Introversion introspection

There’s a lot of talk about introverts right now.

I don’t quite know where it came from, but within the last two years my social media newsfeed has been been flooded with introversion: introvert memes, introvert photos, accounts of introvert misery inflicted upon a poor introvert at a tortuous social gathering, and depictions of relieved individuals hiding in bed in their pajamas while the weekly Friday night adventures unfold around them.

On behalf of introverts everywhere, I beg the internet to stop. Take your spotlight. Shove it up your ass.

Yes, I’m an introvert. A pretty big one. In fact, I’ve just been at an art gallery for the opening reception of an exhibit about which I will be paid to blog, and on the walk home (during which I finally allowed myself to breathe and also began the arduous process of berating myself for every idiotic thing I said) I started wondering just when the world decided to bring introverts back into the limelight.

Because we hate it.

Introverts are popular, suddenly. They’re hip, even. It’s hip to be an introvert but in a rather lamentable way. And the ironic thing about all of this attention is that, while the introverts are happy to be recognized as such and hopeful that the extroverts will come to understand us via these memes and perhaps require less of us socially, the very spotlight that will potentially illuminate the plight of the introvert makes us incredibly uncomfortable. We don’t want you looking at us, wondering why we’re in a meme wearing flannel pants. Because if you start wondering, you might get a little too interested in us. You might want to talk. Or drink coffee together. Or–eghads–introduce us to new people.

And we sure as shit can’t have that.

We, the introverts, just wish that all of this introvert bullshit would go away. Hey internet, stop drawing attention to that miserable person at that vibrant party lest some well-meaning extrovert attempt to extricate him from the corner where he’s been happily petting the hosts’ dog for the last 67 minutes. He likes that corner.

Well, “likes” is a strong word. The introvert likes a corner the way a squirrel “likes” to sit in the silver maple while our German Shepherd stands on her hind legs barking and slobbering in a vain attempt to reach him. Truth be told, it sucks in that tree. It’s hot and muggy and there’s a twig poking his crotch.

But as Daenerys Targaryen said, “People learn to love their chains.”

Extroverts, don’t try to peel us off the wall. Don’t try to better us for our own good. Do you know what you’re doing? You’re throwing a toddler into the pool in order to teach them to swim. And do you know what? If you do that, we, the toddlers, will purposefully choose to drown just so we don’t have to face that social gathering any longer. That’s right: drowning is the better choice. We’d prefer to sink to the bottom of the party and suck liquid solitude into our lungs rather than make small talk with people we don’t know.

I mean, really, what are we going to talk about with strangers? “Hey, I like your hat. I have a big sun hat myself because the doctor found a precancerous mole. Yeah. Suspicious borders on that one. Cut it right off. Long healing process. I had to bathe in the sink.”

That’s an actual thing I said to a stranger, once. 

So don’t try to help us. You’ll make it worse by providing us with an opportunity to say things that will haunt us every night as we try to fall asleep. In fact, if you see an introvert hugging the wall/dog/aquarium at a party, treat them as you would a rabid possum. Lookie but no touchy. Unless, of course, you’re another pitiable introvert. If you’re uncomfortable too, that’s a horse of a different color. Go over and take your rightful place by the fish tank and share your discomfort. The only way to save a drowning introvert is to throw another one at them. Usually, they’ll form some sort of polar covalent bond and stick to each other until they bob right out of the pool and mutually agree that social events suck and decide to go see a movie.

Then again, if you knew anything about introverts at all, you wouldn’t have invited one over to begin with.

Cicadas: Day 11

Hi Cicadas,

Well, here we are. You guys and me.

I know I was reluctant to welcome you all, the most magnificent Brood V, to the panhandle of West Virginia. I know I said hasty things I’d regret later. But I went out of my way, on Day 5 of your miraculous emergence, to correct my faulty thinking. I apologized to you for my vitriol. And I tried to make you feel at home and marvel at your evolutionary genius. We’ve settled into a routine now, right?

It’s just that…how do I put this?

The thing of it is, well, that was, like, Day 5. And you guys were crawling out of the ground in moderate numbers and unfurling your beautiful wings and resting in the shade, and my kids were playing with you and you were crawling on their shoulders and hanging off their ears. It was a jolly swell time, wasn’t it? And, you know, I’d just seen that amazing Kickstarter cicada video with the violins.

Violins, cicadas. I get swept up by violins. And then they threw in some sunset shots and some text that kind of faded into the background as the camera panned away from your little carcasses. I think I got lost in the romance of it, you know?

