Teri Orr: A self diagnosis confirmed
Sunday in the Park
Park Record columnist
My friend sent me a note this week and I asked how she was doing after a recent long trip full of crazy people and grand adventures. She said when got home, she took to her bed and stayed in for four days.
“I had an introvert hangover,” she confessed. “Do you ever get those?”
It is an affliction few mention. We sufferers just suffer in silence. When we met a fellow soul with the same condition, we nod, we smile, but we don’t say much.
We are introverts who present as extroverts. And it exhausts us.
Some days we simply have to unplug completely. Stay in bed to read. Walk in the forest – or at the beach – alone. Or my personal favorite: take a drive with no destination in mind except away.
All my life I had avoided officially doing a Myers-Briggs test. I never had a job that required it. When it was all the rage and you could read the test without taking it, I decided I was part of every answer or maybe none of them. The whole thing seemed silly.
But last month I spent six days in a land cruiser with two men who have written bestselling books on happiness, driving down dirt roads in the middle of the most open lands on the planet. Greg decided he would “test” me to find my “type.” He also added his own animal twist. Did I mention we were in a vehicle for hours on end? There was no escape. But I did love his enthusiasm immediately, so I agreed.
Turns out I am a whole bunch of letters – mostly all the way to the end of one side of the spectrum – save one. I did not commit them to memory. He did confirm my self-diagnosis of being an introvert presenting as extrovert. And he said I was a dolphin. I don’t remember what the dolphin meant in my intellectual/emotional profile but I didn’t much care – I like dolphins.
One night on this same trip we were walking under all the stars in the sky on a perfect warm dark night and trying to name them. And I said to his partner, in the time and space – altered way I was by that point in the journey – “I don’t even know how to explain how I’m feeling,” and he stopped and said, “Happy. That feeling is happy. You may not recognize it.”
And I had to think about all that. I was happy. Maybe even blissful at that point. I had grown comfortable with my travel mates and there were long, long stretches where no words were needed.
But back in the real world: I get over-peopled. Not over-stimulated, really. This is different. Just too many people, too many conversations, too many opportunities to learn and laugh and yet… just too much, too many, too bright, too noisy.
Did I already have that conversation with person? The children are hers, his, theirs? Did I say I was reading that book, saw that movie to that person or that one? I thought it was age-related but to my great relief I hear even introvert millennials have these same issues.
Before I had this current job: here’s how I would spend New Years Eve. I would buy myself a cheap bottle of bubbles, a new novel and lots of cheap bubble bath. I would never look at a clock- some years there were fireworks I heard and could tell the time. Some years I slept through them (I was out of the tub at that point).
On New Year’s Day I would drive up to the monastery in Huntsville and buy some honey. And then I would head over to the Shooting Star Saloon for a Star Burger. And I would take a clean notebook and start to write without confines, pages of thoughts about the year that was and all the dreams I had for the year ahead. Some years I would see eagles soaring over their nests up there. Sometimes Brother Timothy and I would sit for a spell in the gift store and talk about so many things. Not God with a Big G, exactly, just things that were complex and compelling.
And then I would take my time and drive over what were all undeveloped mountains and hillsides and farmland before hitting Coalville. And then I would get off the interstate and take back roads in the county home. A kind of cleansing occurred and I would be ready to start a new year.
Now on New Year’s, I am in a room with hundreds of people and amazing performers and I stay up so much later than I did when I was younger. I toast the New Year with interesting strangers and some dear friends. For an introvert this is both a fresh level of hell and somewhat pleasurable.
I attend a very big thinky conference once a year and the people there all want to CONNECT and TALK. And, to a person, they are fascinating. But after 48 hours I tell each smaller group I am meeting a different group and I head to my room and order room service. It is indulgent and sanity-saving. If I have packed a book I am happiest of all. For me to absorb big ideas I need bigger spaces in nature. Or, at the very least, big spaces of quiet away from chatter.
I am there right now, in the space that needs space. At the very, very least it will require a drive in the county- which is still mostly country. Maybe time in a little cafe where I don’t know anyone for a long lunch. I was given a new, smart novel – nearly six hundred pages long – and it demands attention. Which I just might give it this Sunday in the Park.
<i>Teri Orr is a former editor of </i>The Park Record. <i>She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.</i>
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