Month: May 2011

Yes, I am an introvert

He meant well. As I sat on the bar patio with nothing to defend me save my laptop, he brought more and more people my way. He saw it as social networking. Introductions, to his mind, were good. I should meet everyone. Knowing names and faces did something, though I couldn’t quite peg what. His intention was to make me feel welcome, and it would wound him to know that in fact he actually triggered my flight reflex.

I’m good at mastering these reflexes. Most people have no idea how uncomfortable strangers make me. Since most of these people were drunk – my least favorite kind of people – they never sensed even a remote glimmer of my discomfort.

I smiled and quipped and made eye contact. I also felt the inevitable shaky buzz that comes when I lose center. I was surrounded, and the only escape was the equally crowded, buzzing, un-centering bar. More alcohol would only make my already strained sense of self and safety worse.

I found myself inadvertently chain smoking – typically a pack lasts me six months, but this one made it about four hours. I did end up compulsively drinking more than I planned. I crunched ice, a surefire sign to myself that I felt anxious.

I have tried, repeatedly, to explain to people that I am in fact an introvert. I suspect the reason people don’t believe/don’t hear me is a combination of my appearance and misconceptions about what introversion is and how it works.

I am not shy. I can talk to strangers, and I’ve had many a surreal and enjoyable interchange at bus stops, in the YWCA locker room and even riding elevators. While shy people are all introverts, not all introverts are shy.

Yes, I can get up and talk to a group, march up to a manager and call that stranger about business x. That is not a sign of extroversion. All that tells you about me is that I’m not shy – i.e., I’m not constrained from interaction by fear. I love a good conversation that explores morality and the problems of the universe.

But if you listen to that conversation – I mean REALLY listen – you’ll notice something: I don’t talk about myself much. I ask questions of my interaction partner. I repeat back what the partner says, and then I add on that.  When someone asks me how it’s going, I say “fine,” and often reveal little else, inquiring about the other person instead. There are people who have known me for five years who probably don’t even know my relationship status, where I’m from or what my favorite color is. Sometimes this is their fault, but usually it’s not – quite simply, I am an introvert. I don’t feel a need to broadcast facts, and in truth, I often communicate this way because sharing too much about myself leaves me physically tired.

Crowds drain my energy. People who enjoy conventions and big parties find me bewildering, especially when they try to drag me into their interests. I’ll make eye contact, charm, soothe, seem fine…but I’ll get the hell away as fast as I can, because I’m not fine. Every second I’m surrounded by excess chatter I can feel an energetic drain because the activity is too much for my consciousness to keep up with and I just don’t enjoy it.

I don’t move like a shy person. I’m a fat woman, and I take up space, and I don’t apologize for it. Where many women who identify as introverts give physical indicators of shyness from demeanor to clothing, I dress with confidence because I like clothing and because I am confident. I just don’t enjoy being part of the mob. That’s not a criticism of the mob at all: it’s just not my gig. I’m not the person you want to drag to some social media marketing thing; while I might be able to strike up a conversation with someone, I get bored pretty easily and I’m disappointed when a communication fails to reveal any depth. Because I’m an introvert, I prefer real relationships, not social/party acquaintances. Because I’m an introvert, I need time to actually talk to a person that approaches me, and while I can do small talk I don’t like it much. Because I’m an introvert, I write, for fuck’s sake. The amount of time I spent writing should spell it out, really.

The well-balanced grudge

Some would say I am an expert at holding grudges: there are people I’ve been mad at for years. Since the only thing you can do when it comes to emotional accountability is to say “Yes, I did that,” I’m just going to have to go with that. Yes, I hold grudges. Following with “but” devalues any accountability, so there’s no but. Yes, I hold grudges.

It’s true. I do hold a grudge a long time. I’ve come to realize that this is one of those limbic-hijack responses where anger tells me “Oh yes, I’m so insightful and smart for seeing the problem,” that actually makes me short-sighted and rather stupid. All anger is supposed to do is turn your attention to the problem: after that, anger’s role is done. There is a troubling caveat that doesn’t happen all the time, however, that I will get to.

