The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: introvert

Whole Selves

Being comfortable in company is a skill. It requires the grace of silence and economy of words. Most women, I think, are groomed from childhood to be social and sociable beings. We are constantly extending ourselves to make the other feel welcome and comfortable in social settings.

And that’s how it becomes a performance. We see our mothers and aunts performing, and we take their cue and learn the steps, tweaking them as we go along.

You know that gregarious, charming and cheerful woman who seems to be everywhere, talking to everyone? I am willing to bet that she is a hidden introvert, performing and performing all her life, exhausted and drained. Talking, laughing, eager to fill up gaps in conversation, constantly guarding against the awkward silences, and so on… These are the signs.

Now, if we were to show up in the world as our natural selves, it would be less taxing. We are quieter individuals, less inclined to mingle and talk, and the world needs to see this. We need to model this to girls and younger women, so they start embracing and expressing their natural orientation. And there’d be no more performing.

Of course, this is a major act of courage and deconditioning. Some of us have got so good at performing that we don’t/can’t stop. And we have become adept at fooling everyone including ourselves.

But it’s so worth it, I tell you. Let’s bring our whole selves to the world.

Retreat

Periodically, I get the urge to retreat.

I lose all inclination to talk to people and/or meet with them. Browsing Facebook or Twitter or Instagram has no charm. I feel like I want to stay indoors by myself (or with my husband who enjoys solitude as much as, if not more than, I do) puttering around the house. Or perhaps go out for a walk or hike, maybe a swim.

There is a strong urge to disengage from everything. I don’t want to read about politics or institutional racism or climate change or economic inequality or mistreatment of women or lack of sanitation, or whatever. I also am not interested in reading about Apple’s latest release or the cool styles on High Heel Confidential, or Heidi’s beautiful recipes on 101 Cookbooks.

I simply want to vegetate. Or ruminate. Or hibernate.

Of course, this stream of thought is immediately followed by another, filled with guilt and self-recrimination.

Aren’t you privileged? You can actually afford to disengage. You have nothing at stake. Not your health or employment or marriage or life. You have nothing to lose by detaching yourself from the everyday occurrences and goings-on of others. Aren’t you selfish? Instead of reaching out to people who are in need of help and support, you prefer to hunker down, like you are a self-styled hermit or a recluse.

You are neither.

You are a pampered, self-absorbed woman who has never wanted for a thing all her life. Most things came easy to you. You like to believe that you are a minimalist but that’s a relative perspective. You have everything you want, so you can actually afford to consider yourself a minimalist. You see yourself as a minimalist only because you look around and see how people spend money, acquire things, move into large homes, buy big cars. None of that is related to you, really.

Okay. But none of this, in any way, diminishes my strong desire to retreat inward, literally and metaphorically.

I used to consider myself a regular extrovert but now it seems like that was a thin veneer that shed itself as I ventured into my mid-late thirties.

So, all of this – acknowledging my need for quiet, space, solitude – is new to me.

But I am gulping it down like a much-needed glass of water. So perhaps, all of this is timely and essential.