talk)
Why do we feel compelled to include ourselves? Susan Cain, thank you. Quiet. Introversion as a fuel for being creative.
Because I like graphic novels. And this is a simple enough explanation. How to interact with someone who tells you they are introverted.
The need to create. Why we are the way we are?
The reason why Owl sent the post: Daring Greatly.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt
[If your curiosity is piqued – I am an INTJ]