Leave Me Alone I Can’t Stop Talking
By Jane Tawel
March 19, 2017
When I am with people I tend to talk. Some might say, I talk a lot. For this reason, it took me a long time to realize that I am actually what is called an Introvert. It will take me a lot longer to convince some people I know that I am in fact an introvert, but that is neither here nor there.
An introvert, as psychologists now know or believe they know is not someone who is shy. That is the definition of well, a shy person. An Introvert is a person who “gains energy from being alone and loses energy from stimulating situations, such as social events”. When I read the list of what an introvert is, I was relieved on so many levels. It was like going on WebMD and diagnosing what is wrong with you. You read the symptoms and can say– “Wwhhheeewww! –well, at least I know what will kill me!” When I read about what Introverts are, I felt I had discovered what was wrong with me all these years. But I also felt I was not alone – that there were all these other people who everyone thought were “outgoing” but who were really just yakking their way out the door until they could get home to a good book. When I was able to self-diagnose myself as an introvert, I felt the same way I did when I thought I had leprosy –until I looked up my symptoms on Wikipedia Symptom Checker and discovered the rash all over my face was due to a reaction I was having to my “Fountain of Youth Cream” that the Israeli at the mall kiosk foisted on me. I was so relieved I didn’t have leprosy that I didn’t even feel angry anymore about the $50.00 I had spent on a fancy jar of what turned out to be plain old petroleum jelly.
Here is a primer easy-read link if you want to know more about “The Introverts”, or “My People” —
We have a joke– at my expense, as is often true in my family– about “my people”. Whenever we are watching a movie or reading something about what I believe to be my ancestral folk, I might yell out, “Hurrah! Those are MY PEOPLE!” or “How awful! They did that to MY PEOPLE!”
One’s own people are always spelled in ALL CAPITALS! At my house, the historical or social connections to MY PEOPLE might be on any given occasion a connection to something about The Irish, The Scottish, The Native Americans, or The English. It is rarely about my people The Germans, although their DNA is in there on my maternal Grandmother’s side. One tends to selectively choose one’s People when one is a mutt as most of us are. It’s like saying on the licensing form that our dog, Jolie, is mostly Golden Retriever, because if we told them she is actually mostly street Coyote, they would take her away.
My husband will josh me, “who are your people this time?” He can kid me because his people (no caps) are not MY PEOPLE. I joke back that my people were all the Conquered and his people were all the Conquerors. Another HAHA at my expense, though for The Conquered Peoples, not such a hilarious joke, although one of MY PEOPLE’s great traits is learning to laugh at dark, bad things. Humor is definitely one of those traits you get from whatever DNA sticks to you. Speaking of my husband, he, like his French ancestors likes to laugh at prat falls and slap stick – a type of humor the Conquering Peoples enjoy at the expense of other people. On the other hand, I love self-debrecating humor. I sit in coffee shops laughing out loud at Charles Dickens whose black humor at the expense of himself, slays me every time. Self-directed humor is the primary love language of my people as we laugh our way back to the servants’ quarters.
We can now discover what the science of DNA testing tells us about who our people are. Conversely, if we don’t want to commit to any people group, we can on most forms check the box that we “feel” we relate to as our people. Take your pick –race, gender, culture, or none-of-the-above-listed peoples. I used to have a key chain that described me and MY PEOPLE perfectly. It said: “I live in my own little world; But it’s okay, they know me there.”
In my family, I am known for choosing movies which are not just about underdogs but about severely disabled people – severely disabled people either physically, mentally, or socially – but often physically. And mentally. Favorite movies of mine include ones like “Being There” or “My Left Foot”. If someone tragically dies in the movie, even better. My children are still angry with me about the un-intentional emotional scars I gave them as small children when I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate New Year’s Eve by watching the movie “The Elephant Man.” If you don’t know it, “The Elephant Man” is about a severely disfigured man and the famous line is “I am not an animal, I am a man!”
