Time to take a break from socio-political commentary and address something near and dear to my heart: introverts. It’s estimated that one-quarter to one-third of the population is afflicted with this crippling condition, so it’s worth a look.
One of my pet peeves is when introverts are viewed as defective and in need of fixing. Let’s face it, most extroverts don’t understand introverts. Subconsciously, many extroverts think introverts must be changed, and believe introvert tendencies can be overcome if the introverts in question are exposed to enough socializing opportunities such as nightclubs or parties. Somehow introversion is looked upon as a flaw that must be corrected so those poor pathetic souls can function in today’s high-octane world.
But as a confirmed introvert, I beg to differ. Since my earliest days, I’ve liked solitude. In fact I spent a significant portion of my young childhood wanting to be a hermit. It’s no wonder stories like this catch my eye (is that property still available?).
But the world revolves around extroverts. After all, humans are sociable creatures and deliberately seek out interaction with others. To prefer solitude is seen as unhealthy and creepy. But not everyone wants constant socialization. The Charles Ingallses of the world sought to live in distant woods or lonely prairies because they longed for solitude and independence, not constant socialization and unstoppable conversations.
My husband and I are both introverts. In fact, the older we get, the more introverted we become.
We far prefer quiet to crowds. Because of that predilection, we’ve chosen to live in a deeply rural location where solitude is inevitable.
Solitude is defined as “the state of being or living alone; remoteness from habitations; or a lonely, unfrequented place.” If you consult a thesaurus, you’ll notice there’s not really many flattering synonyms for solitude. The best the English language can offer is loneliness, privacy, isolation, seclusion. They all have negative connotations, as if solitude is something to be avoided.
But my husband and I love it. We both thrive on loneliness, privacy, isolation and seclusion.
The funny thing is how modern society considers solitude a temporary thing suitable only for accomplishing some vague mental-health goal. If you google “the longing for solitude” on the internet, you find a lot of people who long to “find” themselves and depart for some remote destination to locate what apparently has been lost. Invariably, they discover what they’re seeking, pen some heartfelt poetry, and return once again to their normal, crowded lives where the benefits of their solo journey soon wear off.
In other words, solitude is considered at best a temporary state of affairs before facing the normal, crowded world once again. No one wants to stay in those remote locations forever. That would be, y’know, abnormal.
Or is it? Maybe introverts are onto something. Psychology Today notes, “What’s really blocking our joy in relationships, our creativity, and our peace of mind? One surprising answer, in this age of alienation, is a lack of solitude. Meaningful alonetime, it turns out, is a powerful need and a necessary tonic in today’s rapid-fire world. Indeed, solitude actually allows us to connect to others in a far richer way. Invariably, solitude meets with social questioning, if not censure. Even worse, people associate going it alone with antisocial pursuits and unnecessary risk taking. Perhaps most striking, solitude conjures up pangs of loneliness.”
In other words, people feel compelled to apologize for their desire for solitude, as if it’s a shameful thing not to thrive in crowds or to require a break from the hustle and bustle. And while solitude is acknowledged as good and necessary, no one quite knows what to do with people who prefer it. What about us introverts?
Not all of us who seek solitude are “lost.” Some of us have found quiet to be so enjoyable that we’ve made it our normal status quo. It might be argued that we solitary types have already “found” ourselves and are subsequently so comfortable being alone or with beloved family members that we have no need to buffet our senses with a great number of others.
Lately on my Pandora station, I’ve been “up thumbing” examples of early church music and Gregorian chants to supplement my selection of Baroque classical music. Perhaps unconsciously I recognize the pull of solitude early Christians felt in order to hear the voice of God more clearly.
These early Christians were merely part of a subset of humanity who has always preferred solitude to society. Thoreau is probably the best-known example, but consider these lines from William Butler Yeats (1839-1922):
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Introverts sort of “came into” their own during the pandemic lockdowns, when suddenly everyone wanted to know what it is they did all day. Extroverts have had it tough over the last two years, no mistake. Lockdowns created a cruel situation for people who thrive on activity, socialization and events. But introverts and lockdowns? They go together like bacon and eggs.
In a piece called “What Introverts Wished Extroverts Would Understand,” one respondent wrote, “I live alone on a farm. I don’t go out to the local bars. I don’t try to date any locals. Some weeks I don’t ever leave the property. And people always ask me how I can stand to live in the middle of nowhere. Well [bleep], that’s the easy part.”
The reason I decided to write about introverts today is because I just saw a funny anecdote about someone who was unaware of the whole pandemic:
Talk about the ultimate introvert! Whoever this guy is, he’s my new hero. I, too, look forward to the day when I can go months without leaving the homestead and be blissfully clueless about whether or not there’s even a pandemic. Now excuse me, it’s time to go get some oats.
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