Before my mom died, she and my dad regularly ate lunch in the dining room of their senior facility. Mom didn’t have the energy to make it down for breakfast and dinner, so they had those meals delivered to their apartment.
Mom, an extrovert, missed the socializing, but the schedule suited Dad, an introvert. I take after Dad, so when I visited, the limited “peopling” suited me, too.
For introverts, “peopling” is draining rather than energizing.
When our trio went down for lunch, I pulled out every reluctant extrovert cell in my body (and there are a few) for a song-and-dance-show. I turned on the charm. Since Mom wasn’t always her usual bubbly self and she so desperately wanted to make friends, I tried to be her girlfriend ambassador.
Those ninety-minute lunches drained me, but it was OK since I had a whole day to recover.
In case you don’t know, one of the hallmarks of being an introvert is not that you dislike people and/or socializing, but that “peopling” is draining rather than energizing. And just like any drained battery, introverts need to recharge.
After Mom died two weeks ago, I thought Dad might wither away in his room, but he put on his big boy pants and started going down to all three meals. I’m visiting him now, still turning on the charm at lunch and sometimes dinner, this time on his behalf.
After one particular noisy lunch gathering, my charm quickly wore thin. “I can’t believe you do this every day,” I told Dad on our way back to his apartment.
Introverts need to recharge.
When I got back, I opened my email, found this article about introverts and the cartoon above by the talented Aaron Caycedo-Kimura. It nailed my exact feelings. When I showed it to Dad, he agreed, with a laugh.
For too many decades, I was so caught up in people-pleasing, in wanting to fit it with the extrovert world, I ignored my need for solitude. And although I often enjoyed “peopling,” I ignored my need for recovery.
Mom and I had often talked about our extrovert and introvert experiences, but Dad and I never bonded over our introvert inclinations. Until now.
At eighty-seven, newly widowed after sixty-three years of marriage, Dad is living proof that it’s never too late to learn and you’re never too old to grow.
At sixty, newly bonded with my dad, I’m learning and growing, too.