Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sibling Assignment #153: On Being an Introvert

This Sibling Assignment comes from me and it's an outgrowth of a conversation my sisters and I had with our mom back in December.  It's also an outgrowth of conversations I've had with other introverts and of comments I've had directed at me about my personality.  The assignment is simple:

Write about yourself as an introvert.  You can do with this whatever you want.  Discuss what it means, tell about your experience, or anything else.
I'll post links to my sisters' responses as soon as they finish them.

Almost every time I write that I am an introvert or tell someone I am, immediately the response is, "No you're not" and the other person tries to talk me out of it.

This tells me that stigma is attached to introversion -- I suppose introverts are thought of as anti-social, reclusive, weird, unattractive, without passion in social settings, and, among other things, not fully developed people.


Not true.

I think this is why I get the "No you're not" response so often.

No one ever says, "Good for you!"

I'm not anti-social.  In the right doses, I love being with people, especially people I know.

I am energized and most comfortable when I am alone or when I am sitting, as I am today, in the apartment with the Deke, hardly a word spoken between us, no television, no radio, just quiet.  Our silence with each other is far from hostile.  It's what we like.  When we need to discuss what's happening in our lives, make a plan, or if we come across something while reading that one of us enjoys, we let the other know, but we live much of our married life being quiet.

I suppose people try to argue that I'm not an introvert because I am good in all kinds of public performance situations.

I am a good public reader.  I was an enthusiastic and, students and colleagues told me, a passionate teacher.  This translated into years and years of high level performance.  I preach good sermons.  I have been a sound leader in group situations, even in committees.

In the limited amount of acting I've done, my work was solid.

In fact, I love to read in public, teach classes, act, and do other things that involve other people.

So where does the introvertedness come in?

While I enjoy these things, they wear me out.

After a sermon, I was genuinely friendly and interested in my fellow parishioners, but when I was done preaching, I dreaded the welcoming line after the service only because it exhausted me.  I would go home and sleep for a couple of hours, wrung out by that social exchange.

Back in the many years when I was the Shakespeare Guy for a Methodist family camp called "Shakespeare Camp", I would give the campers an introduction to each play we saw in Ashland before we went into town and saw the play and then I would facilitate discussion about the play the next morning.

I loved being the Shakspeare Guy for this camp -- and I enjoyed the campers a lot -- and did it for about fifteen years, starting in 1986.

I also loved that the people who ran the camp gave me my own cabin.  After I would present or lead discussion, I always went straight to my cabin and fall on my camp pad and sleeping bag and, without thinking, a voice always said, "They don't know how hard that was."

And I fell asleep.

The voice wasn't referring to the content of the plays.  It wasn't referring to the people who came to camp.  It was referring to my need, after an intense time of social interaction, to be alone, be with my thoughts, and to recover, get my energy back.

When I was in plays at LCC, I spent a lot of time in solitude.  In rehearsal, when I wasn't needed, I often went on walks around campus, with my camera (an introvert's dream hobby) and took pictures. In the building, I found places I could retreat to, away from the more extroverted actors to energize myself with solitude, and to get my concentration right.

I am happy to say there was an exception.  I enjoyed very much hanging out with my fellow Rude Mechanicals during the times we were not on stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream.  The conversations were lively, the stories were good, and we had a lot of good laughs together.

When I was a narrator for the Shakespeare Showcase, my call to the theater was always about an hour before performance and I always slipped out the theater's back door into the empty hallways where the music and dance and acting faculty offices were housed -- to be alone.

Readers of this blog know that I go to almost every movie I see alone.

I take long walks almost every day.  Alone.

Even when Russell and I went on photo walks together, we both broke off and went our own way. Much of the time we were alone.

I'm not anti-social.  I deeply enjoy time with my friends, especially my longtime friends from Kellogg, Whitworth, and in Eugene.

I think it goes without saying, we live in a nation that favors extroverts.

Over the years of the Obama presidency, I've read editorials deeply critical of our president because he isn't good at glad-handing, twisting arms, dining or drinking with members of Congress.

Obama is a great orator, typical of certain introverts (like Abraham Lincoln), but it's pretty clear to me that he is most comfortable when he's apart from the crowd, reading, thinking, playing the introvert's dream game, golf, and keeping the company of close friends and family.

Over the years, a number of people have said to me, "It's been really good to get to know you.  I always thought you were so aloof, even arrogant."