I went to Jamaica once. I’d just had a long, sad breakup and I was feeling really unattractive and miserable and lonely. And I got a little carried away by the romance of the island. Maybe I made some poor choices. It’s easy to do when you’re emotionally affected. But then, ultimately, reality sets in and you realize you’ve had fourteen Purple Rains and a roll of film is missing and it’s the dawn of the internet and girls are going wild and things aren’t quite as beautiful as you thought they were.

And I’m not likening you guys to regrettable Caribbean hot tub misadventures. Certainly not. It’s just that…not everything ends up quite the way we think it’s going to. Sometimes life is violins and sunsets, and sometimes life is a dog vomiting cicadas carcasses up onto the bedroom carpet.

Remember that time you just sort of sat on my lounge chair and stared at me and didn’t move and I was able to admire you in your stillness? That was nice. I was thinking about it the other day when one of you bumbled into my eye socket. Like, right into my cornea. And it’s not that I don’t welcome your morning input, but I also found one of you in my coffee cup. Why, cicadas?

Feel free to ride the dog–seriously–but could you hop off before the dog comes into the house? And could you, like, leave your exoskeletons maybe out in the yard instead of on my dental floss? Just a thought.

Quite frankly, you guys are kind of loud. And there are about 10 million more of you than I was expecting.

I mean, did you ever throw a party or maybe plan a wedding, and you have a set number of guests and the right amount of seats and food for those guests, and then on the day of the party Uncle Hank shows up with his new girlfriend and her four kids and they just kind of shrug and say, “Gee, hope you don’t mind our crashing your party–har har,” and then you realize you’re going to have to give up your own dinner because there’s not enough food for them so you just end up eating cold cocktail weenies off a toothpick while her kids gnaw on the steak you set aside for yourself and resenting the shit out of Uncle Hank who obviously doesn’t realize that she’s just using him for his time share in Myrtle Beach? God, what an oblivious idiot.

I’m not calling you party crashers. It’s just that there’s a lot of you. And normally in June, I’d be on my deck with a cocktail and a novel, or planting some caladiums, but at the moment you guys are so loud that I just feel like listening to the hum of my air conditioner instead. They say your decibel levels rival those of a rock concert. Heh. Wow. That’s something, eh?

I know this is your life cycle, and I was all, “Yay cicadas!” a few days ago. Really, I thought you were well on your way to doing your bug-romance thing. But I’ve noticed that some of you are still crawling out of the ground. Getting a late start on your emergence. In some circles, Cicadas, we’d call that rude. Lateness is generally frowned upon.

Sometimes I wish for a good old fashioned stink bug sighting again. And that’s not your fault. I’m sure it’s my own baggage I’m dealing with. Still, if you could work with me a bit, I’d appreciate it.

Also, I don’t know how to say this delicately, but some of you are starting to stink.

Cicadas: Day 5

NOTE: I wrote this blog on May 21.

I’m not really sure how one eats crow in a public forum when one has gone to such great lengths to denigrate and castigate an entire species.

A few months ago, I composed a blog about my distaste for the impending arrival of Brood V of the periodical cicadas. I said I wished to will them out of existence, to wreak an entomological genocide and wipe their presence from the face of the West Virginia hills. Or something like that. I was all up in arms about the Biblical swarm to come and dropped several unladylike f-bombs as I railed against the cicadas.

And now, with tail tucked firmly between legs, I offer up a sincere apology. Cicadas, please, hop onto my knotted rope so that I may flagellate myself a little harder. I deserve it. Because I think you’re so damn neat.

As their emergence neared, I grew ever more nervous. Ben and I watched the nymphs closely as they meandered in their tunnels under the pavers. The weather warmed; the weather cooled. Just when I thought they might appear, they didn’t. It’s like when you’re in the dentist’s chair waiting for a root canal and you hear the dentist approach and then retreat and you sort of want him to get his ass in there and get it over with and you sort of want him to fall down a mine shaft.

Anyway, I was anxious. The nymphs grew larger, and they built cicada chimneys from which they would eventually emerge. They did this a month ahead of time, proving that periodical cicadas are nothing if not neurotic over-planners.

I think that’s when I started to crack. Boom: there was my commonality. We’re both Type A, obsessive creatures who pack our bags a month ahead of time and have an eye on our escape root the moment we enter a building.

When I caught the boys stomping nymphs and crushing them with bricks, I was appalled. I told them that the little buggars had waited 17 years for this chance and that I wouldn’t stand for cicada cruelty, pain receptors or not. (They’re arthropods, after all, and so are lobsters, and don’t you tell me that lobster isn’t screaming to get out of that pot when you boil him up.) Suddenly, it seemed so unfair to have to work for 17 years for a chance at life only to meet your grisly end under the weight of a tiny Star Wars Croc. (All the more undignified a death should it prove to be a shoe that lights up.)

