Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Motherhood and Introversion: What I'm Learning About Me

I get to check The Gospel Coalition website once a month or so and last week I found this post.  I have heard songwriters talk about the songs they wish they had written and so now here is the post I wish I had written.  Not because it’s “great” or “amazing” but because this gal figured it out.  She said some really hard things but she’s better because she’s recognizing it all in her life and pouring the gospel all over it.  She doesn’t condemn herself or apologize for it.  It’s who God made her.  She’s an introvert.

Evidently, there is much buzz around this topic.  I didn’t really know that but I picked up a book the other night which caught my attention, “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.  “Quiet” caught my attention, because I gravitate towards quiet and still.  The tag line hooked me good and I bought it.  A few days later, I read this wonderful blog post.  I won’t rehash it but you should read it -- and you really don’t need to read what I have to say as I am simply responding to what I am learning and figuring out about myself.

It probably wasn’t until marriage that we figured this out about me.  For me to re-energize and be refreshed, I need solitude.  Jeff may have labeled me first -introvert- and that’s okay.  I like naming something.  It makes it smaller than not knowing why you feel the way you do.  I’ve noticed this “need” has come up more and more in recent years in mine and Jeff’s conversations so I’ve struggled, not really understanding it.  Not even liking it really.  Wishing I were different.  More like so and so, you know?

I have great memories from my childhood but a chunk of my pre-teen and teenage years were spent alone in my bedroom.  I remember reading a lot, writing pages and pages of silly words but I also remember just the quiet, the space and having the time to just look out the window.   How God made me was no different then than I am now-- I was VERY social in high school and involved in all the activities I loved.  My parents wouldn’t dare take my car from me because neither of them had the time to run me around to fulfill all of my commitments.  People would certainly have described me as “outgoing” but I could only be that way when I had the capacity for it-- after solitude and rest.  My room.  {I am what they label a "calm or social introvert"- not overly anxious about social interactions.}

College fostered this need with ALL of the studying I did.  This was so easy for me.  To study.  I could hide away in my room with an excellent excuse or find a cubicle in the ginormous Science Library at UGA.  I could go hours and not see a soul.  But when I did, I was ready for them.  I had great conversations in whispered tones at that library and the break was welcome.  It was simple to recharge in college.  Early marriage and young children had its challenges but finding time to be alone was pretty easy because it was bulit in. We both worked but I had days off during the week and he had studying to do.  Babies and toddlers took naps every day, sometimes twice a day so when nap time was over for Julia and Brighton, I was recharged and ready for them.

And then I said yes to homeschooling. {Big grin with a knowing look.}  I have some very sarcastic comments floating around in my head-- the humor of my family of origin that does not fly in Julia and Brighton’s family of origin.....-- so I will refrain.  Of course, we are together a lot and yes, now I have my Tuesdays and Thursdays but for an introvert, space and quiet are needed EVERY day.  Too much stimulation causes irritation and stress.  Just a few minutes of not being needed is helpful.

As the years have passed, I know myself better and know what works for me and what doesn’t.  At 43, I know I don’t multi-task well.  I can do it when I set my mind to it but I may not be spreading sunshine around while I cook, listen and respond, clean, greet hubby and grade homework.  I know once I have had overnight company, I need rest, space to be quiet and maybe most importantly, no big expectations from anyone for a period of time.  That is really hard to type because that’s not always convenient for me or for the ones I love and live with.  It sounds selfish but I also know how helpful it is and how READY I am to jump in again once I have had it.  At times, I experience anxiety or frustration when I am in extended small talk situations with several people.  Almost all parties, larger settings throw you into small talk world.  I love a party and I can talk with the best of them but after a while, you may see me off in a corner with one or two people or see me just riding the coattails of an extrovert friend. Thank God for those friends!!  Truly.  They are a gift to me and minister to me without even knowing in situations like that.  There’s much more but these are the biggest to me-- the things that affect the people closest to me, the things that have caused me the most guilt.  And that is what I loved about her post.

My sweet cousin who I get to enjoy each summer on St. George is the mom I have watched who wants to be with her kids ALL the time-- and seeming to never need a break.  I had thoughts of maybe I wasn’t cut out for this mom job.  And thoughts would go to here:

“The tug led to feelings of guilt. Why did I feel this constant urge to get away from my children if I loved them so much? Add to that tug the sincere Christian desire to sacrifice and you have a recipe for burnout. The guilt led me into a vicious circle. The harder I tried to be the mom I thought my kids needed me to be, the more intense the feelings of "I need to get away" would become and the guiltier I would feel, which would lead me to try even harder. I tried to change something I couldn't change about myself.”   

That’s been the struggle these years, not really understanding it, feeling guilt, wishing I were different, but being powerless to change how I felt on the inside and this driving need I had for solitude.  So no further wallowing and no more words needed except Eowyn Stoddard's lovely, wonderful, life giving conclusion...

“The gospel frees me to embrace who I am while not using my weaknesses as excuses for laziness. My identity in Christ has to be the foundation upon which I build my personal identity, regardless of introversion or extroversion. In his sovereignty, he made me the right mother for my kids. He has promised to perfect me and even use my weaknesses in his service. Sure, there will be challenges, but that is how God intends to grow me and conform me to his image.
You will be stretched to your limits. Every time you fail or sin against your husband and children in your introverted way is an opportunity for you to receive grace from God and to live out the gospel: repent, ask for your family's forgiveness, and let the Holy Spirit transform you. It is a hard but beautiful process to work out the story of redemption before your kids.” 


Emily said...

Beautiful K. I have a lot of thoughts, but mostly I just loved reading your words.

Lizzy said...

I'm a (quiet) follower of your blog--I love your thoughts and often find similarities in our lives. What's funny, I read this Gospel Coalition article when it posted, and promptly printed it out to show my husband, alongside one of yours, about needing the time away, whatever it took, to be renewed Spiritually. I had actually thought of you when I read it--that you might like it--does that sound weird? Thank you for sharing this truth. I have felt the guilt over the years--I believe one of the enemy's favorite tools for me!But always, we must preach the Gospel back to ourselves--in our weakest points, He shines through--and my inadequacies He uses to humble, purify, make me holy--Amazing Grace!

Krista Sanders said...

Lizzy-- you know I understand "quiet follower". Thanks for commenting today-- it's always SO encouraging to know that someone is reading. I am honored. And no, that does not sound weird that you thought of me. Honored again-- and you were right on. I am on the journey with you and asking for His sanctification and that I will yield to it. Thanks, Lizzy!

Patti said...

My husband is still understanding this about me. He does not enjoy quiet (he falls asleep with earbuds, listening to spy books! Or talk radio!! Loudly!!!) and could not believe me when I tried to explain how much I really, really DO enjoy absolute silence.

I've seen buzz about this book on several different blogs, which leads me to think that blogging and introversion probably go together.

I had two back-to-back small talky events yesterday, and while I can manage, and even enjoy it, (I'm the social version as well) I was truly exhausted last night.

Anyway, a (quiet) amen to this post.

TJ Wilson said...

Glad you - quietly - got this down in words. Great stuff to chew on. And love the top pic of you & j!

Chef the girl said...

I love this! I always relate so well to your posts and find myself nodding my head or thinking, "Exactly!" when I read what you have written.

Amber Smith