Even though I am introverted, I tend to talk a lot. But I finally have realized thanks to “The Huffington Post” that this yabbering on and on in a group of people is actually a disability due to my introversion – a trait that psychologists seriously considered diagnosing as a disorder. I talk because when I am with people, I think I have to “give” to them of myself and when you are in the same space as another human being, to me that means giving them words. I am known as a giving person. So I give a lot. Of words.
When reading about Introversion, it also relieved me to realize that introverts do not talk “small talk” and tend to be “too intense” with “a penchant for philosophical ideas and thought-provoking books and movies”. They also prefer writing as a means of communication. All of you who know me – let me know when you stop laughing and I will go on………..
Hence, I guess, I thought it was a gift to my children to watch “Elephant Man” — a profound philosophical discourse on how the outside of a person can deceive you into missing what he or she is inside. As someone once said, you never know who has a disability that you can’t see. Whether a person’s outer disability, like John Merrick’s physical deformities, makes you think they are inhuman; or if the opposite is true and you are worshiping someone’s outer self because it seems beautiful or brilliant, someone like the serpent in Eve’s garden – we tend to be fooled either way by appearances. We should be looking for the created humanity that is “a little higher than the angels” that is inside of The Other. We should be daily searching in the faces and hearts and minds of total strangers and daily companions, that spiritual God-like part that resides in all of us. Conversely, we should also be aware of how easy it is to make idols of those whose outer glory confirms our own selfish and self-serving desires. As C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory: It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or another of those destinations. It is our gift – to ourselves and others—to help each other towards our eternal destination – because it is a destination meant to be travelled together, introverts with extroverts, men with women, believers with non-believers, Us with Them. MY PEOPLE with THE OTHER PEOPLE are God’s People.
If one of my 7th graders is having a “put myself down” moment, I make them say out loud these words from the Psalmist: “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. This wonderful verse reminds us we are all made in the image of God. But it is a very specific image – we are not god-like because we are human, we are human because God made us like Him. When we are more like Him, we are more what we as humans were created to be and when we are less like Him, we are less human. When we treat The Other as like God, we become more like God ourselves. This is the Jesus way and why He could say, “when you see me, you see God the Father.”, the Father of All People. Remember that funny old politically incorrect children’s Sunday School song? It went like this: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of God’s world. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His Sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
My gift to my children at our New Year’s party of “The Elephant Man” (to name but one of the many movies I have forced them to watch in parental attempts at what I hoped were guiding lights) — And my passionate conversations –even when they are utterly misguided discourses– on life with friends, family members, people in waiting rooms, women and men standing on the corner waiting to be picked up for a job, homeless people I have gotten to know, like David, and John, and Clifton, and random pick up conversations with total strangers I am stuck next to in grocery lines—all of these come from my need as a fearful, timid selfish introvert to GIVE. Which is why I am often so very wrong while simultaneously being so very right – Because of course sometimes my Giving is really just a cover up for my desperate need – a need to be someone or do something– A need to be “worshipped” instead of to “worship”. A need to force the outside of me to make up for what I perceive to be my inside flaws. Sometimes my “giving” is perhaps a bit like forcing a leg of lamb on a vegetarian. I need to allow myself the idea that, If you don’t have the right gift for the right person at the right time, go back into your little metaphoric monk cell, Jane, and be quiet. But sometimes, even though I look and sound like a crazy lady pontificating, I am at least on the right track when I am treating someone I am sharing space with, as if they are godlike in importance and worthy of all my emotional passionate energy and connection. I am most who I am created to be, when I am depleting my energy by pouring myself out into The Other. This is what Jesus came to show us about who God is — a God who pours Himself out into all people who seek Him.
It is always hard on some level though to accept and honor the “Differentness” of The Other. No matter whether that Other is a person we dearly love as I do Raoul, Justine, Clarissa, Verity and Gordon — my favorites of those I call MY PEOPLE — or whether we are trying to get along with some one so radically different than we are, that we would prefer to pretend they are not even completely human, as we sometimes do people who are different than we are religiously or politically or geographically.
