The Goddess Weighs In

Living Large and Healthy

I Only Have So Many Spoons

on December 15, 2013

When I first heard this expression I was confused, but then it was explained to me and  I immediately understood.  For those of us who lean more towards  the introverted end of the spectrum, going out, being social, and being around other people can be taxing.  It’s not unpleasant or  painful, but while many people are energized by being social, and going to parties and just being out and about I can actually feel my batteries draining.  I’ve had nights where I’ll go out with friends and at the end of the evening they are considering checking out an after party and I am desperate for solitude and calm.  That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy social gatherings and on occasion I have experienced the desire to have an evening continue into the wee hours if the company and the conversation are engaging, but I do require more solitude than some.  Last night I worked late and then I did some late night Christmas shopping and I was about to head to midnight madness at IKEA when I realized I had run out of spoons.  I have a finite amount of social energy and when it is tapped out I have to recharge. I’ve had two weeks of holiday parties, work events, and evenings out and other than the pretty violent food poisoning I experienced earlier this week I’ve enjoyed myself and enjoyed catching up with friends, but last night I hit a wall.  I was pushing a cart through Walmart and found myself seriously considering yelling at people to get out of my way or to wake the freak up as they meandered around the store aimlessly pushing their carts in one direction while looking in another.  Thankfully I recognized that it wasn’t them, it was me who was having an issue. I may never understand why people wander around Walmart if they apparently don’t need anything, but it’s inappropriate for me to berate them for this behaviour so I wheeled my purchases to the check out.  IKEA was next on my list and I was seconds away when I had to admit that if I actually parked and went in I was going to be so overwhelmed that there might be tears.

The majority of people are extroverts, they thrive in social gatherings and feed off the energy of others in a good way.  Years ago I was travelling with a friend and we were talking about what we would do on a particular day and after each thing we discussed doing she would say “and then what are we going to do?”.  I honestly thought she was joking, but I soon realized that she craved being social and meeting new people and bumbling about the city and to her my need to be alone and quiet for stretches of time was simply alien.  When I relaxed a bit and opted to “go with the flow” and let her plan more of our activities I did have fun, but when we got to our hotel each night I was exhausted and went right to sleep and left her to watch tv or wander around the hotel and I would wake up very early and try to snag some quiet time before she flipped on the tv and started the day.

With the holidays it can be almost impossible to hold out some personal time and I find it difficult when people simply don’t understand that my need to be alone is not a personal slight to them, but rather a basic need for me like sleeping or eating. I try to be good about it, and I try to recognize that just as their need to be more social is foreign to me , my need for quiet is foreign to them, but sometimes I have to be clear that I am not attending an event because I just can’t.  Oftentimes  I “polite” myself into doing things because it’s the right thing to do and they attended my party so I should go to theirs or I had to cancel on them last time so even though a week is crazy busy I will try to slot in one more dinner or outing, but I’m recognizing more and more that I need to take better care of myself and mental health is just as important as physical health. In fact mental health may impinge on my physical health, by increasing stress, affecting blood pressure or causing me to eat more in an attempt to self soothe.

If you are like me I encourage you to find the right balance of social and personal time and to not feel bullied or overwhelmed by those who simply don’t get that you’re different.  For the rest I hope that if you can’t understand us that you can at least respect our needs and recognize that we do want to see you and have fun with you, it just might need to be delayed so we can gather up our spoons.

– the Goddess

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6 responses to “I Only Have So Many Spoons

  1. I can relate to this feeling. I require quite a bit of down-time to reflect and recharge. I don’t do well in large crowds and I feel frequently feel isolated within a big group. Small groups work much better for me. Oh, and Walmart? The other day I found myself with creeping anxiety there. I left half my list unpurchased and checked out because I had to get out of there.

    I hope the rest of the holiday season finds you enjoying the company of friends and loved ones, but also allowing for rest and reflection.

    BB

    • BigLizzy says:

      BulgingButtons-baby!!

      Love seeing you over here, sis. And, obviously, I totally relate to what you share here, too. Walmart is just too much for me. My husband, bless his heart, can see my warning signs and says to me often: “Honey, I can finish up here; why don’t you head out to the car.” He’s such a Godsend to me. You, my sweet sister, are not alone. Just want you to know that we, your introverted sisters and brothers are everywhere and we get it.

      Love you!
      BigLizzy

  2. BigLizzy says:

    Goddess!

    Very interesting, this post. I completely, utterly relate. Every sentence you wrote just resonates so strongly with me. I love how you share this–softly yet directly and with unapologetic honesty.

    While you say that being social isn’t unpleasant or painful for you, it’s often exactly that for me. I’m a major introvert even though most people think that I’m extroverted. I have learned to tap into extroversion in order to make my way through the world and get basic needs met, but the reality is that I have serious social anxiety and would often rather stay in the house, reading or writing.

    I have to push myself, HARD, to even walk into a supermarket. It’s that bad for me. And, being around other people is actually physically painful for me. I feel their pain and my own. A friend of mine recently told me that it’s because I’m a physical medium. While I don’t really know how to work with that, it does not surprise me at all. I just wish that I could turn this awareness off sometimes.

    When I express this kind of thing to others, they are often flabbergasted. They simply can’t reconcile the “social” and “loving” BigLizzy of my blog with the discomfort that I’m so clearly demonstrating and expressing.

    I have walked out of markets and left a full shopping cart. I have left parties abruptly. I have turned down countless offers for various social gatherings. I have sat in a hotel while friends go to the concert because I simply cannot take the stimulation and pain of being around other people. There are many of us out here, sister. Some have crippling social anxiety while others manifest it in a softer way, but we are everywhere. And, most of us are writers and artists of some kind.

    Have you read the book “Solitude” by Anthony Storr? Oh-ma-gosh, it’s such an awesome exploration of the introverted psyche and why many creatives and visionaries absolutely need solitude in order to be on this planet and contributing. It’s a profoundly liberating and fascinating book. I loved it.

    Here’s to hoping your holiday season is comfortable, enriching, and pleasing to you in every way, my friend. You know what you need. Take it and know that you are loved and supported in your needs.

    XOXO

  3. I’m so glad this post resonated with you. Many of us hide our introversion so well that others never guess that we are completely overwhelmed in social situations. You are very lucky to have a partner who can appreciate your need for solitude and calm. When I was looking for a definition of the word introvert the first one I found described introverts as being self-centered as if that was the same thing as being introspective. Sometimes I think we introverts need to organize and stand up and be recognized. . .then I remember that’s exactly what we wouldn’t do 😉 I had planned a fair bit of time to reflect and write this holiday, but suddenly my days are filling up. Right now I’m working extra hard to find some quiet in the chaos.

    Happy Holidays!

    • BigLizzy says:

      Happy Holidays to you, too, Goddess! And, Happy New Year! You made me laugh with the whole “let’s organize” and then, the “oh, wait, we wouldn’t do that!” Totally! We could start a grass roots org that’s all virtual. Everything would be done by Skype and email. No parties, no in-person meetings, no picketing, nada. Hahahahah! Love it. Have a good one, my friend.

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