Guilt free introversion

When I was first divorced, I didn’t have a lot of social systems. I had very few friends from before I was married to reconnect with and even fewer from the time when I was married. My life mostly consisted of wife and kids. So when I started getting the chance to do more and have the freedom to do these things, I usually found myself without a cohort to do them. But for some reason, I felt this compulsion, this “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO that drove me crazy. On Friday or Saturday nights, if I wasn’t out having fun, or hanging out with friends, I felt like I was wasting the time that I was given. I felt like some sort of shut-in loser. I felt like I was in competition sometimes to make as many new friends as possible, and if I didn’t I was somehow lacking.

It took a few years to get to the point where I accepted the fact that sometimes I didn’t need my “squad” or people to do things with. I was totally capable of doing them on my own. I didn’t feel left out if I was my own favorite company. When I was dating someone, I felt included–usually–but it wasn’t all that important to have a whole band of people to do things with. It was quality over quantity in that case. My last gf and I were pretty much homebodies. We would spend time together just hanging out, smoking cigars around the firepit, having a glass or two of wine or beers and just relaxing after a stressful week. There wasn’t the compulsion to rush around and be social all that much. It was kinda nice.

Then the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns happened, as did finding myself single once again. With lockdowns too, nobody was getting out and going places and if you did try, it wasn’t the same. It was a waste of time. So, I started staying home more, enjoying my own company. Writing more. Reading more. Dicking around on FaceBook a lot more. I could connect with people via messenger or the very close friends I had were in my bubble of contagion and we could spend a Friday night just watching Netflix or sharing a meal. Or I could do that on my own and not feel like I was climbing the walls.

Everyone was stuck in this boat, but honestly, I miss very little of those early days of needing to be doing something on a Friday or Saturday night. Sure, sometimes I miss people watching or doing something new. Getting a drink with friends too. But on days like today, a lazy Saturday where my son is in the next room playing video games and the house is quiet, and it’s a little cold outside and I don’t feel like walking anywhere in the wind, I’ve gotten to the point where I can just be still. Do some writing. Drink copious amounts of coffee. Clip the dog’s nails. And I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

The lockdowns have given me guilt free responses to FOMO. Sorry, can’t go out, lockdowns. *Shrug* I am not missing out because I just don’t feel like it. When I want to do something, I’ll do it. I judge myself less harshly. Should I be working out? Probably. Should I do dishes? Yeah. But instead I choose to sit down and write these words. Pet the dog. Have a phone call with an old friend and then do something else that needs to get done.

But I’m not stressing anymore about being an introvert. I get out and do things when I can and when I want to. I’m not in any rush.

The same cannot be said for my next big trip. I am chomping at the bit to fly somewhere new and push my comfort zones. But that works nicely with introversion too. I can charge my own batteries and see new things, without the hassel of having to have a crew to enable me to do it.

Do something every day that scares you

The more I’m trying to work on my travel writing, the more I feel like I’m scaring myself silly. Which is a good thing. I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me. Hell, right now it feels impossible to even get someone to respond to an email, much less setting out on some long press trip. In many ways it feels like something someone else would get to do and I would listen, just drooling about the whole experience. And they would probably just complain about how dirty a city was or that it’s hard to get a drink with ice in it in Europe.

I begin with daydreaming.

If you can begin with a dream, then you have a goal, and you can work towards a goal. That’s how I work anyway. That’s how I was able to go to London nearly two years ago. Tonight I was looking at Google Maps and just seeing the green of the UK and the hedgerows and the way cities were laid out made me miss my experience. Jeez, I could FEEL what it felt like to see those places! I want to go back. I want to go so many other places too.

I discovered that you can buy a rail pass and see Europe for pretty much which it cost me to drive to Oregon last month. (Around $400) You can take a month to go from place to place too, with several cities and stops along the way not really adding anything to the price of tickets. I didn’t realize how close countries are really. In many ways, it’s a lot like our states here. Yes, I know that is a newbie thought. But when you visualize it like that, it seems less daunting. It seems like a shorter hill rather than an unsurmountable peak.

Hopefully lockdowns will relax and in the meantime, I can figure out little things like how to fund trips like this. Time is also critical. Gathering information. And though a month trip like that is likely a far off experience, it’s a good place to start.

I can’t believe it has been nearly two years.

I have the wanderlust bad these days. My trip out to Oregon was only enough to take the edge off just a little bit.

