An introverted extrovert

I like people and, though best not to put it to a vote, I think I’m likable. I used to stuff every nook and cranny of our lives with people like a never ending game of sardines.  Meals very often included other families. Leisure time, movie nights, and game time were rarely just with our family. I kept the fridge stocked just in case there were visitors, made extra helpings of every meal and snacks were always available.  My children learned that their home was alway open to others and at any time their parents attention would be shared with whomever showed up. It was a busy but dizzyingly communal and satisfying.

However, of late I have become a fairly unsociable person.  It can take me hours to talk myself into socializing.  I know that once I’ve conquered the anxiety of being around others, I will inevitably enjoy the company. It just takes me a lot of self talk to get there.  A part of me misses being a social butterfly, but the uninvited pressure on myself to be “on” is exhausting.

So which am I? The social extrovert or the isolated introvert?  For several years I have struggled with the unwanted decline in my social calendar.  I feel guilty. Like I have failed friendships and relationships because I no longer invest in them to the level I did before. Prioritizing my own comfort and self care over the needs of others has me wondering if I am living wisely or selfishly.

While this conundrum creates endless introspection I have discovered some things about myself.  When I do manage to get out I can invest all of myself  without distraction because I have allowed myself time to be calm and take care of my own soul. Some friends have stayed close, even though I’m not as present as I used to be in their lives and I treasure those relationships deeply. I enjoy my time with people more than I ever used to because I am intentional and strategic about how much time, what time of day and locations of where I gather with others.  I make those choices deliberately so I can enjoy interaction with people on terms that fill my soul rather than deplete it.

The truth is, I am both extrovert and introvert and by intentional self care I can celebrate both sides and love people and myself with a depth I didn’t know I had.

The Dance

“If you were to look at your medication list it looks like you are schizophrenic or have a personality disorder. You don’t, but it looks that way.” Thanks, Doc. Appreciate that insight, I think.

I counted. I take 11 medications in a day. Antidepressants, pills to help the anti depressants to work, three kinds of anti anxiety to keep me from climbing the proverbial and literal walls, blood pressure meds to help me sleep, keep me asleep and keep the nightmares at bay. Not to mention the fail safe med to calm me down when everything goes awry in my brain. Anti psychotics, anti depressants, uppers, and downers. It’s a lot.

I tried medical marijuana which the pot doctor said would replace all the others didn’t work. It made my anxiety go down and my depression get worse. Plus, given my chemical tolerance, I was taking the strength that cancer patients take to control their pain and I could’t feel a thing. I could try drinking but my alcohol tolerance is so high that I could very possibly get alcohol poisoning before I knew I was intoxicated.

I’ve taken to vaping because a couple of meds cause intense sugar cravings and it’s either inhale something sweet or add to the 50 lbs the meds have already deposited on my ass.

Even with all this there are days when I feel like I can’t manage to get out of the house and interact with the world. There are also days when I feel like I can “tony the tiger” it and catch the world by its tail. No one day is like another, except every day feels the same.

Frequently I feel like dumping the thousands of dollars worth of meds into the garage and going commando, living life free of medication. Other days there aren’t enough meds in the world to curb the anxiety and frustrations of life. Sometimes by the end of the day I begin to mentally play russian roulette, trying to decide if I take a little extra of this or that can I get to sleep and end my day faster. I don’t but I consider it frequently.

This is the dance of medication. I pray, I mediate, I study scripture, I exercise hard 5 days a week and try to balance my social and isolation time so there isn’t an imbalance to create problems. I work hard at doing what I need so I can stay in polite society but its wearying.

But I will continue the dance because it allows me to live a life worthy of living. I can worship, encourage others, have friends, love and take care of my family and learn to love myself with because God ha blessed me with access to the care I need for my mental health. Most days I’m grateful for this life. Other days I’m just grateful to make it through the day. But today? I’m so grateful for this life I have.

Bicycle Built for One or two

I followed my heart to San francisco for the weekend. The pilot husband and I had a short weekend together to explore the city while he was on a long layover.
We took to the wharf on a sunny Sunday morning and took in the sounds, sights and smells of the ocean, a dream away from cold Montana. As we walked we happened upon a bicycle vendor where you could rent bikes to tour the wharf. They had tandem bikes which seemed like fun too so we plunked down some plastic and rented a bicycle built for two.

My mother loved the “oldies” and as we embarked upon our venture I had the tune of the old song “Bicycle Built for Two” running through my head.

“Daisy, Daisy give me your heart to do
I’m half crazy, hopeful in love with you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford the carriage
But you look sweet upon the seat
On a bicycle built for two”

Let me tell you, it only took us about 2 minutes to make roadkill of the romanticized version of tandem bike riding that I had treasured in my heart for 30+ years.

My husband stands 6’1 to my 5’4. For some reason we put him in the front of the bike, probably assuming the power should go in the front. Bad idea. Very bad idea. His seat sitting 6 inches higher than mine, plus his body being larger produced the ill-gotten effect of a total blind bike ride for me. I could see nothing except his back. When he stopped I would jerk forward almost plastering my nose into his back, because I wasn’t expecting a stop. When he turned I would have to quickly rebalance my self because I couldn’t see a turn. You would think I could just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Not so. I felt as balanced a sea lion balancing on a ball with a ring on my nose.

I insisted loudly and repetitively to my husband that he HAD to communicate with me when he made an adjustment to speed or direction. I finally had enough. I drug my feet until, we slugged to a stop and I took his phone to take a picture so he could see what I could see. He is a very literal person and I thought this would help him visualize my blind following. This was after several harsh words and possible screeching by the irritated and possibly rabid woman that had replaced the romantic of 15 minutes ago.

We eventually made it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which I am sure was a relief to the husband since the sound of the traffic drowned out my voice. We crossed the bridge and back without disaster or a fist fight and began our descent towards to the waterfront. As the ground leveled out my darling husband screeched to a stop because of a car coming. This is where the story gets real. Ugly.

Due to the sudden nature of our stop I tipped off the bike. No longer saddled I thought my precious had noticed I was no longer astride our steed. Nope. Off he rode for probably the most peaceful two miles of his ride. Off he rode with his red coat tied around his shoulders, flying in the wind like a super hero cape. Alone. On a bicycle built for two.

Without wheels I had no option but to keep walking in the direction of the sunset he had rode into. I’m not ashamed to say I seriously considered calling an Uber right then and there and returning to our hotel by myself. But I just kept walking past all the happy couples and playing families. The groups of friends laughing and enjoying their day. My fury gathered speed faster than my short little legs could.

How, I wondered could he not notice I wasn’t on the bike? I’m no featherweight so did he assume I had suddenly turned into the weight of tinker bell? Did he suppose I had, fat chance, assumed a peaceful SILENT demeanor?

We have a disagreement about how long I walked but being the injured or at least unseated party my view point wins. I am sure it was a mile. The moment I most wish I had video of is when he noticed I was not only not on the bike but also no where within sight.

He came rushing back, cape flying, solo, on the bicycle built for two full of apologies which fell on indignant ears.

What have we learned? If there is any hope of our marriage lasting we should never ever again rent a bicycle built for two. We’ve learned that I don’t like traveling blindly through life. I want to see where I am going and what obstacles are in my way. (The possibility enters here that I have control issues.) We’ve learned that communication is essential and if the other party is silent it isn’t that they are necessarily at peace. They may be missing from the conversation completely. We learned that even though the road may be bumpy there are lots of places along the way to stop and take pictures and take in the view.

And we’ve learned that we should never ever again rent a bicycle built for two.