When I was in high school, I missed a lot of days of school. I was out so much that my friends would tease me about it - oh, look... Mindy's out again. What a surprise (not). It's never occurred to me until this very moment that this was probably due to my nature as an extroverted introvert. Sort of an ah-ha revelation.
This is a term I've come across recently, and it describes me to a T... someone who is comfortable in crowds, is sociable and outgoing and can be ON when needed, even craves and thrives in social situations, but on the flip side of that is someone who needs huge amounts of alone time and the and ease of wide open emotional and physical space. Both are necessary sustenance.
There is no perfect formula, but I can generally move between these two extremes without too much trouble as I have the flexibility to create my own schedule and plan my own days (for the most part). This is also probably why I've never really thrived in regular 9-5 jobs, come to think of it. It has nothing to do with the people in my orbit, be it family or friends or crowds of strangers. It's all about an innate pre-wired capacity. Too much of one, and I hit a wall and start to shut down. It doesn't feel like being tired or even exhausted - it feels like a very strong physical and psychological, innate response I have little control over... more like being on the verge of a breakdown, a rather unceremonious and not very pretty unraveling.
I can be knee-deep in the joy and loving the wild fun of togetherness, and then suddenly feel things start to shift. The hardest part has been to not pathologize or villianize this part of me, not to beat myself up and feel guilty about it. So so hard, and I still struggle. It's not an easy thing to explain, my need to disappear or sleep for days and miss out on all the fun - it sounds pathological and selfish and inexplicable, even to my own ears at times and I wonder if sometimes people take it personally. It's sort of difficult to put a positive re-reframe around needing to be alone, especially when I know I'm missing out on the fun. I can't tell you how many games of Pictionary and fun family outings I've had to pass on because of this inner rhythm being out of whack with my outer reality. There were also many years where I didn't even realize this was what was happening, and thought it was some wayward mental health issue that kept showing up during family vacations, always ending in some messy fallout. Good times. I'm so glad that's been sorted, at least.
Nope. It turns out I just have a finite amount of extroverting hardwired into me. Five days seems to be my tipping point.
The reminder is always hard, and this summer's vacationing is no exception. I've spent a lot of time feeling badly and wishing I were different, but we all know how far that gets us. A lot of it has been about getting clear around what this truly is for me - just part of who I am, not good or bad - communicating with Alex about it, and then figuring out how to take care of myself in the midst. Sometimes it means separate flights home. Sometimes I take a day off here or there. Often, it means I try to not plan any social immersion longer than a week, and the following week I leave wide open so I can take it slow and as it comes.
Little by little I am getting better at flowing with this rhythm, and feeling less and less that I need to apologize (to myself or anyone else). Again, a hard lesson still in progress, but learning how to best stay anchored in my own comfort zone as much as possible. Even if that means sitting in my car, reading and listening to music for hours, which, yes... happened a lot this week. And I'm learning to be okay with that.