I know many of you just gasped when you read the title of this post! “How is that possible?!” you might ask. Many people with whom I interact guess that I am an extrovert by nature. When I’m with people, for the most part I am loud (sometimes obnoxious), goofy, and relatively boisterous.
But, in all actuality, I am almost an extreme introvert. I expend so much energy at times that I am completely wiped out after a social event. I retreat “within” and lay low while I create more energy. I’ve noticed this in my teaching recently: I’ll be ridiculously high-energy in front of students, but when they come to see me during a study hall or after school, I’m shot and I think it rather surprises them that I’m not as talkative as I am in front of their class.
A week or two ago, I became aware that I have been complaining a lot. I’ve tried to sort of “spread this out” among friends, so that not one person has to get the brunt of everything currently wrong in my life, but I find that this is not helping, and honestly….well, not fair to others. Also, I’ve been complaining for the wrong reasons – I’m looking for someone who has “the answers.” But nobody has “the answers” … Everyone has to learn to adjust to the quirky chapters in life. I’ve tried doing my normal things I do when I feel like complaining: I think of how lucky I am compared to billions of other people. I remind myself of where I live, who I know, that I am loved. I remind myself that there are people who are going through things that are exponentially harder than what I’m going through, and that all humans are going through this ridiculous experience called life at the same time. I remind myself “this, too, shall pass.”
I wondered if closing my mouth for 48 hours and literally not allowing myself to complain would make a difference. Except for some oddball humming (I was preparing a few things for this upcoming week…) and one accidental response on Friday night, I was able to not speak from Friday at 6 pm until Sunday at 6 pm.
I did not complain (since I couldn’t!), and it gave me time to notice a few things that I think are the true lessons I learned from this experiment:
1. I didn’t speak, but I never felt lonely. I was able to text, Facebook, and e-mail any person that I wanted to. There are a ridiculous amount of ways in which to communicate that have nothing to do with speaking. It is possible to not lose your voice (i.e. your sense of importance in the world) while not speaking.
2. There are so many things you can do while not speaking. I was able to apply for jobs, go to a grocery store, and complete a round of errands without speaking. Technology makes it possible to do many things online or by yourself. Do you realize that you can go to the grocery store and not have to interact with anyone? Imagine this happening in the 1950s! …….I can’t! It’s amazing how much face-to-face interaction has probably dropped in the past few decades. I’m sure there are statistics out there somewhere…
3. I don’t listen enough. I talk about this all the time with my students. There’s a big difference between hearing and listening, and most of our listening practices today deal with hearing, not listening. Think of all the times you listen to music while you DO something (sitting on the bus, mowing the lawn, working out at the gym, chilling out with friends). Music becomes a background activity instead of something from which to learn and/or analyze. Somehow, this behavior crossed over into my other areas of life. I think I learned this trait when I was learning how to socialize – many times, I’ll ask a person a question, but am already trying to think of the next thing I’m going to say instead of listening to their answer. This bugs me to no end when others do this to me, so I’d like to work on this for the future.
4. The source of complaining is not what I thought it was. With all of this time to ponder what exactly was eating me alive (although I normally am pretty quiet on the weekends to help “recoop” from the prior week of interpersonal contact), I was able to reflect and break down exactly what was causing so much tension and anxiety. It was almost like meditating all over again. I thought it was a certain situation that I have been working through, but now I actually think it has to do with a lack of courage for another situation that I’ve been in for a while. While the realization does not fix my current situation (which must simply just be lived through), it does give me some ideas of how to fix the bigger, longer-term situation. I have previously learned that you are in charge of your own happiness, and that you can always change a situation that you’re in; but, I was having a hard time identifying which current situation needed the changing.
I am actually really considering doing this a few times a year. I really like the reflection that came from it!
Other notable firsts:
* I had never eaten fennel slaw before. My dad made it for dinner last night. Delicious!
* I had never applied for a job on a military base before. I found a summer position that sounds like counting inventory in the Coast Guard Academy’s book store. Fingers crossed, please!
* I had never celebrated Mom’s 65th birthday before! Woo Hoo Suzi Bouffant!!!
* I had never attended my high school students’ athletic matches before. I stopped by the boys tennis match on Friday afternoon to catch some great matches. I plan on stopping by a girls match sometime this week. So nice to see the students outside the classroom and in a different environment.