Monday, September 13, 2010

I hope confession IS good for the soul...

I seriously need God to stop messing with my heart.

…okay; not really. But sometimes, the nudging of the Spirit just strikes that perfect balance between challenge and support that you appreciate, but it still rankles you a bit.

Anyway, something that God’s been gently speaking to me about has been my personality. Rather (and here’s where a few eyebrows will go up), my tendencies to swing between introvert and extrovert. Now, some of my friends may read this and think it the height of humor that I might call myself an introvert, but bear with me…

One of the biggest blessings (and, conversely, curses) of working in student affairs is that when we leave a job, we tend to leave that particular campus or institution behind as well. This way, while it may be emotionally difficult to leave behind friends we have made as well as students we have come to care about, it’s at least a clean break. The past three years while I was at UM, however, I was not afforded this luxury. Through choices of my own, I opted to leave UM as a place where I got my paycheck, but still remain on the campus (due to us, y’know, living there). This meant, in fairness to the individuals who came after me in the positions I vacated, I needed to stay “away” from the students I had come to care for and the colleagues I had come to enjoy working with – all due to the fact that I didn’t want to either be seen like the creepy guy who graduates and then comes back trying to relive his glory days or to be seen in some ways as a “challenge” (meaning, the students might come to me for advice instead of the person who is employed there to be their advocate).

So, strike one against my ENFP standing on the Myers-Briggs test.

Then came the fact that I became a stay-at-home parent. This meant that out of necessity, the vast majority of my time I would have otherwise spent being social during the day at work with either students or my colleagues went to being the primary caregiver for Kai. Now, PLEASE understand that I am not in ANY way, shape, form, or fashion saying I regret my decision then nor do I now. Being with this toddling lunatic has been the greatest adventure of my life, and I love it more than I can really express. But, as with all things of any worth, it came with what could be called a price: my socialization. Ashley and I have spoken about how Kai needs to send more time with other kids his age so he can socialize, but…quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  

Strike two. E/INFP struggle a-growing.

I have noticed that in social situations when we have Kai with us, I tend to stay with him (rather than let him go off an lick an electric socket or something) while Ashley stays and talks with the adults. Part of this is because she shares a common thread with many of them (work) whereas I can talk at length about…what? Baby food recipes? The best times to visit the children’s museum? Never knowing where to find the TV remote because Kai has decided that keeping it in the living room by the television set just doesn’t make any sense at all? I may share some commonality with them, but ultimately…I feel many times like I have little to contribute to an adult conversation, partially because I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to HAVE an adult conversation with someone other than my wife.

Never has my Myers-Briggs been so screamingly transparent to me than this past weekend. To give a little backstory: Ashley and I are trying to find a good church fit here in Columbia, and me being me, I just gotta throw myself in heart and head deep to see how I might like the place (see also: Compass Community Church in Athens, GA and Mosaic Church in Miami, FL). Oh, sure – the teaching at the church may be (and in fact IS) fantastic, but I want to get to know the people. This means that when they ask for volunteers for something, my ridiculous self will probably go a-charging full steam ahead to see who I can meet. So, when they asked for volunteers on Saturday to come out for a video shoot, I went out to go see what I could do to assist.

My “I” declared war on my “E.”

To be fair: almost everyone else at this shoot knew each other. So, yeah, I was the odd man out (literally and figuratively). But…when I introduced myself to people, I could tell that I was pushing myself beyond my own comfort zone in some ways, sticking my hand out and saying “Hey; I’m Sonny.” I was forced to look people in the eye AT my eye level, instead of having my head and neck perpetually craned down to watch and make sure that the person I was with wasn’t eating dog food. I was in a social situation on my own, without Kai there – who I realized I have come to depend on, ironically, as my own safety blanket – to serve as a buffer, as a way to escape if I feel uncomfortable with the situation. Because it made me nervous. Because it made me feel self-conscious. Because it was incredibly loud, whether resounding with the sound of laughter or with the screaming void of a comfortable quiet.

“It” being community. That which we are called to. Both as humans but also as believers. “It” being that which we are to live in, act out, and illustrate what a non-fragmented life is supposed to be like.

Man. Talk about a smack upside the heart.

So – I have decided that I am going to start taking the needed baby steps required in order to get back to the me of who I am. This may mean talking to total strangers. This may mean me communicating in a manner other than behind the relative safety and security of a text or email (*gasp*).

This means looking into people’s eyes again.

This means looking forward.

This means “I” does not come before “E.” Especially after “why.”


Lala Jackson said...

In this (and in your facebook notes which used to be where I read your stuff) I have always admired and appreciated your honesty SO much.

The whole introvert/extrovert thing is something I really struggle with as well, and post-college I've turned into the ultimate homebody. Being around large groups of people has become unnerving and I generally avoid it like the plague.

Masker # 7 said...

Hi Sonny-
I doubt you even remember me but I'm a W girl (1998) who worked in the Admissions office when you were 'in charge' of Jr. Transfers.
I've been challenged by your blog posts but especially today's. I have been battling similar issues as a stay at home mom Extrovert/hiding out as an introvert and find it encouraging to know that God is tweaking (sometimes painfully) the same areas in others' lives too. My "E" and my "I" wage war as well, but I find that the impulse to introvert isn't usually God-inspired. That side of me is withdrawn, afraid, and unwilling to take risks. It's the ole introverted inner toddler who yells, "I don't wanna", whines 'I can't", folds arms, and stomps feet in a way of pouting, "I quit" usually because one of my "E" risks didn't turn out quite as fabulous as I had planned (or, more honestly, I didn't end up looking or feeling as fabulous as I had hoped. Though I care about the Message, often times, I care even more about my own reputation as a fun, 'cool', or relevant person. When I end up looking or feeling like a dork, the temptation to just 'quit' surges like a storm).

In sum, I just wanted you to know I'm reading your blog, have been blessed and challenged by it and particularly encouraged today to keep that introverted inner toddler under God's control!
Baby steps to freedom may not be as glorious as huge leaping strides, but we'll get there just the same! :)
Kay Bryant Hoffman

Emily T. Thomas said...

Yeah. totally feeling it. that looking people your height in the weird after lots of time as sole caregiver to little one (s)
*BLessings* as you move forward. babie-steps, friend!