I am an introvert who hasn’t been alone for three years.
I woke up bitchy yesterday and not even coffee helped. Not a walk, not patting the horses, not buying an online subscription to the Times. Still bitchy. There are plenty of possible reasons for my mood: it’s school vacation week so I have just as much work to do in a shorter, more interrupted amount of time; I did not get my full allotment of cake yesterday; Luca got a buzz cut and now looks like he’s about to hook the car keys with a casual forefinger and say “See ya, Ma,” as he heads out the door with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve.
But after weighing all these potential reasons while the children and four-legged creatures around me scuffled and vied for attention, the truth occurred to me: I just need everyone to leave. I love you, now go away.
Introverts gain their power from being alone. It’s being alone that feels the best to them. Being alone is when they get the work of discovering who they are and what they want, done. Aloneness is essential to their health, happiness, and productivity. If you are an introvert and you spend three years in the company of others, even if those others are the ones you love best in the world, chances are good you’re going to start assuming that every mistake you make is evidence of your inherent inability to succeed. You are going to begin to take minor, meant-to-be-helpful criticisms as gospel and quit whatever your trying to accomplish. You are going to start weeping in the shower. You are going to remember the plot of William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault and yearn for that kind of profound solitude.
This all sounds so harsh.
But it’s true. Give me a day full of nobody and I will return. I will be back to my fairly sunny self. I will make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without sighing.
I got a tiny taste this morning when I took a short walk down the road to look at snow. The woods were lovely, dark and deep. For a few minutes I could indulge in a fantasy about a nuclear holocaust that left only me in the world. But then a jeep drove by and B called from the porch to complain about his brothers and a clump of snow dropped down the back of my coat. Some day you’ll find me on a desert island, but apparently not this day.
Until then, dammit, be warned. If you see me sitting at the kitchen table, my fingers wrapped around a cup of coffee that’s gone tepid, my eyes fixed on the stained wall across from my chair, do not assume this is an opportunity for you to ask me for something. It’s not. I need to look at that wall for a little while longer. I love you, now go away.