The trouble with holding a grudge is that ultimately, the grudge takes you prisoner. You can’t go places or do things in case you run into the person you hold the grudge against. Your friends have to leave you out of certain invitations. You can’t even accept an act of decency or an overture of kindness when it’s appropriate, because the grudge keeps you too busy to open to new opportunities in life along the pathway of the target of your grudge.

All a grudge really does is make your universe, inch by inch, so narrow that eventually you’ll be unable to leave the house or check your mail (because the mail carrier pissed you off.) It’s a classic example of anger gone awry, turning on itself. Anger is usually about control: either having it taken away, or not having control over another person’s behavior or outcomes. Whether that desire for control is justified or a warning sign of more insidious problems is a discussion for another time. When you hold a grudge, you’ve given up control to your anger – and therefore you have no control. Having no control is why you were mad in the first place.

The reality is that you will eventually do something that pisses someone off.  Also, every single person you know will do something that pisses you off. To be more clear: no matter who you are and how saint-like you consider your intentions, you will eventually on a one on one basis piss off every single person you know. Most people let things slide –  while I tend to get angrier at drunken misbehavior than at sober violations, I daresay most people blow off inebriated exploits; it’s reasonable to forgive if you were obviously tired, you were locked in  a room with your mother and a measuring tape all day or if someone close to you just died.

Yet even more serious affronts that might merit time for anger to cool still do not merit a grudge.  Ruining a borrowed dress, a dinner party that goes up in flames, even a ride that somehow ends in all four hubcaps lost are all anger-inducing offenses, and someone might be inclined to hold a grudge. Direct insults to your person, whether intentional or not, can also induce grudge holding.

Here’s the thing: most of the time, these terrible things aren’t apt to be repeated. If a bouncer turns you away at a bar and calls you a name, for instance, holding a grudge against the establishment for eight years means that you’re restricting your own freedom for a person who won’t even be there anymore. You’ll be telling yourself how clever you are and how you have principles, but in fact you’re making yourself a weaker person.

The grudges I hold on to are the ones where I’ve been given strong reason to believe the person who has violated my boundaries will not change that behavior when confronted.  This is usually because I’ve confronted the behavior…and I’ve gotten a “…yes, but…” You know the accountability weaseling involved.

That creates a difficult situation: yes, holding a grudge limits freedom, but for a person who refuses to stop hurting you once you’ve made that person aware you’re hurt by his/her actions is a big problem. This is usually one of the first signs of an abusive relationship, and then the situation becomes not about unanswered justice but about self-protection.  While no grudge is healthy, a grudge in its proper place on the anger spectrum is an inner warning: watch out for repeated behavior.

A list of weird things today

  1. A lady at the bank demanded we back up our car while waiting in line for the ATM. We actually left several feet of space, and we would have had to back out onto the street to satisfy her.
  2. I got gum stuck in my hair. I’m 35, and this is the first time this has ever happened. My first aid kit in the car has scissors, so that was fixed fast.
  3. For some reason, FourSquare set Mike and I both to South Korea.
  4. Saw a guy at Sam’s Club saran wrapped to a pole. I once assisted in duct taping a football player that had harassed all of us high school nerds to the end of our tolerance. The kid did not seem to see in the humor in nerds avenging themselves in packs. He actually seemed frightened by the idea. He was wrapped to the pole for charity, however, so I left a donation.

Venturing out for some art supplies and a cupcake now. I need to write up my experience at T. Thorn Coyle’s talk and book signing yesterday; I surprised myself by going instead of surrendering to the weather. I’m glad I did.

 

 

In response to Paganism on Wikipedia

... too much paprika!

