I think one of the most difficult parts of about introversion is in the arena of friendship. Most introverts do not have many friends . . . probably because we think of ourselves as being our best friends. We like being by ourselves where we can have intelligent and enlightening conversations . . . with ourselves! At the same time, most of us are not that far off the spectrum of introversion/extraversion that we do not want to have a few friends . . . it just takes us longer to open ourselves up for those sorts of intimate relationships in our lives. Remember . . . the kingdom is within the individual for those who are introverts . . . we like that space that we have created for ourselves, and we are very stingy about allowing others into it.
It has been said that most people can count on one hand the number of individuals in their lives that they consider to be their closest friends. Now, imagine what that says about an introvert . . . one, maybe two, fingers represent their most intimate friends. I don’t know . . . all I can go with is my own personal experience; but, I can assure you that there won’t be a whole lot of fingers being held up by me when it comes to what my children would call “BBF”.
As an introvert my world might seem small to a lot of folks, but it is a wonderfully rich and beautiful world . . . a world that is lived out in the space between my two ears (my rock garden, as I call it) and in those spaces that I consider mine (like my home). The problem for introverts is in the reaching out to include others into their domain of comfort . . . to invite them into the kingdom for an intimate relationship of friendship. That is something that takes time . . . usually lots of time. The introvert has to feel safe and accepted for who he or she is in order for him or her to open up even the smallest part of their kingdom to others to see and experience. They want to trust the people that they invite in to be a part of their lives . . . they want to be understood for who they are . . . they don’t want to get burned . . . they don’t want to get hurt. Yeah, I know that is the risk in any relationship . . . intro- or extraverted . . . there is always the possibility of getting burned or hurt.
As I stated above, I really can’t name a whole bunch of people that I would put into that “BFF’ category in my own life. Probably the one individual who comes closest to that is my wife . . . and, even then, it sometimes takes me a while to share even the deepest and most intimate thoughts that I have; but, thankfully she is a patient person who loves me. For the most part, I think that she understands . . . or at least, the longer we are together, she is getting closer to understanding. Outside of the wife, most everyone else in my life are “friends” of varying degrees . . . they know bits and pieces of me, but I doubt if they really know the “real” me . . . primarily because I have not opened up and invited them in to know the “real” me. I don’t think they would understand.
Recently I have been perplexed about this idea of friendship. Perplexed because some things have changed in the relationships I had with some others in my life . . . people who I thought I could trust. What once was is no longer . . . and, I am not really sure what happened, not really sure what I did . . . if I did anything at all. For several weeks now I have felt burned and hurt . . . and, why, I do not know.
I do not know because in a span of less than twenty-four hours I went from being a friend—though not “BFF”, but what I would consider to be good friends—to nonexistent. Outside of an acknowledgement from these individuals when I am in the room, they walk past me as if I don’t exist. They only speak to me if I speak to them. Gone is the kidding around, the joking, laughter, and conversation that makes up a friendship. Gone is the sharing about family and life. Gone is the friendship . . . and I have no clue as to what happened to kill this small bit of intimacy from my life and theirs. No clue at all. It is confusing . . . and, it hurts.
These are folks that I have known for a little over five years. Over those five years I slowly worked up the courage to open myself up to these individuals . . . to share little bits and pieces of my world and allow them glimpses into that world. Slowly I began to trust these individuals . . . began to believe that they understood me . . . understood the world of introverts . . . to accept me for who I am. But, apparently I was wrong . . . and, it hurts.
So, it is in the life of an introvert.
There is a part of me who wants to kick myself for having allowed myself to allow others into the inner-world of my life, only to have it be thrown out so easily when some sort of unknown infraction has been committed on my part. Kick myself for risking a part of myself to be open and seen . . . for being so foolish for believing. Now there is discomfort in my little part of the world . . . some hurt, frustration, and a whole lot of confusion. True, this is not the first time that it has happened to me . . . shoot you don’t get to my age without having had your heart and life stomped upon a few times; but, you would think that I would learn the lesson. There is risk in any relationship no matter what you are . . . introvert or extravert. I just think extraverts being extraverts bounce back a whole lot easier because there are always more people to meet and be friends with. It takes longer with introverts.
One of my favorite songs by the Avett Brothers speaks to this longing that is deeply felt by those of us who find ourselves to be introverted. The song, The Perfect Space, radiates what most people desire in their lives . . . what most introverts really desire . . . trust and that place where they can feel save and natural for who they are. The problem is that most people don’t understand. The song starts out with this longing of the “perfect space” . . . the music is gentle and hopeful . . . before it jumps into a rocker tune of frustration where the singer tells all of those abusing this desire to “get out!” Once they are all out, it returns to its gentle longing. I guess the people I thought were my friends beat me to the punch . . . they kicked me out before I could kick them out.
I wanna have friends that I can trust,
that love me for the man I've become not the man I was.
I wanna have friends that will let me be
all alone when being alone is all that I need.
I wanna fit in to the perfect space,
feel natural and safe in a volatile place.
And I wanna grow old without the pain,
give my body back to the earth and not complain.
Will you understand when I am too old of a man?
And will you forget when we have paid our debt
who did we borrow from? Who did we borrow from?
Okay part two now clear the house.
The party's over take the shouting and the people,
I have some business and a promise that I have to hold to.
I do not care what you assume or what the people told you.
Will you understand, when I am too old of a man?
Will you forget when we have paid our debts,
who did we borrow from? Who did borrow from?
I wanna have pride like my mother has,
And not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad.
And I wanna have friends that I can trust,
that love me for the man I've become and not the man that I was.
I don’t get it . . . but, what I do get is that it will be a long, long time before I put myself out there again. I don’t like to get burned . . . I don’t like to get hurt. Like a good introvert I long for that place where I “feel natural and safe in a volatile place”—the world out there. Will you understand?