Growing up, I didn’t know I was an introvert, I just figured there was something wrong with me. I am glad to see Introversion starting to gain some momentum as something other than a disability to be overcome. There is some pretty good stuff out there these days contributing to what the Huffington Post calls “the growing conversation around introversion.” (See the fantastic graphic “Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted.”)
I never really felt quite at home in the world as a kid, but I learned to adapt. Having extroverted friends helped: often I could just float along in their slipstream. Also, while I would go to sleep-overs, I usually ended up finding a corner or a bathtub to sleep in, away from the others. I did worry, despite my efforts to fit in, that the real problem was that I possessed some sort of Flaw: life seemed so effortless for so many others, so what the hell was wrong with me?
I realize now that it was my perceptions that were flawed.
I made it through those early years thanks to my various communities: I had a good family and just enough friends to feel safe. As an adult I have learned more and more about what I need (time with others balanced with time alone, for example), which has helped me have compassion for the needs of others. I know now that my experience, even though it is very personal to me, is in fact universal, and not just for other introverts.
My journey as a human being and seeker and priest is teaching me that this feeling of not fitting in, not feeling at home in the world…this is the human condition. I can picture a Universal Truth Mad Lib we could all fill in: “As a child, I felt bad about being __________ and ___________. I thought it was because I was ____________ in a world that was ___________.”
The first step to overcoming this isolation to confront it as a lie. Our sense of separation and division is not real: we are one, as God is one. We are, in fact, all beloved of God, and created to love one another. These are dangerous times for those who seek love over hate, light over dark. It is a radical act–and a real risk–to reach a hand across a boundary. But we can be healed (and agents of healing) only if we cultivate compassion for the isolation of others.
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time/ Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime / Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight / Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight when you’re lovers in a dangerous time (Bruce Cockburn)