This is the motivation. What doesn’t come so easy is the discipline to do it. To just keep hammering away at it until something clicks and it goes from being a dream into reality. Work, read, write, pitch, query, travel, repeat. It’s a simple formula, but one that sometimes I feel is about twenty years too late. But back then there wasn’t the access to information the way there is now. In some ways it is easier. And then my life is a little more complicated than it was back then.

I suppose it’s all a trade off.

I mean, what happens if you set a goal and there is nothing standing in your way except how much you want to work to get there, and the result is getting everything you want and more? How terrifying is that? I mean, what if you actually get it?

Wow.

The mark of other

Have you ever wondered what propels certain people to create things artistically?  Whether it is visual arts, writing, music, or any other form of madness which some feel compelled to create out of nothing, something has driven these people to work and rework something until it takes on a life of its own.  Any art is a form of expression, usually gathering details from the world around them, and trying to make sense of it.  

As far as you can go back, people have done this.  In early times when some where struggling to not starve to death, or not be trampled by a giant animal they were hunting with a spear, one of their clan looked up at the starry sky and figured there was some sort of meaning in all of that.  People try to look for the patterns in things, and artists are the ones who really go to town when it comes to interpreting these patterns.  This is how we get things like religion, art, music, comedy, storytelling, and science (as much as science now tries to divorce itself from the rest).  It’s an inheirant flaw in the one creating these things who just isn’t satisfied with taking things for granted.  They have to fret and fiddle and tinker and tweak until it does.  Or comes close. And then they start all over again.

In ancient times, this sort of mental defect gave people holy status.  Shamans, oracles, soothsayers; this difference was noted and elevated to some other status.  The Other.  The Weird.  Seeing the world with a different set of eyes.  Nowadays, this sort of talk is consider pretentious.  Art is considered with deference to putting a coat of paint on a wall, music is something that guy in the town square does because he won’t get a real job, and don’t get me started on writing.  I’m sure I have half a dozen posts around here talking about how the work writers put into the craft of stringing words together is something lots of people feel like they can do (and they probably can) but probably not all that well.

So where does this defect come from?  I tend to think of it as a pearl inside an oyster.  Most oysters are happy being blobs of salty snot attached to rocks and piers by their hard external coverings.  But sometimes a piece of sand gets inside and to protect itself from this irritation, the ball of snot forms a calcium coating around it until it becomes something valuable to people right before they’ve slurped the ball of snot down right out of its shell with a little bit of hot sauce or lemon juice.

The idea is an irritant, and the artform protects the fragile mind of the artist from destroying itself from the absurdity or pain of such a thing.  The conflict.  The places only dreamed of, that would otherwise just exist and slowly drive this person mad.  Unfortunately, the artist is already sorta there.  After all, they are wired somehow to pick up these signals, while most of the rest of the species is fine with watching Real Housewives or focus on not starving to death in a hovel.

Is it a bad childhood?  A defining moment that rattled the artist’s perception?  Lack of kids their age to play with on their street? Some sort of defense mechanism that makes them look at details in some way that is different from others?  Something that makes someone bad at parties because they can walk into a room full of people, sit down with their drink and just listen to those around them, pet the cat or dog for an hour, and go home again.  Something that said to them it was hard to be around people for very long because it just reminded them of their own Otherness.  The drink or drugs are relied upon as a social lubricant, to numb those thoughts that would intrude in what most people would consider “fun” but to the Other are felt as much of a waste of time as a “normal” person would consider brush strokes, rhyming patterns, themes, or minor key.

Sometimes I feel like schools have been working against promoting this kind of creativity for a long time.  But thinking differently is why we have pretty much anything that isn’t rolling around in the mud for roots or fighting off competing predators for a rotting wildebeest carcass.  Even then, the first proto-human to figure out that a stick or rock to the snout of one of those slavering monsters bought you some time to get more food was an artist in their own way.  It’s just strange knowing that to see how little art and creativity is valued.

We take it for granted.  You turn on the radio and hear music you probably couldn’t play, that talent takes your mind off your monotonous commute between commercials for things you don’t need.  You eat a dinner at a nice restaurant you probably don’t know how to make.  You read part of a novel that someone spent two years of their life writing and chuck into the donation pile when you are sick of it.  You call that painting in your hotel room tacky, but could you have painted it?

All this taking things for granted devalues it.  Something not long ago that our ancestors considered holy is now just…not important.  Disposable.  Of no consequence.