My desire to engage anyone on Twitter has been lacking most of the year (because it’s been one hell of a year), and I rarely reply to tweets (other than occasional replies to Anna’s or Jen Hatmaker’s tweets), but this one caught me in the gut and I was compelled to use my cyber voice and be heard.
Why did I reply?
Because I am tired, literally exhausted, of trying to be heard and seen in a world that is powered by and caters to extroverts.
Yes, I tell everyone I meet that I’m an introvert.
It’s a boundary-setting practice.
It’s a sanity-saver.
It’s a plea that you understand I need space.
I don’t have the energy to endure endless small talk or hours upon hours of being with people.
Some days I can fake being an extrovert quite well. (I did it for four months straight this year.)
Some days I can’t.
Some days/weeks/months, the reality of a cyclical battle with isolating depression and crushing anxiety shows up to the party.
Add an ugly wrestling match with grief and I have exceeded my ability to cope with all. the. extroversion.
And no—it’s not any one person who has driven me to the edge.
I live with the world’s most extroverted person, no doubt. (Everyone who knows me, knows this.)
But I’m addressing the larger scope of introversion vs. extroversion.
I’m putting my words out into the world because if I don’t, I am not being true to me.
By replying to Acuff’s tweet last night, I gave myself permission to be an introvert.An introvert who is currently struggling with finding ways to feed her introverted soul. An introvert who is fighting to keep using her words when all she really wants to do is curl up in a ball and hide from the world. An introvert who battles hourly against the voices of depression, anxiety, and grief that tell her she’s not worth fighting for.
This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “Guide.” The rules: Set a timer and free write for five minutes about the week’s topic. No editing allowed!
You wouldn’t think a homebody in her right mind would ever volunteer to embark on a summer-long road trip of EPIC proportions, right? There’s a first time for everything though.
So how, exactly, does an introvert keep her wits about her when spending 4 months on the road?
These are your BFFs. Your lifesavers. Your constant companions. If you lose them—replace them ASAP at the next gas station stop. They drown out background noise, 80’s music, and extroverts who prefer to stay up late talking instead of sleeping like normal people. You might end the trip having purchased (and lost) 3-4 pair—but it will be worth it. Trust me.
When you’re on the road for 8, 10, 12, hours a day every other day, naps are essential. You are tired. You need to conserve every ounce of energy you have so that you can extrovert once you arrive at your destination.
(Five minutes is NOT enough time to expound upon this list. But those two things were DEFINITELY my top two road trip must haves! Nobody wants a sleep-deprived, cranky, introvert running a book table!)
I got on a plane for the first time last week. To fly to Texas. To spend the weekend with 64 women—62 of whom I’d never met in person, but had only interacted with in #the4500 Facebook group. (I know, I know—internet strangers and all that jazz. Good news:I’m still alive. No axe murderers were present. Calm down.)
I’d been registered for Splendid in the Hills since the day it went live in the Facebook group. I’d already felt drawn toward Texas since becoming more engaged in the group, and when Tracy (the founder of The Splendid Retreat) posted the announcement for the 2nd retreat, I knew I was supposed to be there. While I knew that I was supposed to attend, without doubt, six months is a long time to wrestle with the anxiety of leaping so far outside your comfort zone. By the time the retreat was a month away, life was crazy and hard and all I was hoping for was to physically make it to Splendid. My expectations for anything more—connections, growth, opportunities to pour into others—were all but gone. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and I needed to just be still. My only goal was to get there. (I can’t do anything but laugh at this notion from where I sit now.)
Two Christmases ago, a friend gave me a hand-painted sign with the quote “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” For a long time, because I was mired in such a dark place, that sign mocked me; it’s beginning to make a lot more sense now. Until the moment I sat in the airplane seat last that Wednesday, I was a bundle of nerves about all the unknowns of this trip. I was so afraid I would hate flying; I don’t hate it—in fact, I think I might love it.
Anna picked me up from the airport on and we headed out for a late lunch/early dinner at Torchy’s Tacos. She watched the clock as we ate and shared stories. We finished our meal and she ushered me out the door and into the car. A few minutes later, we pulled into a parking lot; it began to look familiar from Facebook pictures. Then I saw the sign: Think Differently.
