Holiday Hangover: Introvert Edition

So peaceful when I get my alone time.

So peaceful when I get my alone time.

Some people are surprised to learn that I am an introvert. I think this comes from a misunderstanding of what being an introvert actually means. I don’t have any great fear of public speaking. I am generally at ease in groups of people and find carrying on conversations pretty easy. But these things EXHAUST me. This is how I found myself with a holiday hangover this week. Too much time spent extroverting and not enough time recovering. Let me explain…

My week of extroverting began with a midweek holiday concert with a friend. It was a great show (check out Ingrid Michaelson’s holiday album if you want to know what we were listening to) and I had been really looking forward to it. I was tired the next day but mostly from being out past my usual bedtime.

Then over the weekend, a good friend was holding a celebratory brunch at her house. I went there almost directly from teaching my Saturday morning class. The two extroverting activities back to back meant I went home and recharged with Netflix. But I was doing ok. Not overwhelmed yet.

Then I hosted a cookie decorating gathering at my home. I had prepped the sugar cookies the night before and ordered quiches from a local pie shop to minimize my own cooking requirements. It was fantastic. I caught up with some people I love and had a very fun afternoon with them. Then I had to run off to teach my Sunday evening class. And by Monday it hit me…

TOO MUCH CHRISTMAS! This is something the priest from my church growing up would talk about at the holidays. It is that point when kids start arguing and crying. When family members get on one another’s last nerves. It was the point my extroverting had brought me to and it isn’t even Christmas yet!

This Monday, I was a complete and total crabby patty. Things that usually wouldn’t bother me were extreme irritations. And I still had one more gathering to attend. That was the last straw for my introverted self. I came home from said gathering and sobbed. I was tired and frustrated. I felt unappreciated. I had pushed myself too far all while knowing that it wouldn’t end well. It felt very much like a hangover. I had indulged too much, my body aching and wanting rest, but the memories were great! Right?

Not entirely. Now those people who had the unfortunate experience of talking to me on a bad day have that burned into their memories. And I can’t take back the way that I made those folks feel. This is why paying attention and listening to our bodies is so important. It has a direct relationship with our day to day actions.

Just kidding, this is the real me.

Just kidding, this is the real me.

In yoga, we learn to pay attention to our energy levels. We try to find practices that complement what our bodies need. This has given me new insight into how my introversion works and how I can manage it (usually). I know that being around people for too long a stretch without “me time” un-grounds me. I need time to process and regroup. I need to turn off for a bit.

The best way I know to get back to myself is spending time alone. I love being alone. I was always good at independent play and now I enjoy privately practicing as my adult playtime. I spend a great amount of time just daydreaming when I am alone. I am not trying to think about anything in particular but allowing my mind to wander freely. It is actually how I come to write these blog posts! I always have a first draft in my head. I know that I need these things before I spend time with family this Christmas.

So this holiday season, love the introverts in your life but give them some space. Don’t assume they are upset if they go for some alone time. Don’t worry if they would rather read than play a game. They will come around when they have recharged their extroverting batteries.

But I am right...

I have probably said that exact phrase 547 times over the past week. Being home for Thanksgiving brought out some of my less flattering tendencies: my need to argue and my need to be right. I was right about a family matter. I was right about how to do a yoga pose. I was right about Harry Potter trivia. I was out of control.

The reason it feels so good to be “right” is the sense of power it gives us. We feel superior in our rightness. But one of my teachers reminded me that this power isn’t real and it impedes our ability to connect meaningfully with others. She called me out with one question, “Do you want to make a case or do you want to make a connection?”

It has not been an easy question to ask myself. I am still drawn to the power in being right. It still feels good to be right. But when it comes to my family, I do want to connect which means letting go of that need to not only be “right” but to be recognized as being right. (Remember when I mentioned that Non-Attachment lesson that keeps coming around? Tada, here it is!)

I took a walk down memory lane last night to reflect on some times when I have been very wrong. I did this in a pretty light way looking at my terrible hair choices through the years. Speaking of things that are unflattering on me, let’s look at some times when I have been oh so very wrong:

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Long hair don’t care

Cow licks, fly aways, general scraggliness

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Rogue face framing

Highlights only in the front inspired by X-men

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Zebra cap

Cap highlights: always leave your roots showing!

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Middle part in bangs

Also Sun-In spray highlights that turn your hair into straw

Ok so clearly, I am not always right. I am a human making choices based on the information I have at the moment. At that moment in 9th grade, I thought color contacts and collared shirts were high fashion. The difficulty on my latest journey will be leaving myself open to connecting with others. I have to recognize they too are humans making the best decisions they can in that moment. This might be my most challenging lesson in non-attachment yet.

Satya is not Sarcastic

New studio. New perspective. Same goal: finding my truth.

New studio. New perspective. Same goal: finding my truth.

