Coming out of a Shell

A: I’ve been thinking lately that I’m finally getting enough of the stick out of my ass that I’m getting a little more comfortable with the idea of being halfway competent at nurturing relationships with real people with real faces.  Maybe that has something to do with it 😛

B: I think a nice way to say it is that you’re coming out of your shell

Earlier this year, one of my big goals was to mitigate my compulsive introversion a little bit.  I didn’t know how I’d go about that.  I knew, though, that I wanted closer friendships.  I wanted more people to know more about what goes on in my head and in my heart.  I wanted to be better understood, and hopefully more truthfully appreciated by the people around me.  It wasn’t that I felt I was being false or misleading up to that point, but frankly I left a lot behind closed doors.  At best, I think I’d left a lot of room for people to imagine what I am or to infer it from real or perceived clues.

In some sense, I suppose that that goal of mine seems pretty obvious for its benefits.  On the other hand, I’m not kidding about that introverted business.  My social endurance is usually pretty lacking.  I’m a “caving” guy.  I normally have to take breaks from crowds here and there to recharge myself a bit before diving back into the fray, and even ask my wife for solitude at home on a regular basis.

From what I understand, that’s completely typical of introverts.  Despite loving my friends and wanting to appreciate people, milestones, and experiences, I definitely feel that being in social situations drains my batteries.  I recuperate in private, alone.

Variations on the theme permeate my life.  F’r example, I’m intensely private about my spiritual practice, for the most part – sharing in small rituals usually gives me the willies and I prefer improvised, idiosyncratic meditations to satisfy that urge.

These past couple of weeks around the holidays have surprised and shocked me, though.  Since I gave myself that goal to be more outgoing, more forthright, in contact with people I value, I’ve found myself more or less spontaneously doing so.  I attend more social events.  I have more conversations with more people.  More of them are less well-known and comfortable to me.  The recent culmination was playing a typically raunchy and damning game of Cards Against Humanity with my wife’s mother at that family’s Thanksgiving gathering, following grand and shameless political judgments at my family’s.

I actually flinched in a big way after the political business.  Something to the effect of “Holy shit, what did I just do in front of my grandparents?”  I’m not positive of what I had felt at that moment, but it was somewhere between panic and shame, I think.  I don’t think it was that my outburst after dinner was controversial – generally we all agree on at least the principal behind what I said.  It was way the hell outside what I consider my comfort zone, though.  I’d normally spectate through such a conversation or withdraw and take a breather.  Instead, I ranted a bit, and I argued a bit, and I loudly and publicly followed a chain of logic from premise to conclusion without allowing myself to be interrupted.

I flinched afterwards, once things had died down, and I doubted myself.  It truly was outside the scope of my self-image, and that scared me.  On the other hand, it’s what I’ve pointed myself towards for the better part of a year.  It’s what I’ve been studying some (yeah, I’m that kind of person) and reminding myself of and pondering and talking up the virtue of.  And the funniest thing?  That it’s starting to look successful.  And beyond that – can you keep a secret?

It’s kind of fun.

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