My daughter Clarissa is probably an extrovert. It’s taken me a while to realize that when she comes home and we are all just sitting around reading or watching reruns of “Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Monarch of The Glen”, Clare feels depleted. Her energy sinks and she needs to get back out there and go, go, go and socialize with people – horrors! – even at a party with small talk among –gasp! – new people or —gag me with a spoon! – passing the time of day with co-workers! Clarissa is delightfully different than I in this area. As an Extrovert, she is The Other – beloved but different. She is in many ways like me but she gets energy in different ways than I do. This can cause misunderstanding but because we love each other, we don’t stop trying to figure it all out together.
My husband, Raoul, tends to be somewhere in the middle of all of this introvert/ extrovert spectrum. As one example, Raoul prefers to go to parties and people’s houses, not host them. I am the opposite, preferring to host people so I can be The Giver –and at my house I can also have a good excuse to go hide in the kitchen and not talk with the guests who I truly love but just can’t chat with right now because I am cooking or some such thing. I prefer to speak to a large group of strangers rather than to chit chat in the hallway with someone I really do like a lot. I can teach a group of students and sell them ideas but I couldn’t sell a product to my best friend to save his or her life. I will discourse with random strangers at length about theology, philosophy, psychology, art, the meaning of it all—but I feel completely de-energized when asked what my favorite color is. People debate my introversion by saying to me – but you went into acting, teaching – you speak in public so well – well, yes, being someone other than myself in a crowd of people and talking about IMPORTANT LIFE ISSUES–is so very much easier than being my silence- loving, imaginary -world reading self forced to discuss the weather with a group of close associates. I figure my friends are mostly those people who know my odd philosophy -spouting passionate-imploding self and for some reason stick around me any way – perhaps they stick with me really only because I make a killer cheesecake?
I should have had an inkling of my introvert-disorder back in high school when we were given the task of memorizing a poem. I chose this one by someone who was perhaps not an introvert but in fact shy, Emily Dickinson:
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong Day –
To an admiring Bog!
So going back to the Israeli at the mall. I often hear MY PEOPLE or American Christians, quote this verse from I Chronicles 7:14: “if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” I hear this verse taken out of context on so many levels it isn’t even funny. I wish it were humorous so I could keep this essay light and a joke about myself, but Scripture is pretty serious after all. All I want to point out here is that in the particular Judeo-Christian worldview to which I espouse, even when I diagnose myself as a part of a certain people group – Native American, Irish, Female, White, Introvert – My rooting for MY PEOPLE does not let me off the hook of connecting with “THE OTHER”. I find too many people who want God to “heal the land” of MY PEOPLE, while they themselves are busy destroying “the land” of THE OTHER PEOPLE. Because THE OTHER, in my mind, and possibly in yours, is always in CAPITALS as well. THE OTHER is he or she who is not like me. In Religion, this becomes like one of those jokes: An Jew, A Muslim, and a Christian walk into a Holy Site… The joke is ironic, because all of those three religious groups see each of the others as “THE” Other. Each claims to be God’s “MY PEOPLE” and the only God’s people in the world. And as much as my DNA has geared me to love irony, humbling myself enough to pray for the healing of The Other takes serious hard work. And that is rarely a joke to any of us.
Just because I am an introvert and I dread social environments does not mean that I don’t walk into those uncomfortable situations any way; because I believe that is what people are “called” to do – to give of themselves to THE OTHER. So too, we must invite THE OTHER into the protected space of our comfort zones – into the Holy Sites of OUR PEOPLE. And for some of us, The Other is the Conquered. And for some of us The Other is the Conquerer. If we take Jesus seriously when He said, “someday you will worship neither on this mountain or on that one, but in spirit and in truth, then we must believe that the Holy Site is one we all and we always carry with us. The Holy Site is our soul; it is our God-image, as we each are“fearfully and wonderfully made” human souls. This sometimes means, not giving by talking into, but giving by listening to – sometimes listening to what is not said aloud. It sometimes means acting without speaking, as Francis of Assisi is assumed to have first said: “Preach the Good News. Use words if necessary.” It is sometimes and often admitting we are wrong or selfish. It is sometimes speaking out against injustice when all we want to do is watch a movie about it. It is sometimes being in the wilderness alone praying. But it is always, according to God, loving THE OTHER as deeply as I love MY PEOPLE. It is treating the different Other as my Own.
