Since my recent Facebook Challenge and Dying to Talk masterclass, I have gone into hiding. (Well, obviously not any more, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this!)
But seriously, I notice that after a prolonged time when I am ‘out’ there, I need to retreat ‘in’.
This is because, believe it or not, I am an introvert.
I know it doesn’t look like that; I know that you’ll more likely be laughing and thinking something like ‘she is one of the more extrovert people I know!’ and you might even be wondering if I have gone a bit barmy.
But the fact is, it’s true.
I was terribly shy as a child. Hiding behind my Mum’s skirts kind of shy. Afraid to say anything to anyone I didn’t know. Embarrassed to exist.
When I was 13, though, a major change happened.
I had been invited to a party by people from the new school I had joined. It was the first teenage party I’d been to, it felt like a big deal and I really wanted to go, I was wearing a lovely little orange and black top and skirt that my Mum had made for me that I loved. I wasn’t very happy about the fact that my Dad was going to pick me up at 9pm, but I had to accept that.
A couple of hours later, well into the party, and I was desperately waiting for him to arrive. The room lights were dimmed; I didn’t feel comfortable dancing, and thus discovered first hand what it means to be a wallflower, literally standing up against the wall, watching everyone else enjoy themselves.
I didn’t know what to say to anyone (and being a new school, I hadn’t had time to make good friends); and when it came to playing ‘spin the bottle’, I was too scared to say I didn’t want to play it.
Just in case you don’t know what Spin the Bottle is, everyone sits on the floor in a circle, a bottle in the middle on its side. The bottle is spun by one person, and when it stops, the person to whom it is pointing gets to kiss the spinner of the bottle.
I so desperately wanted to fit in, I was going along with playing the game, but secretly hoping it would never stop at me.
Of course, it did.
It never occurred to me that I could say no – so I got up, followed this lad (smaller than me) into a cupboard, where he shut the door – and that is how I discovered french kissing.
I was revolted, near to tears, unable to do anything about it, and just desperate to hear the ring on the doorbell that would mean my Dad had arrived, which eventually he did.
I never said anything to him, or my Mum, but I didn’t go to any more parties for at least a year.
I also became even quieter as a result, until one morning, I vowed I would never be shy again.
Standing on the corner of our road, under the huge horse chestnut tree, the sun shining through the leaves, and the patterns dappling on my jumper, I said to myself ‘I am not going to be shy anymore’.
That decision resulted in me watching my definitely-not-shy and very sociable Mum, to see what she did. For a few weeks I observed her, and then began to practice.
I made myself say hallo to people whom I hadn’t met before, even while going bright red with embarrassment.
I memorised some sentences to say to them after the initial opening, and then actually said them.
I discovered quite quickly that people love to be asked about themselves, and after I’d started the conversation, all I really had to do was listen and respond.
And that’s how I became an apparently very outgoing, confident person.
Now, many years later, that persona I adopted has become much more part of my natural personality.
But only because I now take lots of time for myself, being alone, and being quiet.
Nearly every morning, I get up early to make sure I have about 2 hours of solitude. I meditate, walk in the woods, do some exercises – whatever it is that needs to be done that is nurturing and nourishing for myself.
Without this, I could not go out into the world in the way I do. I could not write or blog or be on Facebook.
So that’s also why, after a sustained time of being ‘out there’ I have to retreat.
The problem is I also know that my mission is to shout from the rooftops about end of life matters.
And as an introvert, I need to find the balance between that shouting out and attracting attention, and hiding.
So here I am again, having retreated, banging the drum of facing the end of life, which paradoxically brings you more INTO life right now!
Strangely enough, the admittance of that to yourself means that you can be MORE fully present than before.
It means that once you’ve accepted you’ll pop your clogs one day, you can more fully inhabit those clogs.
And it means you have the courage to take care of the practical aspects of leaving a body behind, thus giving the most precious gift to your family after you have gone.
If you’re intrigued about this idea of becoming more alive by facing death, then check out how prepared you are for a good end of life by doing my free quiz. That’ll give you a tiny taste of how important this kind of thing is.
If you’ve done the quiz already, do it again – has anything changed? It will have if you have taken action!