I’ve spent quality time with at least one of my friends every day for the past five days, and you know what?
I’ve slept better than ever. Not the “exhausted and drained from being around people” kind of sleep, either. Good, restful sleep that has me waking up feeling refreshed instead of grouchy. Well, maybe a little grouchy.
I’ve been more in control of my thoughts and emotions instead of being ruled by them. Yeah, anxiety has still been present, but I’m more aware of what’s causing it and able to reframe it instead of letting it dictate my day. I can see it with a clear heart.
I’ve been more grateful. For the big stuff and the little stuff. Not in a cheesy “I’m grateful for this bread and the sustenance it gives my body” kind of way (but kudos to you if you’ve mastered that discipline), but naturally grateful and looking for the good in all my circumstances.
I’ve laughed so much more. Real laughter. With my friends, by myself, at the tv. As someone who struggles to freely express genuine emotions out loud, it’s a big deal for me.
I’ve cried more. Happy tears, sad tears, alone tears and public tears. The kind of tears that are more refreshing than they are a pit of sorrow, you know what I mean? Cathartic tears.
I’ve felt heard and understood instead of dismissed and irrelevant. The kind of heard that says my opinions and thoughts are valid and appreciated rather than a burden or white noise.
I’ve felt seen rather than forgotten. Like I’m not only welcomed to the table, but I’m filling a unique space where only I can fit because of who I am, not what I can offer.
It hasn’t always been like this. I know some of you were quick to read through that and remark on how nice it must be to have good friends who make you feel that way, but not everyone is that lucky. And you probably did it with a little snark in your voice. I get it. If I had read that a year ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago, I would have done the same thing. But the difference between the past five days versus a year ago, five years ago, or ten years ago isn’t my friend group. It’s me. I used to see my community as draining and hard, because I can be shy and it’s easier to let fear overpower courage. It is easier to hide in my house or behind a manufactured version of myself than to get real. It is easier to assume no one is trustworthy after being hurt than it is to rebuild relationships. And when all those easiers took over, it became natural live life by myself. To cling to independence as a defense mechanism, while at the same time looking around feeling a little left out because everyone else seemed to be having more fun than me. They didn’t seem as burdened as I felt. And I realized that if I didn’t want to be lonely, if I wanted to be part of a community like the people I saw around me, I had to change myself and the way I viewed people. I continuously have to fight the habit that says to sit back and wait for an invitation from someone else, or a text from someone else, or for someone else to plan the party. I’m not saying you have to everything (I have to fight against that too), but it’s also not embarrassing or weird to be the one initiating friendship. And if we’re all waiting around for someone else to initiate, aren’t we all just going to be sitting in loneliness?
The kicker about being an introvert is we really do need recovery time. That’s not wrong, but the way we’ve been taught to recover is. It’s easy and tempting to believe the lie that says the only recovery when I’ve people-d too hard is alone time. Alone time with Netflix, alone time with Hulu, alone time with anything that doesn’t require my brain and just numbs my senses. If that alone time isn’t intentionally geared toward refilling my soul, I never feel refreshed. I just perpetuate the cycle of exhaustion. But I’m also learning there is sweet recovery that comes from sitting in a circle of my people with no phones and no distractions and just being. Being present, being honest, being available. Free to be fully myself with all my flaws, never excused but always loved.
Continuing to believe the lie that recovery will only come from alone time is just robbing myself of a real, full life. Because real, full lives aren’t lived in isolation.