Owning It

Here’s a great blog from Introvert, Dear on Owning Your Introversion: 12 Ways to Own Your Introversion

Number 4 is Leave when you want to.

I want to leave.  Leave my job.  Owning my introversion means taking responsibility for my own happiness.  And this job doesn’t make me happy.  It makes me miserable.  In my “role” as a manager, I’m expected to be a take-charge outgoing socializer.  Not happening.

I heard about this book, Never Eat Alone, and just about freaked.  I almost had a panic attack when I saw it in the bookstore.  That’s what I mean.  I can’t even handle the idea of going to lunch with a new person every day just to be successful in my job.

Time to leave this party.

So, I have been thinking about early retirement. But, I have a big obstacle.  Huge!

The company I work for has a tradition of throwing big blowout parties for anyone who retires, with catered food, speeches, balloons, and all the retiree’s relatives that they can convince to show up.

I can’t face retirement because I’m terrified of the party.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World

Diagonally-Parked in a Parallel Universe: Working Through Social Anxiety

Curious Effect of a Grateful Heart

Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
~Thessalonians 5:13-18 (ESV)

Usually I would be commenting on Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing.”  I love The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, and strive to live in constant prayer.  I said “strive” because I usually fall far short of the pilgrim’s standard. It’s hard to mix accounting with constant prayer.

But today I want to reflect on a different section of Thessalonians 5, verse 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

I have recently been blessed by having a grateful heart in the midst of a really difficult time.  How many have a gratitude journal, or a habit of counting blessings?  It’s hard to be grateful when chaos is swilling around and stress is maxing out unless you are standing on the foundation of a solid gratitude habit.

My gratitude habit blessed my deeply during a recent challenge.  On a Saturday In late February my Dad suddenly had a heart attack and ended up in the Cardiac intensive Care Unit. Monday morning I was on a flight to be with him.  There was plenty of emotional chaos and stress swirling around with undertones of unspoken and unresolved conflict.

As an introvert (INFP) I don’t do well around conflict, and prefer to retreat into my inner space for prayer and reflection.  Our time with Dad was limited, so there was lots of time for prayer & reflection.  I spent a lot of time reflecting on things about my Dad that I’m grateful for.

When we were growing up, Dad seemed to be a strict disciplinarian.  He was always on us about saving money.  From a kid’s limited perspective, I thought he was mean.  I daydreamed a lot about running away from home to find loving parents.

I remember that when I turned twelve he got me signed up to deliver papers with the Denver Post.  I thought that was really harsh at the time, but it turned out to be a great experience.  Looking back on that and many other experiences I see that he valued self-reliance, and wanted us to live up to that ideal.

When Dad was growing up, he was a Boy Scout in Phoenix, Arizona.  He eventually became a troop leader. He would tell us about camping in the Superstition Mountains and regale us with tales of how many people died in the search for the Lost Dutchman’s mine.  Us three kids became his personal boy scout troop, never mind that one of us was a girl.  We went camping and fishing in the Rocky Mountains.

Dad even went to the Army surplus store and got a bargain on a 12 man army tent.  When folded up, it weighed a ton and almost filled up the entire trunk of the car. He had us practice setting up the tent in the back yard so we would know what to do in case we had to set it up in a dark and stormy night.  That actually did happen on one camping trip.

What I hated the most was “policing the campsite” at the end of every camping trip. We had to go all over picking up the trash.  The worst injustice was having to go back and pick up a piece of trash that wasn’t even ours to begin with.  He was such a meanie! Boy Scout rules say, “Always leave the place better than when you found it.”    That is totally ingrained in me now.  (I was brainwashed by a retired Boy Scout Troop Leader.)  When I see trash on the ground on my daily walk I have the urge to pick it up, even if it’s not mine!

Dad led us on ghost town tours in the Rockies. We even rode the Narrow Gage Railroad from Durango on my birthday.

I’m really grateful for those many experiences: learning to bait a hook and gut a trout, summers spent reading science fiction in that huge 12 man army tent, and so many others. Through it all, Dad was always trying to teach us a lesson.  He was passing his values on to us, self-reliance, a lifetime love of learning, while pouring out his love for us in the process.  Those values were engraved in Dad’s DNA.

Maybe we would get tired of his lectures at the dinner table on Greek and Latin roots, but we learned in spite of ourselves.  I even have Latin on my license plate!

Maybe I got bored spending hours and hours in the basement workshop learning about capacitors, resistors, and vacuum tubes, but I feel proud that we built our own TV.  Forget that it was only black & white with no case around it.  It worked!  We had a blast as a family watching F-Troop and the Wild, Wild West on that ridiculous naked TV.  I learned about electricity, morse code and electromagnetism in spite of myself.

