It’s time to party hearty on day #4 of ‘The Extrovert and Introvert’ week!
Years ago, in the 1980s, I planned an anniversary weekend with my first wife, Kathy. It was a big deal; an overnight trip to San Francisco’s Union Square with a stay at the St. Francis Hotel, a dinner at Postrio, the hottest restaurant on the west coast at the time, finishing with a fun night attending the play ‘Noises Off’. It was glittery, fun and filled with sounds, tastes, smells and sights that stimulated and entertained. It went off without a hitch and we had a great time.
Well, ok. I had a great time. I thought Kathy was having a great time too. But later, on our way home, I asked her how she liked it, fully expecting her to be swooning over all of it and especially my exquisite romantic effort. Her response? It was ok but she didn’t like it all that much. Say WHAT? Are you kidding me? How could she not like it? My feelings were hurt, I felt like she had no respect for how hard I worked to put it all together to give her a great anniversary weekend. I was bummed.
She said the weekend I planned was too much. Maybe one of those things we did in the city would have been ok, but put them all together and it was too much. It was too stimulating, too sensory, too noisy and crowded and bright. I asked her what would she have wanted the weekend to be like. She said she would have preferred a quieter, more natural setting, maybe in the woods, in a cabin, going hiking, etc.
My Mistake, a Cautionary Tale
What I figured out later was that I had indeed planned the perfect anniversary weekend….for me, the extrovert. I didn’t really plan it for her, the introvert. I didn’t know her well enough to realize that doing all at one time filled her with anxiety, not joy. It didn’t excite her, it exhausted her.
I wish I could say I ceased to make those sorts of mistakes but I didn’t. It took me a long time to pay attention to who she was instead of who I wanted her to be. I think I am better about that now in my second marriage, to Linda. I am sure she sees times when I still don’t see her clearly, but I definitely pay more attention than I used to.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Criss Jami, 1987 – not dead yet, American poet
It’s day #3 of ‘The Extrovert and Introvert’ series!
I started out in college studying printmaking. Because you have to use big, heavy and expensive presses to print your work, and you have to use chemicals and inks that require special handling, you usually are in a group environment in a big studio. You do your own work but you are talking to others, maybe helping them print something or asking advice on how to get something right, as well as just idle chitchat that happens during long hours in the studio. It’s the perfect ‘alone together’ environment for an artist who is an extrovert.
But early on I was so much of an extrovert, I wanted so much socializing, that I didn’t really spend an adequate amount of alone time doing my artwork. I believe my career as an artist actually suffered because of that. What I eventually learned is embodied in the quote, ‘A career is born in public, talent in private’. In my understanding now I believe you will not be successful creatively unless you spend immense amount of time alone simply practicing, training, learning, exploring and creating your work.
This is true of artists, actors, singers, writers, speakers, and more; anyone who has to be in the public at some point. Even professions you wouldn’t at first think about. In my capacity as an organizer for PHOTOG, the photography group I help lead here in Oklahoma, I often will need to find models for shoots. If the model is inexperienced one of the essential bits of advice I give is for them to practice posing in a mirror by themselves. The reason is so they can really know their own face and body, what it does, how they can make it do this or that.
Being alone, focused on practicing something over and over, is where talent will be born. We who are extroverts can learn something from introverts who already know this.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Marilyn Monroe, 1926 – 1962, American actress
Norma Jean Baker
I hope you haven’t had your fill yet, because today is only day #2 of ‘The Extrovert and Introvert’ series.
Raised by Extroverts
I was raised by two extroverts. My mother was a loud laughing broad who likened herself to Lucille Ball, even if she did look more like Jackie O. My father was the smooth charmer who could work a room like no other. My sisters and I are pretty much the same. We aren’t overly self-conscious and we make friends easily. We certainly wouldn’t be called shy by any stretch of the imagination.
I Married an Introvert
So, when I married my first wife, Kathy, I really had no idea what shyness and introversion were all about. I didn’t understand being self-conscious. I simply had very little exposure to what it was and how it affected people. Kathy was pretty shy. As a matter of fact, she probably was the shyest person I had ever met when we first crossed paths in 1977 at UCSB. It wasn’t until 2 years later, in San Francisco, that we met again and started dating. We were married within the year and my journey of discovery started.
