Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Taking It All In, Getting It All Out

I've been standing around in my yard a lot lately. I don't see much of my neighbors, except when they jump in their cars and scurry off. One tanned and natty neighbor takes care of his carefully arranged plants and waters gingerly, always wearing his chino shorts, white polo shirt and Wafarers, boat shoes or barefoot - classic. I work in my more motley yard, too, sometimes industrially, with a saw and loppers and wheel barrow and big limbs - but NEVER insecticides or chemicals. And a lot of the time I just stand there, looking around.

I stand out there a lot as if I have nothing better to do - or as if I have too many "better" things to do to face them. So I go out to catch some of the zen aura of Yard Standing. And even out there, all alone, wondering really why most everyone else is so busy, it seems, running around their cars, pushing papers, working 40 hours a week, for crying out loud, I also take on that zen aspect of realizing I am my own best audience. I have a rich inner life, and it's one I have always wanted to get out, to you, to readers, to an audience, to a crowd.

But I don't always have to have an audience. I can percolate alone, ruminate alone, even elucidate alone. I am an extravert, but I have come to realize that I am probably stuck with being my own best audience.

A friend of a friend made a profound comment (regarding my dear friend and me) about that chasm between being an extravert and being an introvert. I have found that that chasm can go deep and wide. And even spending as much time alone these days as I do, even standing there in the yard alone, I feel extraversion is my religion. Why? A very good reason, actually: because I see extraversion, warped or brilliant, quirky or brave, as being at the very heart of the lives, the mentors, the art and literature I most admire. I think I became a rich person through the extraversion (which we could call the profound or intense sharing) of others, and I want to return the favor to those less fortunate.

I know the phrase "less fortunate" might rub some the wrong way. Who's he to say who's more or less fortunate? Well, I am looking at what I see - even at what our culture acknowledges all day every day.

From what I've found (and seen in everything from intimate relationships to the world news), most (at least many) introverts - perhaps not you - feel less fortunate because they envy storymakers and storytellers, leaders and celebrities and people on stage - people with a publicly disclosed narrative to their lives, people who, at least as long as we hear about them, are participants more than spectators. And most introverts seem to feel shy about or threatened by others knowing things. For one reason or another (and there are many reasons, many legitimate reasons), the introverts, those who are reticent, feel the pain and the closed in feelings of their inhibitions. We all - mee, too - wish we were a lot more brave, downright fearless, in fact. Boy, do we wish!

Most people don't want to be shy, but they grow accustomed to it and find some comfort in their quiet, less risky lives and accept their shyness or introversion as their lot in life, letting others take the stage. Surely, actors can relate to this. But even many actors are introverts in that they need to go into a character to take the stage - it is not their lives they are splaying out before the flood lights for all to see and savor or savage.

My act, yard standing, blogging, leading adventure tours, having heart to hearts, getting intimate, going public, is just me, not a character. Or perhaps more accurately, I turn myself into a character, not unreal, just artfully revealed. Of course we extraverts risk becoming charicatures of ourselves or even deluded narcissists, but I think those of us most longing to share outwardly know these risks and wouldn't trade them for a seat offstage.

Yes, the divide between extraverts and introverts can be deep, especially when the intro is very careful and reticent. For those of us wanting to take it all in and get it all out, we just can't afford to be so careful, and we tend to jump in whether we know how to swim or not. We tend to be more dogmatic than diplomatic, though as some especially charismatic leaders have shown, we can be both masters AND miserable failures at both. Yes, it's a very different life - and one to consider in the making of many relationships, both at home (even home alone) and away from home.

I know the dangers of dogma, but still, it's just too damn much fun. And of course, I love debate as well, at nearly every turn (though the older/more wisened I get, the more diplomatic/compassionate I want to be).

Above and beyond all the verbal and expressive pyrotechnics, I am glad to feel I have so few cul de sacs. And I too am sad to feel that others seem to have so many cul de sacs - retreats and reluctances, inhibitions. Not that anyone should be irresponsible or careless, mind you. This is not about perfecting selfishness; it is all about caring and contributing, about sharing our perceptions of and passions for life.

When it comes to expression and revelation and the urge to press the details and depths of their lives onto others - the charge of telling things, revealing plainly or artfully, even obtusely - not just to reluctantly reveal but to always feel, as I do, I feel this is my little way of giving back to all of us who struggle with life, who wonder, who wish, who want - to say things my way, in a voice I can call my own, whether my notions are oft-turned classics or radically (maybe even uselessly) new and novel. I feel at least I am trying to share.

As for the yard, I feel all of the above even when I am standing in the
yard alone. I am attaining at least a sliver of that "flow," that zen-like peace which says I can be my own audience - and am already the best audience for my life. I am probably the only person who will ever get me enough to satisfy me, at least in certain ways. And so in those ways, it may be that no "partnership," no 'ultimate intimacy' is possible - except with myself. Yet we extras keep trying.

And that is the journey and the quest most therapists and self-help helpers and mystics and gurus and worldly clerics suggest - to become intimately knowing of oneself, to at least function within the knowledge of oneself, without guilt or worry or fear or dead ends....



At 8/16/2005 9:25 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

This one is for my good friend Heidi.

Thanks, L

At 8/17/2005 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You poor, poor man. How sorry I feel for you at this very moment. You are missing so much of what is meaningful in life, and it's so sad to read it here in your own words. You really don't get it, do you? I just have to say it again.....you poor, poor little man.

At 8/17/2005 9:46 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Hey anonymous, I'm a guy who doesn't know everything, and I don't mind saying so from time to time, wondering and wandering, juxtaposing strains of audacity with humility, as I feel this post does. What am I not getting? I want to know more about "so much of what is meaningful in life." Thanks in advance for your assistance in this matter.

At 8/18/2005 4:52 AM, Anonymous rq said...

Hang in there, Buddy! I'm a yard sitter and a window gazer. Private moments with oneself are truly valuable. There will always be nay-sayers like Mr/Ms Anonymous.

At 8/18/2005 1:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not my job to educate or assist you. That's your job; educate and assist yourself.

At 8/19/2005 6:56 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Yes, anon, as apparently you have done. Impressive.

And you are also right: it's not your job, and neither does it seem to be your pleasure.

I suppose the question then is: when is the last time your anger did you some good?

Cheers to rq and others with constructive comments, thanks, Lawrence

At 9/23/2005 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After having seen a lot of people die, I know a lot of the meaning of life. The fact is life has to be worth fighting for and that means that you must become an extrovert.Sure there are moments of introspection, otherwise we are just raving ignorantly.But, if we don't fight for what we believe in and participate in the process of living, then we are just spectators on this planet.

At 9/23/2005 5:50 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

The above anonymous comment was posted six weeks after the blog post. I wonder, is it the same anonymous as above? For better or worse, this sort of intense, psychodramatic post tends to draw the most comments and attention. So noted.


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