I looked at Anna; she was grinning ear to ear.
“Are you surprised?” she asked.
The week before, she’d told me to bring my Bob Hamp books with me, so “we can discuss them…I’m doing something with them at the retreat.” So I threw them in my already-stuffed luggage and didn’t think anything of her request.
I’d been reading, listening to, and watching Bob’s teachings since Anna and I first connected via phone in September 2015.His explanations of Kingdom life and freedom in finding your true God-breathed identity had broken open the shut-down parts of my heart, mind, and spirit over those months. In fact, as I began to dig my way out of the deep depression I’d been in, his “Freedom from Depression” and “Hearing God” podcasts had played an important role in my recovery. Anna and I had had many conversations about these areas, as well. Back in January, after listening to Bob’s ‘A Kingdom Parable” (the acrobat story for those who are familiar with it), I was overcome by the end of the message.
Once I was able to pick myself up off the floor (because I was literally face down on the floor), I texted Anna, saying, “Today I was listening to the Foundations of Freedom podcasts while cleaning. And Bob started telling the acrobat story. I was only half-listening…until he got to the end. Keep in mind that I had just posted [in the FB group] about ‘unbound’ being my word for 2016…suddenly I’m hearing these words from Bob…
“…your Dad is so glad you’re home…whatever’s been asked of you, whatever you’re called to do, isn’t so that you can perform so an angry, rigid dad would be happy with you, finally. He’s saying this: ‘Hey, come discover who I made you to be. Put your hand to it. Stand up and speak it, do it. The things that are in your heart to do, the things that make the fire leap up in your chest—don’t shy away from them.Somebody once told you that it’s not true about you, but something inside of you knows it is. Freedom isn’t where we finally stop the bad stuff…freedom is when you can become the person you’re created and redeemed to be. All of those other things are just obstacles.”
…the thing that sent me into my depression two years ago was my pastor telling me I wasn’t supposed to pursue [ASL]. I all but stopped signing; buried that dream, that piece of my identity. It has been BOUND. And it is one of the things I feel [the Holy Spirit] speaking “unbound” over. And then I heard His small, quiet voice say, “I am releasing you.‘”
“I got here early so you’d have time to pull yourself together. I knew your introverted heart would need to calm down.”
Be still my introverted heart. The extrovert sees and is intentional in caring for the introvert’s state of mind. (Melted my heart, for sure. THIS is how to surprise an introvert.)
“Are you ready?”
We entered the lobby, sat on the couch (in the room I’d spent months watching Bob teach in via Periscope for months), and waited for our appointment. (I have an appointment with Bob Hamp…seriously?)
Several minutes later, he entered the lobby; we greeted one another and then he ushered us to his office. After sharing with him how Anna and I had met, she says, “Tell him your story.”
The story I had just told her in the restaurant, the story I’ve told recently on my blog, the story she had me tell eight more times over the next five days.
So I did.
And without even realizing it, I started speaking the lies that I’d held to be true over the past few years—particularly that my role in bringing ASL to NGU was no big deal. At one point I said, “For a long time I haven’t even been able to give myself credit for having been such an important part of the process of starting the program…I really haven’t been able to own it because I just felt like anyone could’ve done it.” Anna and Bob glanced at one another, and then Anna rolled her eyes at me and replied, “Yeah, anybody could’ve done it.” Bob followed with the statement, “So you’ve done all these big things that you didn’t think you could do…”
That was the moment I began to own that it was a bigger deal than I’d let myself believe. God had equipped me to carry it out and He had brought it to fruition. Throughout our conversation, Bob said a few other things that struck a chord in my spirit, the weight of which wouldn’t be fully revealed until later in the week.
We left Think Differently and met Anna’s sister, Celia, for a quick chat—where Anna managed to squeeze a very abbreviated version of my story in. As she finished, Celia looked at me and said, “You’re a powerful woman…a world-changer…dream big.”
Me? A powerful woman? A world-changer? Dreaming big? I think you’ve got the wrong person, sister. That’s not me.
I’d barely been on the ground in Texas for 3 hours and already the weekend had been phenomenal.
But it was only the very beginning.