I have not only spent a lot of time speaking into, but have spent a lot of time “listening into”. I have even actually been hired in certain jobs of mine to be a “listener”. I have found sometimes though, that I am often so nervous in a social situation that I begin to babble in order to cover up my fear and my overwhelming desire to run away from the person or persons in front of me and go on a nice walk or sit in a corner of my house with a book –all alone. When my children were small my husband often offered to get me a jogging stroller so I could be with the child even more! My daughter, that same extroverted Clarissa, has recently asked me to go on a charity race with her. I feel horrible saying no, but I have never been in a race since “Field Day” in Junior High. I don’t say no because of the running or walking, which I have done for years. I decline to race with any one because of the sure knowledge it will involve a crowd of real people. People who will want to small talk with me. People everywhere all around me, people without the time to discuss before the race with me about Pascal’s Wager or the humor of Charles Dickens in Great Expectations or Covenantal Theology vs. Arminian Theology. People who won’t leave me alone with my silent thoughts as I run. It is all the “Humanity, oh the Humanity!” — all THE OTHERS. And I know all of them will want to know what my favorite color is.
St. Paul, whose character traits I struggle with (perhaps because he was possibly an introvert like I), claimed that in Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Paul was trying to explain a new way of seeing each other to two very different sets of believers, sets we might today call 1. God’s first MY PEOPLE, The Israelites (as Paul was himself) and 2. God’s grafted on MY PEOPLE, the Greeks or The Church – who had actually been included from the beginning, but that’s another story. Paul suggests that if we want to follow Jesus, we can no longer see someone as THE OTHER. Jesus, the Only King, the only One who was truly THE OTHER – and yet completely one of us, said it even more directly,”The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Let me honest – I am not one bit sorry for making my kids watch The Elephant Man as a New Year’s party celebration all those years ago. They certainly have gotten a lot of funny jokes out of it. But maybe they have also, in a small way, realized that if we really want to party hard like Jesus, we must invite into our parties, our homes, our lives, the least, the lost, and the disabled. If we want to be like gods, as Lewis says, we must first recognize the scars our parents give us which we heroically live with and over come– and we all have scars from our ancestors – the distant and the immediate ones. This is what it means in part when the scripture tells us, “the sins of the parents will be reborn in the children to the third and fourth generations”. Sins are like DNA, they are passed on whether we want them or not just like our people pass on red hair or brown eyes or a penchant for Kimchi whether we want them or not. But we must also accept that we can not always see the scars of others, and yet, not seeing them, is no excuse for not seeking to heal them. We are called to be humble healers of The Other and therein lies the secret to the healing of our own “land”. When I don’t want to look at the scars of others or listen to the angry hurt and maybe hurtful confessions of THE OTHER, I am running away into my safe, private introverted comfortable space –and that is true even if I am speaking in a crowd of thousands.We are best served when we party hard with THE OTHER delighting in them as our audience. That is who Jesus came to party with. Based on all Christ’s trips to the wilderness, mountaintops and out on the sea retreats that Jesus took – He had to be an Introvert. With a great sense of humor. And a laugh like a truck driver. And lots of important words. And a heart for listening. And healing in His hands.
When we are honest, we can admit that we are all disabled. “We see as if through a cloudy set of glasses, as Paul writes of our abilities to understand or know. Robert Hensel says rightly, “There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.” He agrees with Lewis – being in the presence of any human being is a serious thing. When I look at THE OTHER, do I see God’s created image? Do I look for The Other’s “More”? Robert Hensel was born with the quite obvious and life-changing disability of spina bifida. He was also the Guinness World Book record holder for the longest non-stop wheelie in a wheelchair covering a total distance of 6.178 miles. I wonder if there is a movie about him I could show the family for Raoul’s birthday?
As a disabled person myself recently diagnosed with Introversion, perhaps I should make an autobiographical movie called “The Chicken Woman”?
Hey Kids – Want to come over for Easter and watch a movie? It’s about this disabled woman named Chicken but her real name is Jane Tawel…..