It's the curse of the introvert, I suppose.  Especially if the introvert lives a public life.  What is really a feeling of awkwardness in social situations, especially new ones, or of shyness, is often mistaken for arrogance or aloofness.  I have often thought, speaking of President Obama, that what people call his arrogance or aloofness, might very well be his unwitting expression of introvertedness -- likewise, President Richard Nixon -- and in contrast to President Bill Clinton or LBJ.

Most people don't see the introvertedness of Marshawn Lynch, do they?

It's a personality trait, not a personality failure.  It's a trait we see in presidents as well as actors and teachers.

The other day, I was on a solitary walk in Kellogg and a guy about my age or older was sitting on a bench beside the bike path that cuts through town.  Piles of snow surrounded him and I thought it might make a good picture.

But, as is almost always the case, I couldn't bring myself to ask him permission to take his picture.

I know that my introverted nature, especially with strangers, has cost me many opportunities when I've been out taking pictures.

I marvel at Ed, my lifelong Kellogg friend, who strikes up conversations with people wherever he goes:  the casino, on a jet plane, on a tour bus in NYC, when he's on a cruise, when he helped run the Tall Pine -- well, everywhere.  He finds out fascinating things about people.

I almost never do this, and, if I do, it's only after a great effort within myself.

And it's not because I'm conceited or think I'm too good.

It's because I'm basically an introvert.

Have I ever mentioned that the Deke and I got to know each via email and that we sent emails back and forth for about two and a half months before we got off line and went to a baseball game together?  And we lived about seven blocks apart.

I'm grateful that I'm not a 100% introvert, that when I was in Eugene this past December it was energizing to see my many friends at Billy Mac's, to have dinner at Pam's, to have coffee with Margaret, Jeff, and Michael, to drink beers with Dick, Don, and Cliff, to run into Sherri and Jay, to have long visits with Rita, to have long talks with Sparky, to meet and work with Marci, and to see old friends from the theater at the Shakespeare Showcase.

Likewise, I'm energized when the Hall of Fame of Great Guys convenes in North Idaho.

I don't retreat from these things.

But, on a day to day basis, I seek solitude.

I enjoy doing things by myself.

If you are reading this and you are an introvert, there's nothing inherently wrong with you.

And you'll probably want to take some time to yourself and reflect on that.

(And don't let anyone talk you out of it.)

Three Beautiful Things 01/31/15: Walking Wheaton, Whole Foods Mob Scene, Great Beer at Denizen's

1.  The Deke and I ventured into the suburbanopolis of Silver Spring and Wheaton today with most favorable results.  While the Deke checked out the Yarn Spot in Wheaton, I walked over two miles, heading north on Georgia (Highway 97) and then west on Hermitage, hoping to get as far as the southern tip of Wheaton Regional Park, but I got the "Done" text from the Deke and didn't quite make it to the park -- where, by the way, I will return, especially to enjoy the Brookside Gardens.

2.  Our Co-op in Greenville is my favorite place, by far, to buy groceries, but, for what I like to cook, it has some gaps.  Let me just say, that out West, say in Moscow, Idaho, if a grocery store is a co-op, the place would be teeming with bulk bins.  Likewise, in Eugene, stores like the Kiva or Sundance aren't co-ops, but they have the vibe of a co-op, or an alternative grocery store, and are teeming wth bulk bins.  But, the Greenbelt Co-op isn't.  I wanted to buy some quinoa and couscous and orzo for some recipes and so the Deke and I headed south from the Yarn Spot and joined in the mob scene at Whole Foods in Silver Spring.  The aisles were packed -- I did not just get in and right out of the bulk bins.  No problem.  I enjoyed being in the midst of so many people, listening to conversations, other languages, and being sort of dumbfounded that I live in Maryland.  Over the course of my life, I never saw this coming.  I got some quinoa and some couscous and we picked up a few other things and moved on.

3.  Our final stop in the suburbanopolis of Silver Spring was the best.  With little effort, we found Denizen's a microbrewery I'd read about.  Denizen's partnered with a superb barbecue food truck, BBQ Bus and offer their menu as well as beer brewed in the basement and served fresh.  I started with a pint of Born Bohemian, a Czech-styled pilsner.  Its balance of malty sweetness up front followed by a light bitterness at the finish delighted me.  Glancing over the food menu, I was very happy to see I could order two sliders, a bbq chicken and a bbq pork, on a single plate.  Perfect.  I never like eating a large amount of barbecue food and, with a corn and black bean salad on the side, the sliders were just what I wanted.  I finished my lunch with a sample (not even a half pint sized glass) of Ponch's Porter, and, again, the balance between chocolate, coffee, and hops made this a perfect dessert beer that tasted better and better the warmer it became.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/30/15: 10,000 Steps, Good Marriage, Peanut Sauce

1.  Today was the day to start transferring my prescriptions from Yoke's in Kellogg and Target in Alexandria to the Co-op pharmacy, so this gave me a good reason to walk counter clockwise around Greenbelt Lake to the intersection where I break off to walk to Roosevelt Center, retrace my route, and see how many steps that walk is.  I returned home and my pedometer told me I was over 9000 steps and, by the end of the day, just with steps I took around the house and those I needed to take the recycling out, I surpassed 10,000 steps.

