These past four days have been what I will term an introvert's nightmare for me. Lots of people, interaction, face time, small talk and networking. For a private person and a confessed introvert, it was a string of events that would make you cringe - I know it did for me, as the days unfolded. Usually I'm good for one social event a weekend, and if pressed, two. When faced with four in four days, well, I grind it out and deal with it. Here's what I was up against with my thoughts in italics.
Thursday to Friday Morning: (This will be good, but I'll need some downtime afterwards.) For work, I was at a two day regional conference in Oshkosh. Like most conferences this is wall-to-wall networking and socializing. Great stuff, all of it but I always come away from them wiped out from long days in sessions, lots of standing, walking, talking, restaurant food, late nights and early mornings. This one was especially good, as I met a couple of GIS guys I'd never met before. When the subject of my book, Dirty Shirt, came up, one of them had been to the BWCA several times and so we had a great chat about that as well as his GIS background and experience. It's brutally apparent to me that these encounters are why it is so important to push ones self outside of your introverted nature and meet new people. There's also the possibility that I'm not as introverted as I think, or that perhaps something's changing as I age. For me, it's the dread of the "meeting." Once I'm introduced, I'm all in and it gets easier. It's just that, if left to my devices, I'd stay in the shadows.
Friday Evening: (Wow, I'm tapped. How many people are coming?) I was only home from Oshkosh for about two hours before my wife and I hosted about 12 people to make up sandwiches for the Guest House of Milwaukee. The people are all friends from Collective MKE, so it was familiar faces which makes things easier. I can't say enough about how satisfying it is to stand shoulder to shoulder making food for men in transitional life/housing. It is incredibly gratifying and we had some great conversations while we prepared the sandwiches.
Saturday Morning: (Why did we schedule these so close together?) We woke up early Saturday and drove down to Guest House to serve the men breakfast and to drop off the sandwiches we made. Again, all good stuff. These guys are so fun to be around and serve. They are super grateful for all we do and it turns out the meal we served (made by Donna and a friend with donations from others), namely biscuits and sausage gravy, was a House favorite. Again, lots of face time, small talk and socializing.
Saturday Night: (Help me please, I want to be alone!) Because it was Halloween, we went down to visit some friends and play card games in Milwaukee. If left to our devices, both Donna and I probably would have stayed home. I'm glad we didn't! We laughed SO HARD with these good friends, that by the end of the night, all of our stomachs hurt. The group was loud, brash and so much fun.
Sunday Morning: (Can't we stay home?) We got together with many of the folks from Friday night for our Collective MKE "Home Church" gathering. This is the group we have been a part of for almost a year now and I have grown to love being around them. Good friends who care about what is going on in your lives. Giving people who help serve the community and each other. The additional benefit of this group are the kids that all of the families bring to the events. It's great to go from stimulating spiritual conversation to goofing around with the kids ranging in ages from 2-14 years old. Again, I was really happy I didn't stay home.
So each of these events filled a very different niche: Work, Service, Volunteering, Play/Laughter, and Spiritual Growth. These are exactly the things that make life rich. And in every case, it requires taking people into your circles, giving them your time and attention. In some cases it means telling them you love them, and in others (like the Guest House) you just love them without saying. It means stepping outside your comfort zone and meeting someone you'd never reach out to because they reached out to you. When you do these things, beautiful stuff happen.
And while this introvert is dreading the next series of social events that will inevitably happen, he is also looking forward to them greatly. I just need someone to push me out the door and say, it'll be fun!
Until then though, I'll be recharging with my laptop and headphones in my favorite chair at home.