I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to what it was all about and as a result Kathy suffered quite a bit. I was not aware of what she was going through, and when I was, I more often than not blew her feelings off as not being valid. After all, in my mind, what was there to be shy or self-conscious about, right? It just seemed ridiculous to me. That obliviousness to her and how her mind worked, that judgment I had about it without really understanding it, were contributing factors in our divorce 20 years down the road.
I Married an Introvert, Again!
Fast forward a number of years and I marry Linda. Linda isn’t shy. She isn’t at my level of extroversion, but she is comfortable and easy going in social situations. But I learned something very important this time around. Just because someone is able to socialize, doesn’t mean it is easy. I found out that Linda has to work hard to socialize. She works a room and it is what it says it is, work. She is tired and exhausted after socializing. It wears her down. She needs down time after it. I respect that and we live a life that allows for that rejuvenation to take place as often as possible.
They Married an Extrovert
If it was and is hard for me dealing with being married to introverts, it was and is equally hard for them to be married to an extrovert. I make friends with baristas, waiters, people I happen to run next to in a strange town (yes, I mean actually running down a street and meeting another runner), and random people on the internet who live around the globe in Slovenia or Australia or Korea or who knows where. It isn’t a chore for me to make friends. I like it. It makes me happy. I am not tired after a long day of socializing, I am usually ready for more.
I sometimes will tell Linda a story about someone I met and something they are going through, and she will stop me and ask, “How exactly do you know them again?” My response will most likely be along the lines of, “I am not sure, I think I met them on Flickr, maybe back in 2006, or maybe I was in the lawn mower repair place. Oh wait, I think they were on that bus in Florida that time in 2009, remember?” She’ll look at me with that look that that says, ‘I am exhausted just listening to how you met this person, much less hearing the rest of this story.’
Who We Are
I think what both Kathy and Linda eventually learned was that this ease and love I have for socializing and making friends is not part of a secret agenda on my part, any more than their reticence to socialize was part of some agenda on their part. It’s simply what feeds me and what feeds them. None of us are the same, and neither are our offspring. We are on a social continuum, not in one camp or the other, like sparring political parties. That’s always good for me to remember.
Quote, drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
I am not too shy to say today is day #1 of ‘The Extrovert and Introvert’
I have had many friends over the years who have felt locked up. They feel paralyzed in life. They can’t move emotionally, socially, career-wise, or physically. They are imprisoned. Sometimes that imprisonment is imposed from the outside. It might be a societal thing, or a marriage, bodily illness/injury or family expectations. But often I find that the prison is made by the prisoner. The family judgment is minimal. Society is actually paying very little attention. The spouse is actually supportive and encouraging. They are healthy. The prison is not built by others. It’s built by themselves.
Best of Intentions
And the prison is custom built for only one prisoner, by someone who knows the prisoner best. And even at one point, had the prisoner’s best interests at heart. After all, when we are growing up, don’t we need defenses? Don’t we learn how to protect ourselves from danger? The bullying classmate, the judging mother, the condemning father, the harsh friend, the manipulative pastor, the scolding teacher. Haven’t we all had someone like that in our lives? We figured out ways to protect ourselves. We built a fortress to keep those people out. And it worked. We were protected, if we were lucky.
Bed and Breakfast
But we didn’t realize that a fortress is also a prison. As we grew older the need for the fortress lessened, but the fortress was still there. Fortresses don’t come down by themselves, do they? They have to be knocked down and destroyed, right? Or perhaps they don’t have to be. Perhaps they can be simply opened up to public viewing, like an ancient castle in Europe that is now a Bed and Breakfast.
Invitation to Your Brain
I once took part in an open studio tour. I had rented a large garage space as my studio in my next door neighbor’s lot behind my house in San Jose, California. I put up many pieces of art; drawings, photos, paintings, etc. for everyone to see. At one point I noticed a good friend of mine sitting quietly on the coach in the middle of the room, just staring at the work. I came over, sat down and asked him what he was thinking. He chuckled and said, “I was just saying to myself that sitting here looking at your art makes me feel like I am wandering around inside your brain.” That was a pretty cool compliment. Well, at least it was after he explained that what he found in my brain didn’t freak him out too much.
More Than One Tool
Maybe that is the key. Don’t expect to completely destroy fortresses you have built up for decades. Maybe have more than one tool. Have a wrecking ball to knock some parts down and a welcome mat to allow access to other parts.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Frans Hiddema, 1923-1997, Dutch Poet and Psychoanalyst.