Come Here | Go Away


“What should I do about the wild and the tame? The wild heart that wants to be free, and the tame heart that wants to come home. I want to be held. I don’t want you to come too close. I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at nights. I don’t want to tell you where I am. I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me. I want to be with you.” – Jeanette Winterson, “Lighthousekeeping”

I read the above quote on Terri Windling’s blog.  It fits my conflicting push and pulls so well, only rather than a battle between the wild and tame, for me it’s more of a tug of war between my desire for time alone and the call to come out of my cave and locate my fellow human beings.

It’s difficult to find the right balance. And since the reaching out to others is harder, avoiding the discomfort altogether is tempting.

I recently finished listening to “I’ll Drink To That” a memoir by Betty Halbreich. I almost quit listening to it after the first thirty minutes as I couldn’t relate to the wealthy life of Halbreich and how so much of her focus was on fashion. But I told myself that I needed to expand my horizons.

dogs playing indoors

Halbreich is an 86 year old woman still working at Bergdorf Goodman in New York. With that kind of accomplishment (even though it doesn’t fit my desires), I thought she might have something to say.

“When I first came to NY, I was so frightened of being alone that I didn’t want to leave the little apartment I loathed. It’s funny, but on the street in a city of millions, at a cocktail party full of friends or surrounded by family at a country house, one can still feel lonely. Sophistication has nothing to do with the ability to go to the movies, eat in a restaurant, pass the weekend without drowning it in busy work, or face going home alone. The terrible fear of loneliness kept me from knowing myself, but now I am happy, because I do know myself.” — Betty Halbreich, “I’ll Drink to That”

The way Halbreich starts out that paragraph sounds like a contradiction — so frightened of being alone that she doesn’t want to leave her apartment? But I know what she means. It’s hard to go out and see other couples, families or groups if you’re all by yourself and your aloneness is not by choice.

It can also feel worse to make an attempt to connect with people and fail, than it feels to simply keep your distance.

bicycling in snow

I can be perfectly satisfied doing many things by myself or with only one other person. Steve, bless his heart, has been game to do all my favorite things with me — bicycling, cross county skiing, kayaking, camping, hiking, taking walks with the dogs, going on photography field trips, eating my cooking experiments, watching my really bad movie choices, even just quietly sitting and reading together.

I am happiest with this kind of singular, do almost everything together, just the two of us, relationship and don’t plan to change much about that. But I worry about putting all my eggs in one or two baskets with the very limited group of people I’m connected with.

It’s not that I have aspirations of becoming an extrovert and having hundreds of “friends.” It’s more that I want to deepen the connections I already have by giving them the attention they are due. And I want to broaden the range of people I know.

dog in snow

Take Ms Halbreich for example. If I met her in person, I would normally immediately decide that this woman has nothing in common with me. She could never be my friend.

And I tend to avoid activities where most everyone is younger than me because I don’t want to feel like I’m holding them back with my physical limitations and unhippness.

But I want to be more open to people and possibilities. And less worried about fitting in or being rejected. I want to try out doing some things as a group. I may decide I don’t like it, but I want to try so I know I have the choice.

So I’m sending myself into situations and seeing what happens.

dog in snow

I went to a bicycling organization’s meeting where most people are much younger than me. I loved their energy and ideas and willingness to dive into any challenge whether they had past experience with said thing or not. I hope to spend more time with this group.

And I went to a bike shop event last week, hoping I might connect with some local women who enjoy talking about bikes and riding them. The only women I saw were all in one circular group and appeared to be employees of the shop. It looked like too tight of a circle for me to break into. So instead, Steve and I tried out a couple fat bikes, riding around on a frozen pond with a trail lit by candles in brown paper bags. On the drive home, I thought, I could have walked up to the women and said, “Hi. I’m Maery. I recently bought a fat bike from this shop. What kind of bicycling do you like to do?” But I’m okay with not having pulled that off yet.

And it may be that I already have the right mix of being social and being alone and don’t need to change a thing. Maybe I’m still listening to old voices telling me something is wrong with me. Maybe I just think I’m missing out on something that I really wouldn’t like once I had it. Maybe I just hear the word “ community” and think we could build a better world if we were more connected with each other.