Choose Gratitude.  Yes, I am mourning Dad, but also celebrating his pure, enthusiastic, and loving heart.  The older I get, the more I am grateful for the love that he invested in me.  When he was grumpy after work, or scolded me for a bad grade on my report card, I would swear to myself that I would never treat my kids that way.

DNA.  Everything that I treasure in my own character came from my Dad (Well Mom, half of it anyway.)  I had a lot of time to reflect during those long hours in the CICU waiting room.  Most of it was on gratitude for the many things that I inherited from Dad.  None of it was cash, but it was all priceless.

Saint Paul gave us good advice.  Give thanks in all circumstances, even in the CICU waiting room.

And don’t forget,  “Be at peace among yourselves.” Thessalonians 5:13

 (Dad passed away on March 10th, 2014.)

The Gratitude Game

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, wrote a blog post on Ecclesiastes Chapter 8. Here’s her original post.>>—-> How to Enjoy Tranquility Through All of Life’s Trials

Here’s my comment on her post. Rejoicing makes sense to me even if there’s nothing in particular to rejoice about. I recently read in a review of, Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, that the secret to happiness is gratitude. It rings true for me.

I make it a spiritual practice to challenge myself to look for unusual things to be grateful for–like dirt . . . and worms. Yep. As a gardener, those are two essentials for a successful garden.

Another favorite thing to be grateful for is books; books full of words, and libraries full of books, free for the borrowing. I’m grateful for parents who read stories to me, teachers who taught me to read and even one special children’s librarian who got me totally hooked on books in the third grade.

How about color vision? I’m grateful to have color vision. God made the world such a vibrantly colorful place, but without color vision we wouldn’t be able to appreciate its natural beauty.

What would you do if you were color-blind? I was surprised to hear that Monte Roberts, The Man Who Listens To Horses, is color-blind. Not only that, he is grateful that he is color-blind and looks on it as a gift. He says that his color-blindness enabled him to see what others couldn’t see in horse’s communication dynamics. He attributes his amazing ability to communicate with horses to his color-blindness.

I’m grateful for my introverted character. I encounter many obstacles misunderstanding and even prejudice in the workplace. Like Monte’s color-blindness, I see introversion as a gift. It gives me a unique perspective on the world and allows me to see what many extroverts miss. They may think I’m missing out on the vibrant colors of an extroverted life, but I wouldn’t trade my introversion in for anything. (Even a Lexus.)

(Dear @Lexus, you owe introverts an apology)

Thank You Notes as a Spiritual Practice

What kind of writer are you?  Do you prefer pen and paper, writing longhand or is typing easier for you?  Are you an extroverted writer that shares with everyone or an introverted writer who keeps it private?  I’m a pen and paper writer.  It doesn’t really seem like writing without the tactile experience of the ink flowing onto the paper.  I’ve also been a very private writer, hardly ever sharing with others.

Writing in a journal has been my primary form of spiritual practice for years.  It’s personal and intimate, but something that I don’t share.  Blogging has caused me to consider how my writing is received by others, real readers.  Does my writing really express what I mean? Only real readers can say.

 The Art of the Handwritten Note

I used to write a lot of handwritten letters, but over the years I got out of practice with advent of email. I was reminded of this when I discovered The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd.  This quick read inspired me to revive my practice of writing personal notes in my own handwriting.  I am normally not a very goal oriented person, but I set a goal for myself to write two or three notes each day.  This challenged me to be more observant, and look for opportunities to express my appreciation to coworkers, friends and even strangers.

Many books and articles on gratitude recommend writing down five or ten things per day that you are grateful for.  I even read one article that suggested making a list of one hundred different things that you are grateful for.  This stretches your concepts beyond the usual default things on the list, like spouse, kids, yummy food and sunshine.

It is one thing to write your gratitude list late at night alone in your room or in the privacy of your journal. No one will ever see it (unless you have a snoop in the house) so you don’t have to sweat the penmanship, grammar or spelling.  It can even be in a personal shorthand.

It is quite another thing to write out a thank you note that you are going mail to someone.  You want the recipient be able to read your handwriting, understand your grammar and spelling. You want them to feel appreciated.  You want to make their day.  
Thank you notes are the simplest notes to write.  As a recently diagnosed Celiac patient, I started writing thank you notes to considerate and helpful wait-staff at restaurants with gluten-free selections on their menus.  It’s like saying grace after the meal.

Synchronistically, while starting on this grateful journey, I ran across Almost Home, a cute story of a homeless sixth grader about Sugar Mae Cole and her adopted dog.  The author, Joan Bauer, won a Newbery Honor Medal for an earlier novel, Hope Was Here.  This is a story with epistolary elements that spice it up and give this serious subject quite a bit of humor.  I have a thing for epistolary literature (blog post to follow). The story is sprinkled with poems, homework assignments, emails and thank you notes.  She also describes a thank you note game, that inspired this post.

