I've always kind of been drawn to the easy promise of self-help books, as if trading some cash for a pretty book with an empty promise would automatically fix something in my life. A few years ago I found this book, which, miraculously, did exactly that on a scale so grand it changed the way I look at myself and my place in this world: The Introvert Advantage. Also, I pretty much stopped reading self-help books, since clearly this one was THE one for me.
I had really never understood that there was a difference between being shy and being introverted (although, horribly, I am both). Now I know that there is a reason why I love spending so much time alone, why I am exhausted by being around people -- even people I like being around. Why I have to force myself to leave my nice cozy house to go to the mall, or a party, or an event. I really had spent my whole life beating myself up for being lazy, or crazy, or just weird. Since reading this book and understanding that that's just who I am and who I always will be, and I can either fight it (which really had not been working at all) or go with it and learn to take care of myself and plan ahead for things that will be hard.
So, I have been. I always plan to have time at home to recharge, and I give myself room to be alone. It has made a giant positive difference in my life. But yesterday I really underestimated how difficult our company's Christmas celebration would be.
Our little department, which is about a dozen people in a relatively isolated area of the office, is always decorated beyond any amount of reason for holidays. It's overdone and awesome, and I love it. We have a couple of people who probably should have been decorators for a living, and they make our area look joyful and fun. But this year someone from outside our department noticed how pretty it was and asked us to open up our area to the whole company to walk through and enjoy. Great idea, right? We all wore red shirts and Santa hats and got candy canes to hand out.
Unfortunately, I had a giant project that I absolutely had to do before leaving at 5:30, and the open house was 3-5. People kept coming by in groups of 3 or 4 up to a dozen, and a co-worker would give them a tour, stopping at each adorable animated figure and playing the song. Did I mention that a big part of our decor included an animatronic Frosty singing the whole song, a saxophone-playing Santa wearing sunglasses, and a Christmas tree singing O Christmas Tree, and a snowglobe that played Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, and another half-dozen more dogs and candy canes and reindeer that all sing or play music?
For two hours, while I was making phone calls and rushing to get my project done. Several times people would be playing with the different toys in different areas, with multiple songs going at once, and it was truly a cacophony. I was trying so hard to smile and wave at every visitor, my head sweaty under my Santa hat, and say Merry Christmas. And the truly horrible part is that I really do love Christmas, and I love all our decorations and animated stuff, I really do.
One woman brought her sweet little daughter, she was around 2, who really seemed to take a liking to me. She was adorable, she had little pigtails and clutched her candy cane, and had ignored everyone else cooing at her. Clearly she was in tune with my innate awesomeness, but having a whole roomful of people all standing there staring at me and this toddler is exactly the kind of thing that makes me vastly uncomfortable.
The guests were trooping through and staring into our cubicles as though we ourselves were part of the holiday decorations. Several people leaned in and made comments about things on my desk. One woman asked about my photo of my Siamese cat, saying she preferred dogs; another complimented my purple hair troll.
Though they were all extremely friendly and nice and everyone was happy and having a great time, I began to feel pecked at, just by their very presence.
I did manage to get my project done, and with huge relief, drove home listening to Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses and Oh Santa by Mariah Carey. Whew.
Now, I was aware that this day was difficult for me, but all of the useful knowledge from the awesomest self-help book of all fell right out of my head when I got home. My husband, happy to be home on Friday night and ready to celebrate the beginning of the weekend, wanted to hang out and make dinner together in our tiny kitchen. I, thinking that my hard day was over and behind me, jumped into signing and addressing Christmas cards (which I was extremely behind on) and making dinner and straightening up. Before I knew it I was cranky and stressed and getting angry, and my poor husband was making me dinner and trying to cheer me up without knowing what was wrong.
It was just too much, after being massively overstimulated all day. Like I said, the confusing thing is that I LIKE all this stuff... it was just too much.
Then, I looked at the calendar and realized my period is due in one week, which means yesterday is my single worst day of PMS, which always makes me cranky and impatient. Gah! Why hadn't I noticed that before?
I should have come home and been quiet and alone for a few minutes, and I'll remember that next time. Or at least I'll try to.