The Church of Extroverted Introverts

Yesterday was unseasonably warm—so warm that I felt compelled to stay outside the whole time the sun was out, as if I were a squirrel stuffing acorns in her cheeks (though with climate change, who knows how long this weather will last?). It was my first day off since Thanksgiving weekend, so I sat out with my coffee shop Muppet critics, bopped down to the farmers market, read my book on a bench with one eyebrow cocked at the early-afternoon brunchers. Around 3 pm I rolled over to Gowanus to toast a pal’s birthday at a backyard bar, and was happy to spend time with a new friend of whom I’ve very fond—at least until the sun dropped, at which point I hit my wall regarding people time and had to scurry home. I fell asleep on the subway—if I’d been wearing a red hat everyone would have assumed I was yet another Santa Con casualty—and put on my nightgown two minutes after I walked through my front door. Right before I passed out, I realized it was only 7pm.

That’s how I am right now. My back injury of last spring made it clear that I had to stop being such an island and, ever the obedient student, I took note. It also taught me that I had to keep moving—literally and figuratively—so ever since I regained my mobility I’ve been a she-rooster with her head cut off, a blur of grownup-lady bluster, a to-do list that takes no prisoners. I walk at least six miles a day, often right into the heart of what scares me, and it’s not just my waistline that thanks me. Life has improved so much that I’m now willing to say 2015 has been great if also exhausting. I feel first and foremost that I’ve cleared a pathway for even bigger strides in the new year (which begins on my birthday in late January; phooey to the Christian calendar hegemony). But until then—besides finishing this mountain of assignments sitting pretty on my aquamarine desk—my remaining job seems to be to achieve at least a tenuous balance between alone time and people time.

This last week I had pieces due every day (hence the relative quiet on this blog) and events to attend every single night. Every plan was a good one, complete with just enough glamour to give me an excuse for a pretty dress. The trick, I think, is to seek humans who wake you up rather than wear you down. Ironically (or maybe not), I find that my fellow extroverted introverts most reliably provide this kind of company.

Of course, the truth is that no matter how much I treasure someone’s company, I still morph into a punked-out pumpkin by 10 pm at the very latest. The beauty of working and living by myself is that I rarely have to defend this quality—I lead an existence that is carved out mostly by own predilections (if also a financial bottom line). But being attracted to others who live similarly self-determined existences means that we have to labor to find common ground. The good news is that sometimes we do.

So it was that, upon rising at 5 am on Thursday, I had a text exchange that made me grin like a crazy lady. It was with a person with whom I’ve had a confounding if sparkly chemistry for fifteen years. He’s been on an opposite trajectory as me so our intersections always prove magical if also nerve-wracking. As adults (finally), we seem okay with our differences, or at least ready to be okay. Case in point: The week before I’d mentioned an event I wanted to attend but decided I wouldn’t bring up again unless he did. He goes to bed precisely when I wake each day, so the text exchange in question went like this:

He: Do you still want to do this tonight?
Me: Yes
He: I will be there*
Me: Yay
He: Good morning
Me: Good night

Voluptously concise, don’t you know. To be clear, this person is a friend, but I view this as no small thing given that friendship is the highest form of human relationships. So we had ourselves a fine old time and at the moment my nouns and adjectives became as random as a game of Rap Libs (this happens mid-conversation if I’m out too late), he ferried me right to my door before continuing on into the night.

I was pleased.

This morning I woke at 3 am– not surprising given that I’d slept eight hours by then. When I was a live-in girlfriend, I always found such early-morning risings inconvenient; typically I had to keep quiet for at least another four hours, which made me feel hostage to my relationship. But today, luxuriating alone under the covers with the moon still reigning supreme outside my window, I was free to do as I wanted. And what I wanted was to rewatch a critic’s screener of Creed, which has turned out to be one of my favorite films of the year. Given that it’s a boxing movie, I’d find this surprising except it resuscitates the Rocky franchise with so much underdog heart that it’s irresistible, like the cinematic equivalent of Philadelphia, where it’s rooted on every level. It also lives up to the great promise Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan showed in Fruitvale Station, their first collaboration.

I watched happily and at full blast, wiggling my toes beneath freshly laundered sheets, my paw entwined with that of permakitten Gracie. (I think she liked the music; she’s an R&B kitty just like her mama.) I texted Mr. Thursday, who I knew would still be awake, and we gushed over the film’s genius before he finally went to bed. I emailed with a film critic crony about Tracy Morgan and Jordan. (He suggested an overlap that made me giggle.) Then I instant messaged sweet things with a male friend who rises nearly as early as I do and is better than coffee in terms of a smooth introduction to a day. Say what you will about the hazards of all this new social technology but it can create an extroverted introvert’s paradise.

The sun finally came up. I looked at the empty dance card of a Sunday stretching before me, and smiled at the new me I’d birthed. Nine months ago**, I might not have been able to interact with anyone after such a social week. Nine months ago, I might have been disappointed by the limitations of how these men were available to me, no matter how many limitations I also brought to the table. I’m learning. Blessed be, it’s a big old curve but I’m learning.

* My four favorite words to hear from a man, at least if he means them.
** Roughly the amount of time that has elapsed since I quit sugar. No coincidences here.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy