A friend of mine was visiting recently, and stayed with us for a week.  My son was here, too, taking
a week off after two intense years of going to school and working full time. In a way, it was just like old times, when my kids were growing up and both still living at home. And although everyone said, “Don’t go to any trouble, we’ll be fine,” – and I know they meant it – I still fixed some big breakfasts and fancy dinners, and tried to make their time here special. Not because I needed to, but because I wanted to. I enjoy cooking and baking, and I enjoy fussing over
people when they’re in my home, whether they’re family, guests, or a combination of the two.

Then, all at roughly the same time, my son returned to his job and apartment, my friend went off to visit some other friends who are in the area, and my husband left town on a business trip. I returned from an early-morning meeting the next day to find no cars in the garage or driveway, no lights or appliances on in the house, and no faces or voices to greet me when I got home. I walked into the house with a mixture of regret and relief. Regret because I had gotten used to the buzz, the activity, and the energy of having other people around all the time, and relief because – well, for the
same reason, actually.

Much of what I do – writing in particular – requires that I retreat into my own little world, shutting out the sights and sounds around me so that I can concentrate and immerse myself in whatever it is I’m writing about. I’m able to do that even when other people are around, but it’s much easier to do when they’re not. So I enjoyed walking into a quiet, empty house and sitting down in front of my computer to catch up on the writing that I set aside somewhat while other people were here. At the same time, I was already missing the stories, the hugs, and the laughs we shared while  everyone was coming and going and crossing paths throughout the day and night.

It’s at times like this – the transitioning times – that I find myself thinking about the designations and definitions that are used to describe different types of people. Introverts and extroverts, for example. I know – from workshops, assessments, and magazine articles on the subject – that it’s not quite accurate to define them either as people who are shy and quiet or those who are boisterous and outgoing. It has more to do with where your energy comes from: Is it being with other people, or is it solitude and quiet reflection that recharges your batteries and replenishes your reserves?

I never know how to answer questions like that, because for me, both are true – in equal measure and to equal degrees. But at different times and for different reasons.

For some people, the same can be said about that right brain/left brain business. Although it isn’t as true for me, there are many people who are every bit as creative and intuitive as they are logical and analytical – which are some of the characteristics differentiating people who are right- or left-brain dominant.

I think we often do ourselves more harm than good when we try to analyze, characterize, and categorize ourselves and each other based on either/or descriptions and definitions. For one thing, doing so encourages us to make judgments and assumptions based on incomplete information. For another, it excuses us from getting to know each other as the fascinating and complex beings that we are. But most of all, it allows us to divide and label ourselves and each other in terms such as black or white, rich or poor, right or wrong, and smart or stupid. There’s a lot of room in between one extreme and the other, and even the extremes are subjective. And subject to change at any time.

So I’ll stop trying to figure out whether I’m an extrovert or an introvert, or wondering why there are days when nothing goes right, and other days when it seems I can do no wrong. I’ll admire the color and creativity I see all around me, and I’ll also appreciate the order and organization that helps keep life running smoothly.

And whether I’m in the middle of a room filled with lively people, or immersed in the silence of an empty house, I’ll find and take whatever it is I need to nourish my body, my mind, my heart and my soul. And I know I’ll feel right at home.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was
published on June 14, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

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