Be Yourself

I got into a bit of a tussle the other day, a heated argument you might say. I must confess, some of the language wasn’t stellar. As the argument continued, neither side was ready to concede so we arrived at a kind of stalemate and I’m not sure who won, the outcome not obvious.

It started out innocently enough, as most things do. My neighbourhood was holding a decorating get-together to make the entrance into our development look seasonally festive, using lights and pine boughs, with a bit of tinsel and the like. It was to be a great opportunity to see and meet new and old neighbours. I wrote it on my calendar. Sunday at 1:00. I highlighted it so as not to forget. The day turned out to be sunny and not too cold, the perfect kind of day for decorating and being outdoors with neighbours. Everything was going well until about fifteen minutes before departure. I was getting my coat out of the closet. I could feel the minutes start to count down, and that’s when it happened. I should have seen it coming, but I wasn’t paying attention; too busy looking for my mittens. Why are they never where they should be? A question for another day. There wasn’t even a knock at the door; just a barrelling through as if manners were a thing of the past.

You may have guessed it. The introverted side of me showed up, without invitation I might add. “You don’t have to go,” the introvert said, using a harshly loud voice, with hands on the hips to drive the point home. You know the stance. It’s a familiar one, reeking of I know everything. “There are no rules about attending such things,” the introvert went on. “You have free will and if you don’t want to go … just don’t. It’s that simple.” There was a wee pause and then – “Are you even listening to me?”

I’m not good at arguing. I easily get tongue-tied and end up saying things like “Oh, yah? Well, umm, you’re just mean.” And that does nothing to advance me to higher ground. If I could raise my hand and ask for a few minutes or a stay of execution to make some notes, I’d do much better in the arguing department. Plus, it was hard to argue with her statements, her voice being so loud, but argue I did. “Oh, for heaven’s sakes,” I said. I, too, put my hands on my hips. Two can play at this game. “It’s a lovely day and you could use some fresh air and a chat, get the cobwebs out of your head. How could it hurt? Not going could make you out to be lazy! Would it kill you to be outgoing for one [*&%#] afternoon?” The tension was building now, and the mud flinging and name calling started. I won’t bore you with the details but … it wasn’t my finest hour.

I didn’t go to the neighbourly decorating get-together. I suppose you could say the introvert won but it didn’t feel like a clear-cut win to me. Some of the words really stung like loser and lazy. I am not lazy, nor have I ever been.

Most days, though not all, I am comfortable being me. I’ll never be called gregarious or outgoing but that’s okay. There’s a lot of introverts I admire – Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Dr. Seuss. I’m in good company. But some things are worth stepping out of our comfort zone to do. Maybe I’ll put using the telephone back on my “to-do list” and see how far I get with that. Baby steps. I’ve been at this for what feels like a very long time, but I must remember that Grandma Moses didn’t take up painting until she was seventy-five, after arthritis pain prevented her from her life-long skill of embroidering. Or Clara Peller who made her acting debut at age eighty-one. Remember her? “Where’s the beef?” for Wendy’s commercials. Maybe there is still time for me. Who knows, but less internal arguing and dustups would be nice. Oscar Wilde once wrote – be yourself … everyone else is taken. Good advice.