When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Friday, February 7, 2014

Being a Member of a Community

As I am an extreme Introvert, I am often accused of many things--being antisocial [People, get this straight!! See my psychology blog post on this!], having social anxiety, being a homebody. Basically, because I recharge my batteries in quiet solitude people like to jump to conclusions about the kind of person I am rather than bothering to take the time to get to know me better. As an I--J on Jung's typology (the first and last personality dimensions as assessed by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), I take a long time to warm up to people. I observe and reserve judgment until I gather enough data to draw my conclusions. This also means that I am more particular about the people with whom I form friendships AND once a friendship is fractured it takes a long time for me to heal. I am capable of forgiving and moving on, but due to my nature I take a while to come around to the new conclusion. I don't ask anyone to like it, but it is always nice when someone tries to understand without leaping to assumptions.

Well, the other day I was thinking about the social activities of my husband and myself. He spends very little time at home. Pretty much all of his non-work time (and sometimes he takes off work early or uses his lunch time) is spent with FRIENDS doing friend stuff--watching movies or TV, talking, "hanging out", playing board games, etc. It's all about having a good time, entertaining themselves. I certainly don't begrudge him this. I understand the necessity to socialize, especially for the extrovert that he is.

Still, because I don't seem to have many friends, he thinks I don't know how to socialize with others. I happen to have friends. However, except for a small number of friendships I've formed locally--remember, it takes me a while to extend that title to someone--most of my friends live far away from me. Why do I have so many friends so far away? Well, that's the positive of the I-J; when we make friends we value them so much that we make the effort to keep them going strong even when physical distances separate us. I may not contact my friends on a daily basis. I may not physically see them in person--hard to do that when they are states, countries, or continents away--but I call or write or email or contact them via Facebook/Twitter. Because these people are important to me I make the effort to keep in touch. I do count that as socialization. I don't need to be in the same room with someone to enjoy their personality. It's nice to get to talk or do something with my friends in person, but I can love them as my friends without demanding their presence as well. I'm also not going to just write them off and move on to other people just because they can't hop on a plane to come visit me. I understand that they have lives and obligations and I will never begrudge them those choices. The people whom I have chosen as friends also understand this about me (many of them are closer to the introvert side of the scale, too) and accept that sometimes life circumstances may physically separate people but you don't have to emotionally separate because of it.

The ironic part of my life is that, though he accuses me of not having any friends and he insists there must be something wrong with me because I don't "socialize" by his definition of the word, my husband thinks I spend too much time outside the house doing too much for others. I have to scratch my head when he points out or complains that I'm never home because I volunteer at my church or for my daughter's various organizations. New flash: this is a form of socialization! I choose activities with other people that promote something for a greater good beyond my personal entertainment. Yes, I can enjoy the company of others AND still accomplish something like helping clean up a place, serving people, assisting, teaching people, or worshiping with others. My socialization comes primarily from being an active member of a community. I am not trying to inflate my ego in any way, but I know that if/when I ever leave here my daughter and I will leave quite a few holes because of all the contributions we make. I'm sure that, should he ever relocate, my husband will be missed for a while by the dozens of friends who know him. Some may even stay in touch with him for a while. And yet, other than his place of work, I wonder if there is anyone else who would be scrambling to fill the gaps he would leave behind. Sadly (from one point of view), there wouldn't be too many people who would suffer from a vacuum like that.

Here's a little more irony. Though my husband would leave behind many friends if he were to move, it would actually be harder for me to leave a place because I am a member of the community. I have a knack for finding a hole and filling it with my skills, abilities, time, talent, and willingness to assist. I enjoy having a purpose and a place. My choice of socialization tends to have more of a purpose than just entertaining myself. I can find enjoyment in the company of others, I just don't need to be so selfish about my activities. It's not just about making people happy, for me. It's more about having a place and making a difference. When I do finally leave here, I know, sadly, that I will probably leave some gaps that will take my community--church, work, daughter's school & extracurriculars--some time to find a replacement. I realize that I will leave a vacuum, so it can be tough for me to leave a place. The friends I made here, though, will stay my friends for as long as I continue to reach out to them. I know distance is no barrier to friendship, but it is to being a member of a community.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying one way of socialization is better or worse than another. There are two sides to every coin (3 if it's thick enough). On the one hand, it is easier for my husband than for me to make new friends everywhere he goes. On the other hand, it is easier for me than my husband to become a member of my community. It is also harder for me to leave a place than it is for him, but easier for me to keep up my important relationships when I leave because of my personality.

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