I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
One of only two poems I managed to memorize during Middle School, this paean to anonymity has lent me strength over the years, in those moments when I was feeling particularly unwanted or overlooked… or occasionally when I wanted to feel overlooked. *wry smile*
I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed in the last month or more, after a particularly active and social period involving hosting multiple parties and attending the groundbreaking Open-SF conference. Another friend (in a locked personal journal post) recently gave me a new term to describe what I think has happened to me, and that’s “Introvert Shock” — The state of doing too many extraverted/social activities in a short time, and then wanting to hole up for days or weeks at a time, to recover one’s energy, with the result that activities on the calendar get dropped or rescheduled by the droves, no matter how attractive they originally seemed… or indeed still are.
Of course, some of this is “just” the definition of Introversion, aka being the sort of person who recharges best alone, and for whom social activities are draining. But Introvert Shock is more than this, I think. More like a panicky, overwhelmed feeling (at least for me), in which the idea of any kind of exposure to other people is abhorrent and tends to bring up a desire to order in for pizza and watch Netflix movies (or better yet, read a nice quiet book) A.L.O.N.E. in one’s room … FOREVER.
My friend’s post contained this wonderful graphic on How to Care for Introverts that I’m sharing here, because I think it’s got a lot of good stuff to say on this topic in general:
In another thread of conversation about this, I hypothesized that this list of behaviors is not necessarily limited to introverts, but represents a pretty good set of suggestions for respecting other human beings in general (especially children, as mentioned by yet another Friend of mine.) It’s not 100% applicable to everyone all the time, of course (few things are), but I think it’s a reasonable place to start for many if not most people.
I also noticed — and I think that this is important for geeks especially (… of which we have many in the poly community, in my experience…) — that I’ll go into Introvert Shock over “excessive” activity ONLINE. If I’ve been writing and posting and putting up invites for events and engaging in lots of dialog on lists, that will register for me emotionally as the same as being out in the world surrounded by dozens or hundreds of people, even if my body has indeed been holed up in my room alone. The result is a sudden cessation of output, even though, and possibly because that’s exactly what I need to be doing to generate (online) income. The very process of exposing my thoughts and feelings to a crowd of faceless strangers (Dickenson’s “admiring bog”) causes me to be (at least temporarily) unable to continue to expose those thoughts and feelings, no matter how nice each individual out there undoubtedly is, nor how much what I have to say might be helpful on their path (or how helpful it would be in continuing to support my dependence on pesky things like food, or the Internet.) I long to return to the state of being “nobody,” even while attempting to keep some sort of contact going, because I know that a silent blog is a dead blog. It’s an exhausting and painful cycle.
Another of the things that strikes me as I go through this process (and am obviously starting to come out of it, as witnessed by me making this post!) is to observe once again that polyamorous introverts have a particular challenge here. As it happens, “Poly for Introverts” was the very first discussion group that my almost-ex and I convened, in the early 2000′s. The process of the discussion group, and then writing a workshop with that information and presenting it at the next Loving More conference, was a watershed moment in my life, and I gained a lot of insights in how to work with introverted polys. In particular in this situation, I’m struck by how there is a way in which polyamorous introverts — especially but not limited to ones in group households — are almost never alone. Lovers (especially extraverted ones) can start to get upset when their lover indicates that they want to stay home rather than spend time with them, or doesn’t want to go out with them tonight when they did just go out with another partner last night.
“Are you losing interest?”
“Do you love them/value them more than you do me?”
“When am I going to get my needs met?”
are all anxious questions that can start to crop up when a polyamorous person needs to step back and spend a bunch of time alone. It’s like we somehow give up our right to alone time when we get involved with a 2nd (or 3rd, or…) person. There simply isn’t enough time to go around already, so what often gets sacrificed is that “blank” spot on the calendar where I’m “not doing anything anyway.” It’s hard enough for introverts to guard their alone time as it is, but add being poly to the mix and sometimes it feels like one almost has to set up steel walls and guard dogs to keep a “free” night on the calendar!
So how do we, as people who are often driven toward and sustained by multiple connections, manage these connections in a time of overwhelm, or when we need to DISconnect? How do we do this without insulting our partner/s, or sacrificing future connections? What are some strategies to use … or NOT to use? What are some strategies that might have worked for YOU in the past? I’d love to hear from YOU about this. Feel free to comment here, or in Facebook. You can contact me directly, or use the handy web form. It’s all good!
In the meantime… I’ll be in my office… alone. ;^)