I posted a response to Pantheon that either didn’t get posted or hasn’t been seen yet, and I do feel like I have something to say about the matter. I’ve identified as Pagan – Wiccan, specifically – since 1996. In that time I’ve seen a lot of changes within the Pagan community, but one thing that remains consistent is a one step forward/one step back mentality when it comes to adapting to the changes in mainstream culture. I think this mentality – and trying to break through it – is what’s really biting us on the ass when it comes to achieving actual documentation on Wikipedia. It’s a good thing that we’re starting to share our history with a wider audience, but I think we need to make it mean more to that wider, non-Pagan audience. In the long run, the question of Wikipedia is the question of outer Western culture, and one that marketers exploit like mad: “What have you done for me lately?”

Me and my herbs

My herbalism interest makes sense: given my own allergies and chemical sensitivities along with my passion for gardening, understanding herbs, how they work, how they interact with each other and so on makes sense. While there’s always some laconic jackass that insists that herbs are “dangerous because we don’t know enough about them,” I have a complete Physician’s Desk Reference, John Lusts’ Herbal and several centuries of data, anecdotal and empirical, that renders the assertion bullshit. I’m not in the “older is better” camp by any means. The LAST thing I want is the “good old days,” and I am blessed and cursed with a memory good enough to know how very good they weren’t, not even for the white males and lobotomized females that actually want that crap again. When it comes to herbs, if you’re not just jumping on a trendy-train and taking it because Oprah says it’s good, but because you’ve studied it, gone to your library over it, maybe even grown it and found out whether it demands to be fed your girlfriend’s dentist before you ever take it – I think what you’re doing is fine, because there’s a good chance you’re not skipping visits to your allopathic/Western doctor because you read all the warnings, too. If I didn’t have allopathic medicine, I would be dead. If I didn’t have herbs, I’d be miserable. Negotiating very carefully between the two means that while my energy levels could always be better, I’m a)not dead and b)not in a terrible amount of pain most of the time. I am also, blessedly, not addicted to any substance – I’ve even seriously curbed my cheese junkie habit. Part of this is because I’ve been very careful in how I use my herbs, and in understanding what they do and how that would or would not play well with the medication and high dosage antihistamines I have to take because of my urticaria.

Please note that I am not saying herbs are safer, that their being natural makes them better, that or one should trust them in place of allopathic medicine. No, if I were to make any such assertion, it’s that allopathic doctors need to get their heads out of their asses and their hands out of the pharmaceutical tills, because herbs are a tool that they could damn well use effectively especially in complicated cases where medications accidentally poison instead of heal. Can herbs do the same thing? Yes – but usually, since herbs don’t work as fast as the pharmaceuticals made from distilling essential chemical components extracted from those same herbs, it’s a LOT easier to catch and correct when stuff does go wrong.

I am wondering, as I write this, if doctors ever went on a similar rampage against vitamins? We don’t know entirely the interactions of vitamins either, and yet doctors feel fine recommending those.

One of my life goals is to get formal certification as an herbalist. It’s expensive, and I have student loans to pay off, so it won’t be soon. I do not practice on other people; I only mix items for myself after 6 months to two years of research. It’s why you’ll only ever see teas mixed for pleasure in my Etsy shop. Between my own chronic allergies and the way more and more people are developing sensitivities, I suspect it will be a long course of study, and I don’t intend on hanging a shingle when I’m done.

72 – the meaning of life, the universe, and everything +30?

72

 

I plan to go into more detail soon, but I’ve been ….well, I wouldn’t say “working with omens,” as it seems the omens come to me without my bidding. Still, now that I’m back to relatively normal, non-nightmare sleep after about three years, both my dreams and my waking life seem to hold more symbolic messaging than they did before. Perhaps I’m just paying more attention, but I doubt it. I somehow didn’t even realize Mike ate an entire basket of fries during Doctor Who meetup until we got the bill – and this was with him sitting right next to me. This doesn’t signal heightened attention in any way.

