There is some talk in the press lately on introverts and their needs; their contributions to business and social groups. It is a world-enhancing concept; I’m all for it. However, alone time is not only a need for introverts.
I’m an Extrovert. I love people, and have many good friends.
Yet, I came of age in a family of 3, and I prefer to interact with one friend at a time. The list of friends I meet for lunch or tea in the course of a month is pretty long. Relationship is a high priority in my life. The way I do it is time-consuming… and totally worth it to me.
I have a very public life. I can barely go to a coffeehouse or grocery store without seeing someone who knows me. This is a city of 115,000 people, and it feels as though I know most of them! Yet, I go crazy if I can’t be alone.
A Balancing Act
I find social interaction in groups socially confusing. Being at the front of a room, either teaching or performing, energizes me. Tea with a friend is perfect.
On the other hand, a room full of people, even if I love them individually, is over-stimulating and overpowering. I tend to sit near the door in these situations.
The Ears Have It
I think I’ve finally figured it out. I’m overly stimulated by sound. Sitting between two conversations is harder than playing chess, I can’t figure out what to focus on.
Even when I work alone, I prefer writing after midnight. My beloved is sleeping at that time, and our city neighborhood is quiet. Nobody is walking a dog past our corner. There are no sounds of bicycles, cars, or dribbling basketballs on the sidewalk at that hour.
My Personal Friendly Noises
I figured out last summer when I took a 2-week retreat to Montreal, that a regular repeating sound nearby helps me work. A ticking clock, crickets or a percussive old-fashioned lawn sprinkler can calm my ears, so that they are not straining to hear sounds further away.
(Ticking clocks distract others… Including my Brian. Rain stresses me out, but a waterfall calms me. It takes a while to figure it out.)
I purchased an app for my iPod which makes cricket sounds and a host of others… Birds, water, clocks, wind chimes. It has helped me work alone during the day. By playing a sound near me, my ears don’t strain to hear things a block away.
I guess I need alone time more now, at 50-something and self employed. Still, I remember in college buying a friend a fast food meal so we could have a 1-1 conversation outside the dorm or sorority house.
It’s a joy to learn how best to work. I exhibit many attributes of a person with ADD, but the typical treatment for it makes me worse, not better.
As a child, I know some adults worried for my future. As a young adult, I struggled to find ways to be an effective employee (often staying late, to get deskwork done when the environment quieted down).
My Own “Boss”
As a self-employed woman, I now can’t afford a bad day. I am my own secretary, publicist, computer tech, webmaster, copy writer, graphic designer, errand-runner, pattern writer… I am even the products I sell: teaching and singing.
It took me a very long time to figure out what it was about me that needed such care. Even though quiet music playing in a restaurant would distract me from good conversation, I didn’t see that as anything but restaurant-relevant.
I found an interesting article on introverts here: Introverts Explained: Why we love you but need to get away from you
You may find the article enlightening.
Are you in need of alone time? Do you find that those around you are fine with it? Threatened? Confused?
PS The iPod Touch/ iPhone app I use is called Quick Sleep. It lets you save combinations of sounds for later (crickets & a clock; 4 kinds of birdsong). It also has a night timer to fall asleep to your favorite sounds, then turns off to save batteries. There are a lot of sound generators… This is just the one I prefer for my needs.
Images: 1) Tea for one, 2) Lunch with Rita Petteys of Yarn Hollow (handpainted yarns t& fibers, she dyed the yarns for both of my Knitty sock Designs – Crystal and Sunberry), 3) My backyard balcony view in Montreal, 4&5) Me teaching a crowd.