Monday, February 7, 2011

Socializing the Introvert

Spurred by the book The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin, which chronicles the author's year-long journey towards greater happiness,  I am attempting to reclaim some of my lost extroversion.  I used to be quite extroverted.  The easiest way to cheer me up, motivate me, excite me was to plop me in the middle of a social situation.

Somewhere between seminary, where I spent a lot of time reading and studying alone, and kids, with whom I spend all day and night, I have become a fairly strong introvert (and people worry about homeschooled kids socializing -- they should worry about the parents).  I can still socialize with the best of them; I just don't always want to make the effort.  And I often feel drained when I do.

Lately, though, while sitting on the couch with my knitting, warmed by my Snuggie (shut up; don't knock it until you've tried it), SleepyTime Tea at my side -- pretty much every night -- I am feeling the loss of social interaction (that is, outside of our homeschooling activities, church, and the various activities for committees I serve).  Translated, I am missing parties.  And husband dates.  And girlfriend dates.  And spontaneous social time.

Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of opportunities to socialize (as mentioned above).  They are often rushed (kids' activities), though, or fraught with an agenda (meetings), or crowded (church).

Things change, especially as the kids get older.  Fewer homeschooling activities provide social time for the parents while kids happily play.   Lots of classes are now the drop-off type.  Parents frequently have to cancel when a child is sick or everyone's tired.

With that, I am trying hard to reach out and create more social opportunities.  That's right, I am attempting to better socialize myself.  We happen to live in a pretty demographically idyllic building.  There are several families with kids, several wonderful older couples with plenty of parenting and life wisdom to share, and plenty of diversity.  We often commune in the foyer or the garage, while getting mail and bringing in groceries.  During the summer, many of us frequent the beach.

I wanted a bit more, though.  So I have been intentionally stopping by the apartments of building friends, taking them up on their offers to do so.  These drop-ins often times lead to a communal dinner.  We threw a New Year's Eve party for the building and enjoyed our first anything on New Year's Eve since the kids arrived.  Last night, we threw an impromptu building Super Bowl Party.  Nobody watched the game, but the kids happily roamed from apartment to apartment together as we adults chatted and shared life-stories.

At the end of these events, I am indeed usually exhausted, but I am also happy.  They are filling me up.  They are filling up the kids (I was accosted by Blueberry first thing this morning, begging, "When can we have another party?").  They provide lovely opportunities to better know our neighbors and to socialize with people of all ages and backgrounds (a veritable homage to Mr. Rogers).  And they are relatively easy (I made a pot of chili, slapped a tablecloth on the table, and put out our party plates last night -- the neighbors filled in the rest).

And I feel better socialized already!

Today marks 4 years exactly since we move into our building!

6 comments:

Paula said...

Your building sounds just like my block - and it was wonderful! It's also invaluable in so many ways, not just the filling you up socially, but as a safety net in times of trouble, in the diversity of people for your kids to hang with, in getting that last egg when you're in the middle of a recipe.

It's a combination of lucky circumstances and hard work that make that community happen.

Paula the Other

LakeMom said...

So true Paula. I wonder if it is mostly an urban or semi-urban phenomenon or if it can also happen in suburban and rural areas?

Maria said...

I live in an extremely rural area (you've been to my house) there is neighborhood bunco, parties on the patio (that's what we do every week-end starting in Spring) girls crafting days, I meet for bible study in town, and I'm an introvert but thrive on these social gatherings, go figure.

Kathleen said...

Today is the four year anniversary of moving into your building? Seriously? It's Daisy's fourth birthday!! I guess that also means you have lived in your building for 28 dog years. :-D AND that the Founders of the Daisy Fan Club have known her all her life!

Annie said...

Honestly, I think it could be possible in the suburbs, but it takes an extrovert to organize it, since it wouldn't be as convenient as chatting in the elevator or foyer of a communal building. Probably depends on the neighborhood, too. Some are more transient - starter homes and such - where people don't live there long enough to develop relationships. But I think a lot of it is just doing it, wherever you are. My MIL said there was a woman on this block who used to get all the neighbors together regularly for parties, brunches, etc. Once they moved out, no one else took up the reins and it fizzled. Someone has to start it in a suburban setting, since it doesn't happen naturally.

LakeMom said...

Very interesting Maria and Annie. Thank you for weighing in. I'd love to hear more stories of community really working.

Maria, it is particularly interesting to hear your story because you do live so out-of-the-way. People really have to want to come to you! But then, you do throw awesome parties.

Annie, that is sad that the one person moving made such a difference.

Yes Kathleen -- 4 years. Who knew we shared such an auspicious day with Daisy!!!

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