Today, I woke up from a dream with the number “72” lodged firmly in my head. My father died at 75, so that’s not it. Mike’s personal numerology is a 7, and mine is arguably a 2 or an 11 – most interpreters say I’m an 11 because nothing about me appears Moon-ruled. In fact, of all the tarot and planetary aspects, I daresay the Moon is to this day the one I don’t understand because I share so few characteristics with it. In the dream, I somehow wound up counseling two couples because one partner mishandled the other partner’s  bereavement. Obviously, it’s a metaphor for Mike and me, but I got the sense that these were actual other people because they talked about themselves and their personal story a lot more than my spouse and I talk about ours. (I don’t think anyone has ever actually asked us how we met, for instance.) I haven’t ruled out the possibility it’s a message moving forward, or a comment on circumstance rather than partnership.

The trouble is, most of the stuff I’m finding takes apart Biblical numerology. Since it’s all Revelations/End-Times stuff, maybe it’s just a subconscious reaction to all the rapturing news. Certainly I had an emotional reaction to it – aggravation at more hatemongering by the “believers” and at some of the more hate-filled and less humor-filled behavior of “non-believers,” and fear for those about to destroy their own lives over it – but I don’t think Jehovah’s flashing me a bat signal, and if he was he should have the courtesy to check in with my patron god and the other gods I’m working with at the moment.  I know they’ve all met and annoyed each other, so there’s really no excuse.

I’ll keep fishing, and meditating on a series of associations may bring me to some answer.  Most omens for me come out not as predictive but descriptive – a simple indicator of what’s going on right now. While most focus on myself and what I put out into the world, it can also send signals that correspond with the personalities around me. I’ll go into that more shortly.

There is a pool of symbols and associations together, and that is why I keep the Magician’s Companion and 777 on hand.

If the rapture comes, will you shut up?

051811 021

 

Apparently I’ve lived through the end of the world at least three times in my life: once, in 1994, when I didn’t even hear about it, then in 2000 when my toilet paper indeed did not turn into a Sears catalog, and it looks like I’ll be around tomorrow. If people begin shooting up in the air like helium balloons, I’ll be ready with my camera, assuming I’m not one of them. I don’t particularly want to leave the planet, as I haven’t seen enough of it yet. I also have a deep avoidance of picturing heaven: I asked a dear friend what he pictured as heaven once, and he died the next day. I’m so not doing that again.

Personally, I don’t think anyone’s going anywhere, and my predictions about tomorrow’s “event” are pretty morbid: rashes of suicides and murder suicides are my personal bet, as it turns out that once again that some bearded guy in the sky is keeping to His schedule, and not to the schedule demanded by a petty old white guy who just can’t admit he wants to die already. I’m really worried for the people that have blown their savings; that will not be easy to recover.

Here’s the thing about this absolutist-universe where the only option for the divine is some guy on a throne stroking his beard (despite explicit orders not to picture him or even assign him gender AT ALL): I don’t think that guy would be petty. If the universe has been his personal petri dish, and he’s so OCD that he really does know every sparrow that falls, he’ll know every single person’s personal context, why they believe what they believe and how they got to those conclusions. Assuming that this bearded dude is not as small-minded a jerk as his followers… he’s not going to take only the “believers.” If God-cum-Jehovah is the “good parent” he really wouldn’t just do random shit to make sure we knew he had all the power – that’s the tactic of an abusive parent. And if that’s the case, anyone sucked up in a Rapture is very much among the damned.

Any Jehovah worth his beard-stroke will take the “good ones” and will see the whole “believer thing” as a self-correcting problem. So let’s say that the Rapture did happen – a God with any decency will take the best of the best in his/her creation, and that means that there could well be a few Pagans, Jews, and atheists trying to grab their drink off the pub table and suck down a shot as they get sucked up into the sky. Not seeing exactly that will be one of my greatest disappointments tomorrow. (I would include Muslims and Hindus in the example, but relatively few drink whiskey.)

I’m Wiccan, and Gnostic, so GodisGodisGodisn’tGodisGod to me. Really. I think that divinity does splinter down to separate identities here and there, as needed. I refuse to believe any of those aspects embodies a self-righteous jackass that would damn billions to prove a point: my opinion of Gods is better than that.