And then I saw that cicada video I put in the previous blog. It’s a genius piece of artwork, with the violins and all. Somehow an insect swarm, when put to piano and moody lighting, loses the ick-factor and becomes a moving and powerful example of the miracles in nature, of evolution. When they got to the individuals with the deformed wings, I was teary. When they all died, I was inconsolable. In fact, I dare anyone to watch that video and not be moved.

Cicadas, I love you guys.

Wherein the writer collapses in on herself

You know what I suck at?


That and hanging up my clean clothing. Laundry itself doesn’t bother me: it’s the part where I have to take it out of the basket where it’s been sitting, clean, for two months, and put it on a hanger. Why is that so detestable? I’d seriously rather just re-wash it and start the cycle of ignoring all over again.

I digress. That’s another thing I do that sucks. I digress all the time. And now that I have no teacher reading my words, I can digress until the cows come home and nobody will say anything. They’ll just hit the arrow button and go back to Reddit. I’m going to digress myself right out of my readers.

See what I did there? I digressed for so long because I’m uncertain. My thesis is finished, my tenure in grad school almost complete. And now I’m sitting here in recovery mode, totally clueless about what to do with myself and so mentally tapped out that I haven’t any energy to figure it out. Many people have told me to take a break from writing. In fact, a writing friend told me recently that when she completed her MFA she took a step back for the better part of a year and that it was a necessary endeavor. She assured me that the words did come back eventually, and now she’s in a pretty good groove, teaching and writing and publishing.

Enter: the control freak. If God took the “O” in OCD and formed it into a gangly pile of legs and sarcasm, He’d have me. And as the human embodiment of obsession, I cannot possibly just sit back and enjoy my time off. Oh hell no. Rather than taking a few months, or as long as I need, to reflect on the last two years of very hard work and considerable learning, I’ve decided it would be far more productive to open and close my laptop forty-five times a day, start a piece, write half of it, announce to the empty room that it’s sheepshit, hit save, and shut the computer. And then go outside and blow cicada shells off the deck, where I berate myself in the overwhelming thunder of both insect and leaf-blower.

I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of behavior they treat with SSRI’s.

Timelines haunt me. I allow them to snake their way into my writerly consciousness. So-and-so wrote blabbity-blah at age whatever. (Annie Dillard, I’m looking at you.) I hardly think I’m alone in this, and the tendency goes way past writing and bleeds into my regular life, which tells me that I’m first and foremost an obsessive and that writing chose me because I’d make it such a great little servant.

But so what if I take a few months off? What’s the worst that happens?

Well, my head tells me that if I should dare to take these months off, to let my guard down and give my body and brain a little rest, that gradually I’ll stop cracking open the laptop altogether, and I’ll stop going into my tiny blue office to write. And that in itself is a slippery slope, because I have a Christmas cactus in there and there’s nothing more pathetic than a dried out Christmas cactus lying dead on the table silently asking me if it really had to die for my lack of a literary work ethic. (The aloe plant, on the other hand, seems to have a sharp tongue, and it would loudly tell me to go fuck myself and drop dead out of spite.)

Good job; get to work.

Chatham’s MFA department awarded me “Most Innovative Thesis.” It was supposed to be “Best Creative Nonfiction Thesis,” but I told so many tall tales of raccoon and cricket that I wrote myself out of that particular category. Nevertheless, it was an honor and I was stunned to receive it. So you’d imagine that in itself would inspire me to rest upon my [very small] laurels for a few weeks, but instead it only served to remind me that I was being recognized for yesterday’s work, while today’s had not yet been finished.

Come on, brain. You can’t even budge an inch, can you? You sick little ganglion freak.

So now it’s June 1, and I’m working on settling down with the blog, and I have an essay in its most raw form, and I have ideas that are reaching for paper but not finding much success. But the children don’t start camp until next week, and somehow they’ve got this idea in their heads that their mother should do fun things with them instead of holing up with a computer and a group of foul-mouthed succulents. And next week Shawn will have a painful back procedure and Andy will have his tonsillectomy, and if the stars align properly, I’ll be driving down to Ripley for my favorite writerly event of them all: the West Virginia Writers’ Conference. The universe is making it difficult for me to focus on writing. God knows I hate taking a cue from the universe, but I may have little choice in the matter for the moment. I’m pretty sure I’m being not-so-subtly guided, but unless I receive a certified letter from Destiny advising me to put myself on hiatus, I can’t be sure.

With that, I leave to water the spider plant before it develops abandonment issues.