Respecting the Bubble – BLOWN UP!
I recently had a chance to meet up with a very dear friend who breezed into town unexpectedly. In my excitement and anticipation, I told everyone who was willing to listen about our connection, who she was, what I loved about her, how we’d driven each other crazy when we first worked together, and more. One phrase that always popped out of my mouth to describe her was “if there was ever a true extrovert, it is HER!”
Said, of course, with a nod to the introvertedness of myself. Sometimes I feel like all I do is look for opportunities to be alone, because interactions with other humankind cost me so much. This chica, on the other hand, had always sought it out and thrived on it.
The first year we knew each other we were both volunteering overseas in Sri Lanka in a situation that had not proven to be “as advertised”. We were all doing the best we could with limited resources, high pressure, and low security. I felt sucked dry and was in desperate need of refueling in order to cope. She just about drove me around the bend with her desire for activity and companionship. But it was this same zest for life and love of connection that is one of her most defining characteristics, and what makes her a gift in this world. After the buffering space of time and healing, we recognized our connection as sister-friends – hard-earned after the trials we had gone through together that year. I have loved and appreciated her deeply ever since.
We had a few glorious hours to spend together in Victoria this past week… three hours to pack 10 years of catching-up stories into. Our lives have gone through drastic and sometimes heartbreaking changes during those ten years, and it was profound to see how we have changed and still stayed the same. At one point, as I was describing my current need for alone-space in order to heal from recent changes, I referred to my introversion. She responded by saying, “you know, many people think I am an extrovert, but I am an introvert too. I also need that down time.”
Wait – what? You can’t be an introvert. YOU are NOT an introvert. *I* am the introvert here.
And the little voice whispers to me… But Rebecca, you’ve had people call you an extrovert, too. In fact, you’ve had people respond with equal incredulity when you’ve talked about your need for alone-time.
WHAT CAN THIS MEAN??!
I’ll tell you what it means. It means we’ve been going about this whole extrovert/introvert thing in a rather unhelpful way. We’ve been labeling each other and crying out for our need to be understood and not actually stopping to notice that this isn’t about someone being “an extrovert” or “an introvert” but about us taking responsibility for our own individual needs and boundaries that ONLY WE CAN KNOW.
I ADORE this cartoon:
There is a Part Two here, if you haven’t seen it.
But now I want to tweak it. Let’s remove the labels of introvert and extrovert turn and this into an illuminating expression of energy dynamics between people.
We all have our own version of the hamster bubble. Our bubble is where we refuel, where we gain our energy, strength, and clarity. We all refuel in different ways. I refuel with alone-time, time spent in my sacred spaces, journaling, listening to music that fills my soul, and by sorting out my tangled thoughts. I refuel with sleep, and exercise, and cooking, and occasionally good (and specific) companionship… and which one I choose depends on the day and my body and mind’s requests. I have even been known to refuel from dancing, which feels awfully extroverted-ish. The bottom line is, if I have listened to my body and mind’s requests and I am choosing to refuel via any of those methods, then anything that interferes with that refueling feels like an intrusion. If someone or some situation starts to suck my energy when I don’t have the energy to give, it feels bad.
I could at that point fly the big introvert flag, which has usually involved a perception (conscious or otherwise) that the the person or situation is an energy-sucker or extrovert or needy or demanding – OR I could simply acknowledge that I am in charge of my bubble, and it is up to me to hold its space and do what I need to do.
And I will do very, very well to consider that someone like my dear friend, whom I had labeled as an extrovert (and along the lines of the cartoon, an energy-sucker) might in fact have her own nurturing bubble. Perhaps I should take a look and see if I might have infringed upon it unwittingly while I was holding onto my title of “introvert.”
We all take energy and give energy. I would like to take responsibility for both my intake and my outgoing. I will manage my own refueling, because only I know how best to do that. I shall do my best not to refuel off of you if it is not something you are happily giving in that moment. And I shall be very happy to top up your tank when I am in that place of overflow, which will probably happen more often if I am taking more care to hold my bubble’s boundaries.
No more labels. Just love and acknowledgement that we are all in flow and flux.