Various people have told me how brave I am to post so honestly on this blog. I don’t really see that. Oh sure, there are times when I have to stop myself from taking down a post that reveals something kind of embarrassing. But, for the most part, it doesn’t feel brave to me. It feels necessary.
I told that to my therapist and she said (near as I can remember), “Of course. That’s your learning style. Some people learn by just thinking about things, a contemplative style. Others, like you, have a more relational learning style.”
For which she received a blank stare followed by, “Yeah, I don’t know what that means. I think about things a lot. Too much sometimes.”
“Yes, you think and analyze, but that’s not enough for you to learn something. A relational learning style doesn’t mean you’re not smart or that you don’t have an analytical mind. It means you process things externally, through relationship with other people.”
Some more blank stare followed by, “But I’m an introvert.”
“Yes, you are, but the two are not mutually exclusive.”
I found that very helpful. See, I know that being an introvert means that you recharge by being alone, where an extrovert recharges by being with other people. I thought it also meant that, as an introvert, my learning style would be introspective. Many things I’ve read on the subject reinforce that thinking. But it doesn’t account for the fact that I don’t find journaling satisfying. I’ve accepted that I’m a writer, though some of you may know it took me a long time to own that, so I knew writing wasn’t my issue with journaling. For a while I thought I was just lazy. But now I think that journaling is another way of processing internally and that’s why it doesn’t work for me. I need to get the thoughts out there, wherever ‘there’ is. I need at least the possibility that someone else will read them.
Then I started thinking about conflict. I hate conflict and will avoid it at all costs. I’ve been avoiding even thinking about it for the last half hour by playing Bubble Shooter/Minesweeper/Angry Birds instead of writing this blog. Where was I? Oh yeah, conflict. *If someone is expressing a strong opinion on a subject and I don’t agree, I generally keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to argue about it, even if my opposing view is equally strong. Don’t get me wrong; I love listening to what other people think, even if I disagree. Actually, especially if I disagree and the person I’m talking to has a good argument because I love to learn something new. But I feel like a fraud or a big chicken if I don’t speak up. My problem is that I don’t express myself well verbally in those situations. I have trouble organizing my thoughts and then I can’t process what the other person is saying because I’m still trying to revise what I just said because I know it didn’t come out right. And then, when it goes on too long or I find myself in a real argument, I start crying. Not because I’m hurt or offended, but because I’m so frustrated at my lack of clarity. And then I’m embarrassed on top of already feeling stupid. It’s not pretty.
But, as I said, journaling doesn’t work for me either. What does sometimes work for me is to have (or replay) a discussion/argument with that person in my head. If I’ve known you a while, I’ve probably had an argument with you in my head. You were a formidable foe, I can assure you. I think this is a form of external processing for me. I work out the problem in my head, but also sort of in relationship, while not bothering you or embarrassing myself. I think it’s a win-win. In truth, it was still too internal for me. I needed something else.
I had strong opinions about the 2000 election, but I didn’t voice them other than to my family and through my vote. Afterward I felt like a fraud. I felt that I had been less than honest because people didn’t know where I stood. And yet, I don’t feel comfortable voicing my opinions in public. Not because I’m embarrassed by them, but because I feel incapable of verbally defending my position and I’m embarrassed by that because it makes it look as if I’m wishy-washy or I haven’t thought my opinion through. So, in 2004, I plastered my car with bumper stickers to announce my opinions to the world. Or at least the people driving near me on the way to work. Some people agreed, some didn’t, one guy tried to run me off the road. Whatever. I had put myself out there and I felt good about it.
The stickers were magnetic so that I could switch them out as I found new ones and I removed all of them shortly after BamBam was born. I felt like they’d served their purpose for me. Also, I didn’t want to alienate other parents who might have different opinions. While I had felt like a fraud earlier in my life for not expressing myself, I feel fine now not broadcasting my thoughts to the world that way and, thus, not letting my issues interfere with my kids’ relationships. Well, not that issue anyway.
Looking back at the stickers, I can see that it was both passive enough for my delicate constitution and active enough so that I felt I wasn’t hiding or, worse, lying. My thoughts, or really other people’s thoughts that I agreed with, were on display for anyone to see.
Which brings me to this blog. I still don’t think it’s particularly brave of me. It’s what I need to do to navigate my life right now. This blog is a blend of passive and active, introversion and external processing. And that works for me.
*My apologies if the narrative becomes disjointed at this point, but I now have a five-year-old prattling away in my ear about dinosaurs and zoo animals and which of his imaginary/stuffed pets can come camping with us and where we will go camping and look at this paper that has all the planets including Mars and Pizza Planet and he colored Mars red because it’s his favorite color and because the real Mars is red, right? Right Mom? Pretty sure he processes externally, too.
Housekeeping note: One of my favorite people in the world is visiting us next Tuesday. I’m sure I’ll be engrossed in drinking in her awesomeness; so next week’s blog will be late…or non-existent.