Sunday, July 20, 2014

Quiet (a great book by Susan Cain and also a word I need to say to my child a little less!)


...has probably changed my life, and my thinking, as much as Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist did when I read it back in 2010.

Quiet, by Susan Cain, was brought to my attention in Book Tips: Quiet and Thrive, a post on I checked my local library for both and was delighted to find Cain's book. 

Reading it has been a real eye opener. 

I come from a largely extroverted family, with the exception of my father, perhaps. I say this because my mother has often expressed that my father would be happier 'in a cabin in the woods on his own' than in the hustle and bustle of family life. And I think now, as an adult, it probably was and still is true. Growing up in an extroverted family like this, however, means adapting or constantly being asked, "What is wrong with you? Why are you so quiet?

I've had many people I went to high-school with tell me in later years that they thought I was so snobby in school because I rarely spoke to others. At work, I've often been told I seemed stand-offish until people got to know me better.

I have made effort over the past few years at work to be more social and speak more with my co-workers, who really are a great group. I still take lunch and coffee on my own, though. Why? Because I need that few moments alone in my own space to regroup from the morning and be energized for the afternoon.

In Quiet, Cain makes it clear why. And that it's perfectly okay. 

I am aware that many people reading this (including my family) would be amazed that I identify far more with being an introvert, and I can only say in response that it's the power of adaptation. Introverts notoriously try and adapt to more extroverted behaviors because society leads us to feel extroverts are not only more socially acceptable, but also are having way more least, as a teen and young adult, that was what I believed. Though in my heart I might have longed to stay home with a good book on a weekend night, that wouldn't be 'really living,' would it?

The older I get, however, the more comfortable I am in my own skin. I've never really enjoyed large groups of people being around me. 
I love music, but I rarely attend live music events. 
I greatly prefer texting to talking on the phone. 
I can be quite comfortable in long-distance relationships. 
In recent years, I stopped going to art receptions or similar events where endless small talk dominated the evening because it was just too exhausting. 
I have come to adore social networking because it allows me to be social without actually socializing. 
I absolutely despise being made to work in groups in any type of situation, no matter how noble the goal. I think much better on my own (as did, based on the photo above, Albert Einstein!) 
In romantic relationships, I tend to play a Miss Dynamite role I feel is 'more interesting' rather than reveal my true, much mellower, self, and eventually the relationship fizzles because one can only pretend so much for so long.
And when my son spends a rare night away from home, to the surprise of many people who seem to think single moms simply live for a night 'out,' I don't rush home, don glittery shoes and false eyelashes, and go out on the town for some wild evening...I usually just meet a friend for coffee early in the evening, then come home to a good book, movie or knitting project. 

And it makes me happy, very happy, to do just that. It's what I want to do. I'm 'out' all the time. If I have a moment alone, I just want to savor it. At home. In my own sacred space.

And it's not wrong. Or not enough. Or not living. My yoga journey has really helped me see the truth in who I am, and I'm so grateful for this. In reading Quiet, I've come to realize that it's high time to shrug off a persona, even if others enjoy that persona, that I adopted long ago to 'fit in.' It's time to remember the child who was constantly worried something was 'wrong with her' because she enjoyed solitude and quiet pursuits, and to celebrate her now.

It has also helped me in the opposite way.

My son is not, in any size, shape or form, introverted.

He's exuberant, dynamic, a class Sagittarius. At 9.5, he thrives on excitement and stimulation. He's always telling me we 'need more people' in our home. He loves socializing and being with others.

He also loves to talk.
Oh my, how he loves to talk. And how often I have said to him, over the past few years,
'Can you please be more quiet?'
'I need you to be quiet so I can think.'
 'You are talking way too much.'
 'Settle down.'
'Stop being so talkative.'
'Just chill out a little.'
'No one needs to come over all the time. Just learn to play on your own.'

This is opposite of  what I heard growing up. I was constantly being drawn out to do and say and be more. Now I see I might be inadvertently trying to quell my son's vibrant personality for no other reason than because it is so different than mine. My words, which seem harmless enough, are actually encouraging him to do, say and be less than what his personality authentically is.

And there is no 'more' or 'less'. We are who we wonderfully are. And it is okay.

Reading Quiet  has made me realize how much, as a child and young person, I felt conflicted with my true nature and how I thought I should be, and how this has affected me into adulthood. It also made me realize how easy it is to try and steer our own children's personalities away from who they naturally are and into being more like us! 

I am about halfway through with reading Quiet, and as I reflect on Cain's writing, I feel more and more comfortable owning who I authentically am, instead of  maintaining a persona I adopted years ago to seem more interesting and dynamic (and because I thought one needed this very outgoing personality in order to live fully).

 I encourage everyone to read Quiet to understand not only ourselves, but also to understand others! You can like Quiet on FB here and Susan Cain here.


Sannamari said...

I could sign almost everything you wrote :) I often feel that I should be more sociable and get out more with the kids to socialize them but hanging in a large group of people is not my thing. I have often wondered how much of it is my just my personality and how much is the influence of being an only child. From what you wrote it seems that it's mostly a question of personality. :) And, I can see the differences in my 3 children, even though they all come from the same home.

JW said...

This is lovely, and resonates with me deeply -- I am a hard core introvert, though I am in a job that demands me to be an extrovert...I adapt, as you say, but it is EXHAUSTING. My oldest is like me, happy focusing on a single task, quietly, for a long time -- my youngest sounds a lot like your son. I think the accelerating grey in my hair is due to M2.

Amy Alley said...

Sannamari thank you for reading my blog and for taking time to comment. I think it is part of inherent personality, as Eric is an only child and is so outgoing and social! I think he is influenced by me in many ways, though, so maybe in time he'll be a balance of both types. I've tried to respect his need for social stimulation but also teach him the value of having personal quiet time (which I need every day!)

Amy Alley said...

Jamie thank you for reading my blog and for taking time to comment! I think as we are in similar fields of education then we both know how taxing it is to adapt always! It's funny how we end up in jobs so different than our true natures! One of my favorite college jobs was working in a framing shop. I spent all day, save for two 15 minute breaks and a lunch break, in a cubicle of sorts where I listened to books on tape and framed pictures. I chatted with co-workers during breaks and lunch but for the majority of workday I was on my own. I was in a total comfort zone there! :-) It's funny how different my 'career' of choice is from that job I enjoyed so much!