I’m going to take a quick step away from mindfulness to make a confession:  I use my introversion as a cop-out.

It’s not completely intentional (which is bad when you’re trying to live a more mindful life).  It’s not like I wake up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to see how many times I can get away with getting out of something because I’m an introvert.”  I don’t think that… but it still happens.

There are times when being conscious of my introversion is a good thing.   I don’t schedule three marathons and a triathlon on the same week (I don’t even schedule four races in the same year, but that’s a whole different post).  In the same way, I have learned not to schedule more than a couple of social events in the same week.  Not only is it exhausting, but it is also stressful.  I may spend weeks recovering from UC symptoms due to overscheduling.

Lately, though, I think I’ve been using it as an excuse.  “I have something going on this weekend, so I should avoid all stressful social situations this week.”  When did I become such a coward?

Once upon a time, I had a life where I was comfortable being social.  My job required greeting people (by name) every morning and interacting regularly with students and their parents.  I saw people other than my kids every single day of the week; I was active at church.  I hugged people as a part of my daily life.

Now?  Now I can spend the entire weekend without any real interaction, especially if I skip church because someone might talk to me.  I may go two weeks between any physical contact with another person.  I’m a touch-oriented person– that’s my primary love language.  My secondary love language?  Quality time.  How can I possibly keep from cutting myself from people when I shut down my primary ways of showing love?

I’ve considered kidnapping someone just so I have an outlet for my love languages, but decided that would be a bit extreme– and that jail might put a bit of a damper on my personal growth.  But, joking aside, something needs to be done.

Maybe this is the first step: admitting I have a problem in the first place.  I don’t want to grow up to be a lonely cat lady.  I don’t even want to be the stereotypical writer, shut away from the rest of the world pounding out story after story.  My best stories come from immersing myself in life, not from running away from it.

This means, of course, being aware of what I’m doing and taking steps to counteract it.  It means not letting my fear of saying goodbye overcome my fear of saying hello.

It means not being a chicken.

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Maybe it means no longer focusing on the things I’m afraid of… so maybe it has to do with mindfulness after all.

Time to face my fears.

I am not shy (which will actually come as a surprise to some who think they know me).  I actually like people, love having social interaction, and get a little bit down without any at all.  I am, however, a true introvert and too much social interaction, especially with large groups or unknown quantities, stresses me heavily.

Holmes and Rahe developed the Life Stress Test (the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating).  This test shows how much “life stress” you have and, based on the numbers, is a predictor of stress-related illness.

I took a version of this test and failed.  Worse than failed, really, since my score was twice the base for failing.  I have a very high-stress life right now.  Ill parent (who I live with).  Divorce.  Children not living with me.  Multiple new jobs, new homes, new schools in the last three years.  The list goes on.

Unfortunately, all that stress translates to a poor ability to deal with new experiences.  I am supposed to be leaving for a wedding right now for two people I care about but who I’ve never met in real life.  I’m going alone, to sit with a bunch of strangers.  I haven’t been able to make myself go.

It doesn’t help that I have a job interview on Thursday and I’m worried that if I push myself through the stress of going to this wedding I may then not be able to deal with the stress of a job interview.

It sounds like excuses, right?  Maybe it is.  But I can tell you my adrenaline is up, I’m mildly ill to my stomach, and if I were the type who vomited, I’d be spending some time wishing I’d cleaned the toilet yesterday instead of five days ago.

I don’t even have a solution on this one, other than to keep your life stress reduced so you can deal with these smaller stressors… or to be willing to bypass smaller stressors when you have to deal with a bunch of big ones.

Chances are really good I’m not going to end up going, which is going to be a stressor in itself.  I may actually have to fight through some depression if I don’t go, but stress if I do.  I guess the right solution would’ve been to not put myself in this position in the first place.

Just say no?