I guess I just want to experiment and see.

horseback riding in snow

What do other introverts think? Are you more on the path of accepting that you like doing things alone and thrive on your alone time, with occasional doses of small group or one-on-one best friend time? Or do you make an effort to broaden your world, meet new people and start new friendships? Is there a point of balance that you have found that works best for you?

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  1. Love this post, we are really so much alike in all of this except you seem to be putting in more effort to experiment. I just went ahead and accepted that I like doing things on my own and as a couple more than anything. I can only take very small groups and so particular about who I spend time with, I have no problem being alone for long periods of time.
    I do love that quote at the very top, I’ll be putting that one in my note book.

    1. Susan, the book the quote came from is also very good, kind of different, but I think you’d like it. And yes, accepting that I’ll never be a big group person is part of the journey, but I am curious about groups and communities that really seem to work. It’s probably my infinite curiosity about pretty much everything that keeps pulling me out to the big world, looking for what I might be missing.

  2. First of all, these photographs are fantastic and you are right on with your writing. I don’t see you as an introvert, but what do I know? Don’t you think you are what you are? There is no list out there that spells out specific qualifications for being a successful? or happy? person. I have never been one to have a best friend that I connect with everyday nor do I need to be associated with particular groups….but I am associated with a heck of a lot of people through interests and community involvement. When I was younger, going to a party with my husband’s friends was not all that comfortable, making me feel like the outsider.
    Now! I absolutely love going places where I don’t know a soul. “Working a crowd” (sort of) can be fun…striking up conversations about whatever. That’s what evolved with aging and experience. It has also been my choice because I am comfortable with it. A long time ago, I discovered that the world is not out there waiting to entertain me, and initiating things was the way to go. You have to do what is right for you. It doesn’t matter what others are doing.

    1. Thanks Lori. I like this batch of photos, even though my subjects weren’t being all that cooperative. I do believe that I can’t change myself to ever become a person who loves big gatherings. I usually enjoy them while I’m there but they exhaust me and it’s like I have to recuperate from expending all that energy talking and listening. Sometimes I just don’t feel like I have that much energy to spare. As I said to Susan, part of it is I’m just curious about what makes other people tick? Why is there a strong sense of community, where you can actually visibly see it, in some places and not in others? If you live somewhere that doesn’t have that, can you create it? Etc…

  3. Introverts unite! (individually on our own of course)
    Wow does this one sound familiar. Many people don’t consider me an introvert because I lead groups and am very involved in certain things, but even that is a coping mechanism– If i have a specific role to play, i completely avoid that awkward standing around trying to fit in stuff. Recently i redefined my energy fluctuations as riding the wave = my fav- high energy/in the flow/etc (typically in solitude- working feverishly on my own, seeing maybe one friend and my hubs) , on the beach as my least fav– low energy/sort of down/etc. (a time when i make plans with people i’ve been unable to see during a heavy work period to catch up) It mirrors real life pretty well. i hate situations where i’m forced to socialize and often feel like a square peg and isolated in a crowd. i’m trying to force myself to connect more during “on the beach” phases and not regard it as an unpleasant thing. it IS push pull. I crave and dread it because the potential for me to feel like a weirdo is high. Good for you on getting out there! It is tough!

    1. Raising hand in solidarity from a distance! I have a group of people who think I’m very outgoing and talkative and others who think I’m extremely shy and quiet. In other words – people I’m comfortable with versus new situation or group where I feel unwelcome or feel uncertain about whether I belong there. I really like how you are riding your wave and dealing with tides and beaches. I think I’ll see if I can use a similar tactic.

  4. Like others here, you could be me!!! I know that a certain set of people probably have no idea that I’m actually an introvert. But I am. I accepted it about myself a long time ago… I am perfectly happy with my own company or just the company of a dog, my partner, or a good friend. But, I’ve recently had a few thoughts like yours, and have pondered getting involved with a photography group or a dog rescue. My only reason for pondering these things is to see if I’d enjoy meeting more people and widening my circle. But, then again, I’m pretty happy as I am. So, I waver. (and I adore that quote you started with!).

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