I am an extremely sarcastic person. I developed this habit in middle school partly as a defense mechanism and partly because it got laughs. Girls can be quite mean while growing up and becoming sarcastic was my way of being mean with the added benefit of saying I was “just joking.” I was also the youngest of five children and sarcasm was a great way to battle being picked on.

Now in my adulthood, as a manager of people in a service business, I am experiencing a reckoning with my sarcasm. The other night I was ribbing a client for offering too much feedback at the end of my class. This client is a regular and we have a long history of her offering input on everything from the lobby layout to which poses I should teach. I wouldn’t tease all clients in this way because I know not everyone will take my words as being good-natured. So then, why would I speak this way with one client if I know better than to do it with all?

This brought me to reflect on the Yamas and Niyamas (yogi dos and don’ts) and the concept of Satya. Sat translates to “that which is” and the idea of Satya is communicating things as they are. At it’s simplest, it is the practice of being truthful. Sarcasm and Satya cannot coexist in your communication.

Sarcasm, as I already admitted, is a way of deflecting or being indirect. It is an attempt to give yourself an out if what you say is not received well. You were only joking. You didn’t mean to say something hurtful. But in actuality, you did mean to be hurtful or at least to be harsh and pointed. The premise created by sarcasm is one that is false which, according to Yoga’s teachings, it is better to remain silent than to speak falsely.

Now, I also admitted that I did this as a way to be funny and make people laugh. I find great joy in making people smile and in making them take life less seriously. But humor does not require being mean or being untrue. There are sweet and simple ways to make folks laugh. One way that I use in my classes is pointing out the absurdity of a pose. Malasana pose (yogi squat) is an inherently funny shape to be in simply because we never outgrow potty humor.

I know that my pattern of sarcasm will not be an easy one to break. It is another layer that I need to remove to come closer to my higher self. As I clear this habit, I will be opened up to new perspectives and will find the freedom to express who I really am.

Love Languages

Heart-opening poses get into the space representing where we give and receive love.

Heart-opening poses get into the space representing where we give and receive love.

I learned about the five love languages when I was in middle school. It is safe to say that I have been mildly obsessed with love languages ever since. I am a very verbal person so it came as no surprise that my love language is words of affirmation. I will remember every compliment (and disparagement) with crystal clarity. I have a gift for remembering conversations and have always been more of an auditory learner. It drives my husband a bit nuts that I can recall his exact words at the drop of a hat.

You might have guessed that my husband does not share my love language. He is a physical touch person. He likes holding hands, having his hair pet, giving hugs, etc. We are exact opposites in our ranking of these love languages. His preferred method of communicating love is my least favorite and my preferred is his least favorite. How are we even still married? Well, we do share a secondary language of quality time. But we also have worked on understanding how each other expresses our affection. I remember my mother scolding me once when Bill and I were only dating that I needed to “get over it and hold the poor boy’s hand!” Ick. Hands are sweaty and holding them feels controlling. I would much prefer he just told me how great I am. (Alternatively, I can tell Bill he is brilliant until I am blue in the face but he would rather I stroke his hair.)

But this isn’t a marriage blog, it is about my yoga practice. And I have seen how my preferred love language has greatly impacted who I am as a teacher. I am not what I would call a “handsy” teacher. I don’t adjust people physically unless I think it will help them understand the pose better. My first instinct is to change the language that I am using to describe a pose. And I often offer my students feedback and encouragement with my words. The occasional “beautiful expressions of the pose” or “nice self adjustments” is very natural for me to say. I work on keeping my language light and encouraging. I hope that I create an atmosphere where people feel they belong and can practice in a way that suits them.

So that is how my love language has impacted how I teach. But it also impacts how I receive feedback from my students. In the practice, if a student asks a question or laughs at my joke I know they are engaged in what I am offering. But we live in a digital world where opinions are shared through all sorts of methods. When I would read the studio’s reviews to share encouraging feedback with other teachers, I would get stomach aches. Finding out that I did not meet a student’s expectations, that they did not connect with me or my class, was devastating. Even though I know that I will not be the right teacher for every student — that would be unrealistic to expect — reading the words that I was not the right teacher strikes a deep chord with me.

These students are not offering their feedback to hurt me. They are trying to express their opinions to be constructive. But I am who I am. Words have a certain power over me. As much as I love with words, I have used them as a weapon too. Reflecting on all of this, I have created a personal intention to not demean any other person. And it has been difficult. The person who runs the red light in front of my street usually makes me mutter under my breath. But what good did calling that person a name do? They couldn’t hear me and all I am doing is creating an world with more negative energy in it.

The love languages give us a framework to go deeper in our understanding of the ego, the false self, and how we might adjust. I encourage you to learn more about how you express and receive love (you might also learn how you react negatively using this lens as well). And then explore what personal intention you could hold to create a world with more love. The love and energy we put into our lives returns to us.