2.  Having me home is making the challenges the Deke experiences at work much less stressful.  When she comes home, the dogs are taken care of and she knows I will or have fixed dinner.  It's a great thing that I can do something I love to so much, that it, cook, to help make it a bit easier for the Deke to do what she loves, that is, teach.  Good marriage really isn't very exciting.  It's deeply satisfying, though.

3.  When the Deke and I were living at Molly and Hiram's, I had found a recipe called "The Best Thai Peanut Sauce" (@  It's simple, as long as the ingredients are on hand:  peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, hot sauce, lime juice, water, minced garlic, minced ginger, and cilantro.  Throw it all in a bowl, mix it up, and a good sauce is done.  So I made this sauce because we had one package of tofu, some broccoli, some cauliflower, and a container of leftover rice in the icebox.  I used my electric fry pan as a vegetable steamer, baked the tofu, heated up the rice with the vegetables and we enjoyed a flavorful dinner.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/29/15: Pedometer Facts, Today's Project, Mom's Getting Food

1.  I was eager to hit the streets and trail around Greenbelt Lake today with my new pedometer around my neck (hidden from view, by the way).  I learned that a walk to the lake and one stroll around the circumference is around 5000 steps.  I need to find out, now, how close I come to 10,000 steps if I walk to the lake, do two laps, and walk home.  I'm also eager to find out how many steps it takes to walk to the lake, break off at the path leading to Roosevelt Center and the Co-op Supermarket, and then walking home.  I might have some pretty good options for getting 10,000 steps (or close to it) in.

2.  Today's project:  get the scanner/copier/printer set up.  Tomorrow's project:  get a pack of office paper and find out if today's set up works.  (I also got our material donations to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul's itemized.)

3.  I talked to Mom and I'm relieved that Ann, Jane, and Carol and Paul have been supplying her with meals.  She's had plenty to eat since I left and surrendered my position as her chief cook and bottle washer.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/28/15: Cold Walk, Pedometer Arrives, Vegetable Soup

1.  I arrived at Greenbelt Lake today and walked in the counter clock wise direction because it is the longer route to the intersection where I leave the lake trail and head to the co-op at Roosevelt Center. It was cold out.  I bundled up with hooded sweatshirt and stocking cap and my winter jacket and enjoyed the bracing feeling of the frigid air and also enjoyed the cloudless sky and the shimmering lake.

2.  I decided to start counting steps on my walks and today my pedometer arrived.  It's a tiny contraption with numerous capabilities and it took me a while and a handful of resets to get things right, but I did and now I can track my walks.  There's a walking website that encourages walking 10,000 steps a day and I'm eager to find out how close my walks to the lake, around, and back home again come to 10,000 steps.  I'm also curious to find out if I'm strong enough to walk this many steps and how long it will take me to build up to this total.

3.  I made good use of the vegetable broth I made the other day by making a vegetable soup.  Really, it was the best broth I've ever made for a soup, ever.  It had a pleasing sweet quality.  I think it's a result of having carmelized the onions before adding the water to the building of the broth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/27/15: Backlit, Tofu and Broccoli, Stop Making Sense

1.  With the wind chill, it was probably in the high 20s today on Greenbelt Lake and I enjoyed a bracing walk with my Canon S95 and combined exercise with getting back into the swing of photographing my favorite spot, so far, in the Greenbelt area.  When I came back around to the north bank of the lake, the partly cloudy weather conditions afforded me the opportunity to take backlit pictures, looking south onto the lake:

2.  Ah!  Back in the kitchen and back to meatless dinners, so much better for my kidneys.  Tonight I had fun baking some tofu and combining it with steamed broccoli and a sauce made up of soy sauce, fish sauce, peanut butter, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, my homemade vegetable broth, and sesame oil.  We had some leftover brown rice.  I mixed it all up, kept it warm in the electric fry pan and the Deke and I had a very satisfying dinner together.

