Being Reserved

“There is safety in reserve, but no attraction. One cannot love a reserved person.”
Jane Austen (1775–1817), British novelist. Frank Churchill, in Emma, ch. 24 (1816).

That, is a tragic thought. The simple dictionary definition of ‘introvert’ is reserved. Imagine if all introverts were unlovable.

We know this can’t be true.

There was a time prior to my becoming aware of the difference in introverted and extraverted personality types when I considered the possibility, but this was the result of having so long been told, for as long as I could remember, that I was “too serious”. I was perceived, apparently, as a very serious five year old. If not serious, I was thought melancholy.

If I had been enterprising, I would have saved a nickel every time I was asked “what’s wrong?” when I was simply intent doing something–like making little books for my Barbies or bringing in worms when it was raining so they didn’t get cold or collecting a shoebox and string to “bury” a little bird that had frozen in the snow.

If I were visionary I would have saved a dime for every time someone has given me the directive to smile. “Smile!” they would say. Complete strangers compelled to give unsolicited direction to correct whatever it is that not smiling seems to convey. Seriously. Who bumbles around their day with an idiotic grin frozen in place? I don’t know, uh, maybe idiots?

After starting school and being exposed to the social world of adolescence, I was often encouraged “to lighten up”. To this day, I don’t know what it is that causes people to think this is useful advice. I am plenty “light”, in my opinion. I’m also happy being immersed in a deep thought or book. Speaking of which, I think every intimate relationship I have ever had was colored by someone’s upset over my reading. As a kid I was once asked why I didn’t act like a “normal kid and go out and play”. That evolved to my being chastised as lazy and “uppity” for reading so much. My mother was convinced my reading had something in common with my thinking myself better than her, which, of course, was disrespectful. Nothing farther from this was in my mind. I just really love to read! Really!

Why is it not ok for me to read while you are watching television? I don’t think any stirring conversation is eminent if I watch “Family Guy” with you. So what if I spend a marathon weekend reading an Orson Scott trilogy cover-to-cover? It’s a great story! Wait. You never read Ender’s Game? Wow. I am so sorry. You can borrow a copy of mine, if you want.

So, here is the deal: I’ve lived the era pre-Introvert appreciation and I earned my battle wounds. I am reserved. That’s the way I’m put together. I’m not shy. I’m not afraid. And, I’m certainly not slow, sneaky, secretive, unfriendly, stuck up, moody, unhappy or any thing else that confuses other people about my personality. (ok, I may be moody at times)
In fact, how I think and what I think as well as how I feel about something and why is not anyone else’s sphere of concern unless my internal processing of the experience of living impacts directly the quality of someone else’s life. If it doesn’t, and I expect that to be usually the case, keep your own processing to yourself. Really. My purpose for living does not include guaranteeing a comfortable experience. I once had a job like that and it didn’t pay very well.

If you are an introvert type, and you haven’t been told, yet, that you are perfectly normal and valuable just the way you are–You are just fine the way you’re put together. You don’t need to smile for anyone or stop being exactly what you are just because someone else, who happens to be different than you, is uncomfortable with that difference. That is their bridge to cross. So, learn from a veteran introvert and let them cross that bridge however they need to and resist the temptation to burn any along the way.

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