3.  Dan and I were hired together to teach full time at Lane Community College and our contracts began in January, 1991.  We became great friends, eventually having our offices next door to each other, and, before we retired, grabbed many opportunities to stand in one another's doorframes and have great discussions, most often movies.  Now these discussions are continuing by email.  I had recommended that Dan see "Stop Making Sense", the Talking Heads concert movie.  He did.  Now we are having one of our spirited conversations, both expressing our great admiration for this movie, for its vitality and for its joyous exploration of dystopia and absence of identity.  For both of us, the movie is a work of dada, creating disjunction between the joy the band expresses in performance while singing songs of delusion, alienation, paranoia, and the world's absurdity. The song and performance in the movie that epitomizes this disjunction is, in my view, "Life During Wartime". Deep irony is what got me hooked on studying literature back in the 70s, the kind of disjunction that moved me to love Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, many of Richard Thompson's lyrics, and the Tao de Ching and so much more -- darkness in light and light in darkness, mirth in funeral and dirge in marriage.   Stop making sense. Indeed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/26/15: Quiet, Co-op Walk, Tiny Kitchen BONUS: Rescued Film Project

1.  Students did not attend Prince George's County School District schools today so teachers could calculate and submit grades, so for most of the day the Deke and I were together in the quiet of our apartment home, each being our introverted selves, doing our own tasks, keeping things quiet by talking only on occasion, enjoying one another's company.  I'm getting back into the routines of life in Greenbelt.

2.  We needed a few groceries and the sleety weather didn't seem that uncomfortable, so I put on my coat, gloves, and stocking cap and set out for the co-op, about a mile and a half away.  I was right.  I was never uncomfortable.  I didn't get very wet.  The walk was invigorating both ways and the shoppers at the co-op were mostly people ten to twenty years older than I am and for a few minutes I thought I was back at Yoke's in Kellogg.

3.  The kitchen in our quiet apartment home is tiny.  I enjoy the challenge of working with limited counter space and not being able to stock up on scores of food items.  I had fun making ratatouille and letting it simmer much of the afternoon -- and it turned out really tasty -- and after dinner I spent about four hours or so making vegetable stock/broth for future soups or to cook rice in.  I think the last time I made vegetable stock/broth was during the last century.  I see myself enjoying getting back into the swing of this, saving vegetable clippings and ends and keeping a supply of always on hand.

BONUS:  On Facebook, Julie posted a video looking at the successful efforts of the Rescued Film Project to develop thirty-one rolls of film a soldier had taken during WWII and never developed himself.  You can view this ten minute video looking at the developing process and some of the pictures themselves, here.   If the fascinating project of rescuing and developing undeveloped rolls of film interests you, go visit the Rescued Film Project website and archive, here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/25/15: Walking Greenbelt Lake, Back to the Co-op, Dinner with the Diaz Family

1.  I woke up in Greenbelt, MD this morning for the first time since November 5th.  After coffee and some writing, I resumed my daily routine of going to Greenbelt Lake and walking the 1.3 miles circumference, seeing the lake like I'd never seen it before:  thin ice covering spots, trees without leaves, mud in a few spots on the trail.  Happiness swelled inside me.

2.  For the first time since early November I went to the Greenbelt Co-op Supermarket and Pharmacy. I was reminded of what a regular store it is.  A little dingy, a ton of Shurfine products, many elderly shoppers from nearby living complexes -- I thought, this store is not that different from Yoke's or Stein's in Kellogg.  Oh, it's smaller, but it has none of the alternative living co-op vibe other co-ops I've been to have.  Happiness swelled inside me.

3.  Around 5:30, Hiram, Molly, Olivia, and David arrived for dinner.  Hugs all around.  I think Olivia and David remembered me, but they did not call me Skin Chin, a nickname that might now be obsolete.  Out of my head, I fixed a pasta sauce with canned whole and diced tomatoes, yellow peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms with fresh basil, some oregano, pepper, and a dash of sugar. I augmented a bag of Italian salad with radishes, celery, and carrots.  Tonight's pasta was one of my very favorites, rotini.  After spending so much time with my sisters and mother in Idaho and Washington state, it was fun to experience how much I enjoy my family here in Alexandria and Greenbelt -- and I thought about how much I look forward to visiting Adrienne and Jack in Nyack and I daydream about Patrick coming out to see us, as well as going to Oregon to see him.  I never dreamed I'd have family on both sides of the U.S.A., but, I do, and I can't help but miss who I'm not with even as I fully enjoy who I am with at any given time.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/24/15: A.M. at Spokane International, Easy Flights, Back with the Deke

1.  I was up (a little too) bright and early at the Ramada Inn, climbed in the shuttle van, arrived almost immediately at the airport, and got great service from Alaska Airlines and got to walk through the expedited TSA security check.  This is how I like to do things.  Arrive way way early, have everything go smoothly, and then just sit quietly and wait to board the plane.  I really dislike the last minute and when at the airport I often run this paraphrase of John Milton through my mind:  "They also serve who only sit and wait."

2.  Flying to Seattle was easy.  Flying to Baltimore was easy.  I really like easy flights when everything goes well.  I spent quite a bit of time on the flight to Baltimore reading about day hikes in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia -- great state and federal parks, historical sites, and expansive green areas in D. C. and got excited imagining myself checking them out.

3.  Deke picked me up at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and we went straight to Beltsville and the Old Line Bistro and started right in on talking about stuff over a couple of beers and a light dinner in preparation for our return to our little two bedroom apartment in Greenbelt and my reunion with Charly and Maggie.  Whoa.  It's all good.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/23/15: Mom's Morning Report, Last Things, Sendoff at Legends and the Ramada Inn

1.  Mom woke up with two shiners, a bruise on her forehead, and another on the crown of her nose, but she slept beautifully despite her fall and didn't have any new aches and pains to report.  Her Thursday evening fall was frightening, but, all things considered, she came out of it pretty well.

2.  Since today was my last day in Kellogg, Mom made sure she I did a handful of things before I left:  go to the vision center to order a new lens, get groceries at Stien's; buy more at Yoke's; pick up fat free half and half and Dentyne gum at WalMart; pick up a variety of things at Tru Value.  I got a few last things done around the house and then it was time to go when Ed picked me up and we headed to Liberty Lake.

3.  Jake, Byrdman, Lars, Stu, Ed, Al Calahan, and I met at Legends in Liberty Lake for some burgers and a couple of beers and I was very happy that I got one last chance to see all these guys before heading back to Maryland.  Byrdman drove me to the Ramada Inn at the airport and we had one beer in the lounge and found out Ernie Banks had died and did some looking back upon the 1969 Cubs and how sad it was for Ernie that that team folded in September to the oh so famous Miracle Mets.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 01/22/15: Packing Up, Mom's Fall, Dinner After Mom's Fall

1.  It's time to get ready to return to Maryland and today I packed two boxes of clothes and gifts I don't have room for in my suitcase and mailed them to Greenbelt.  I also packed my suitcase.  I did these things on Thursday because I leave on Friday afternoon and I hate doing things at the last minute -- usually.

2.  Carol and Paul invited Mom and me over to their house for dinner.  I took the car out of the driveway and parked it where I always do for Mom to get in easily.  Mom, as she always does, especially when the sidewalks are clear and dry, started down her front porch steps, with her cane, and down the sidewalk.  As I was getting out of the car to help her get in, Mom fell.  I temporarily had my back turned as I was getting out of the car and it was at that moment that she fell.  She landed on crusty snow in the front yard, her nose bleeding and her glasses askew.  Mom sent me into the house to get a box of Kleenex (and, believe it or not, to turn out a light a left on) and when I came right back out, our neighbor Jane was with her, questioning her about where she hurt, how she was, and so on.  Mom sat up, accounted for her glasses, defiantly insisted she was all right, and Jane and I lifted her to her feet and she was all right, mostly.  No knee, ankle, leg, or hip injury.  The most damage was to her face.  She had a bloody nose. The frames of her glasses jammed into her face and caused bruising under her eyes and across the bridge of her nose.  We drove to Carol's where Mom, with Paul's help, got into Carol's house without incident.  She genuinely seemed good, aside from the bruising.  Her nose bleed subsided and we got ready for dinner.

3. At Carol's, Mom discovered that a lens came out of her glasses.  I went back to her house to see if I could find it.  I did.  It had started snowing.  Upon returning to Carol's, I said we must take the dinner over to Mom's before the snow got worse.  And we did.  Mom got back into her house without incident before the snowfall increased much and, despite being unsettled by Mom's spill, we all gathered ourselves and enjoyed the dinner of stuffed peppers, corn bread, fruit salad, and a beet side dish that Carol had prepared.

I think the snow that Mom tripped into broke her fall.  Even though the snow wasn't soft, I think it helped keep Mom's spill from being worse.  Thank goodness she didn't fall forward on the concrete.

Mom thinks the fall happened because she lost her concentration.  Her mind wandered and she wasn't paying attention to walking.

That's probably true.  Whatever caused the spill, I'm left with the knowledge that Mom's physical condition is fragile. Her balance especially is fragile.  Her legs, even when free of pain, as they are right now, are wobbly.

It makes it difficult for me to be packing my suitcase and getting ready to leave.