I’m not going to spoil your fun and let the cat out of the bag by describing the game.  I’ll let you dig for this nugget of gold on your own.  The description of the game encouraged me to redouble my efforts to find reasons to send thank you notes.  Sugar Mae even finds ways to send thank you notes with a twist by finding unique ways to thank people for negative experiences.

That’s where I received my epiphany on the thank you note as a spiritual practice.  It is a quite a challenge to find the silver lining in a difficult situation or a negative interaction. Expressing it gracefully with the sincere intention to turn the situation around and brighten someone’s day isn’t easy.  It requires mindfulness, intention and prayer.  Writing the note, and sending it, is where the spiritual rubber of gratitude practice meets the rough road of daily life.

If you want to get started on your own journey of gratitude, Amazon.com has quite a selection of delightful note cards that will help you get inspired.  At the time of this writing, Peter Pauper has a 4-for-3 promotion on select note cards and thank you cards.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a nice selection of note cards with reproductions of fine artwork.

Please share your feedback and experiences with gratitude practice and writing thank you notes.  Thank you!

Team Building for Introverts

Psychology Today – The Introvert’s Corner

I found this blog by searching for “team-building for introverts”. We recently had a meeting at work to discuss possible team-building ideas. Team-building exercises and icebreakers usually make me break out in a cold sweat. I’m an introvert.

I’ve been reflecting on the pros and cons of introversion lately. I used to feel like something was wrong with me when I froze up during lunch at a conference. Sitting around a table with ten other people is torture.  I never know what to say or how to start a conversation then feeling self conscious for not joining in or tossing off a witty comment.

I felt like a bug under glass riding the school bus in high school. Everyone else was chattering away while I felt like a tongue-tied alien. I naturally preferred sitting in the back reading a book. I wasn’t trying to be anti-social. I just didn’t know how to join in.

I’ve recently given myself permission to just sit quietly and listen, not trying to force myself to contribute unless I really have something to say.

Splint said, “Getting back to teambuilding, I find that I don’t really have a problem with it when it relates to a specific work-related or assigned task or physical effort. I’d have no problem with team building softball game, or bowling night for example or if we were brainstorming marketing strategies for a new product. I can chime in during those anytime.

What’s funny is that bowling and softball were the only two suggestions that I felt comfortable with. Most of the other fun ideas made me want to break out in a cold sweat!

I’m reading Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected. It has helped me realize that it it’s not the social situations that stress me out, but trying to be something that I’m not (an extrovert).

Through multiple examples Devora Zack show how introverts can succeed at networking by ignoring The usual advice and rules, substituting them with stuff that works for us introverts. It’s not about overcoming shyness (because many introverts are not shy) but about being true to ourselves and focusing on our strengths.

I’m also reading Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl’s Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Lifethat I picked up at the library yesterday.  It’s a quick read. (I’m speed-reading through it so I can review the other three books before I have to return them.)  I got about 40% through it while waiting for my car to get an oil change.  I like the large print. Many of the points Meghan Wier makes are similar to the other introvert books, but she does have some new suggestions.  Like connecting to BNI; Business Network International. I also liked her advice about following up with written notes instead of a phone call. Phones and I just don’t get along.  I’d much rather spend the $0.44 on a stamp and write a note.  Thanks Meghan!

I’ve never been to a so called “networking” event, though I have attended conferences, training and trade association chapter meetings where some networking goes on.

How do people get connected to these networking events?  Are they useful?  Effective?  What’s your take on this?

One Reason I Love My Library

Hermosa Beach Public Library
I’ve been reading up on networking for introverts.  As an introvert (off the chart!) networking is more terrifying than . . . well, just about anything. I read a blog on HBR.org on introverted leaders that intrigued me. The majority of people feel that leaders need to be over-the-top extroverts to be successful. It turns out that this is not the case. Introverts can be great leaders too, if they learn to utilize their unique strengths. This is the best news I’ve heard in a long, long time.

I’ve decided to take responsibility to make my life as successful as I think it should be. I went on the library’s online catalog to look up some resources to study. I put a few books on hold through the online catalog.  That’s right, anyone with a library card can do it.  And it’s free!  At least it is still free at the County of Los Angeles Public Library.  Other libraries around the Southland are starting to charge for holds.

Here’s the email I got today notifying me that the books I requested have arrived and are waiting for me to pick up. You see, it doesn’t matter that your local branch is small. That local branch has access to all of the materials in all the other branches in that library system. In this case, that is the Los Angeles County Library system with about ninety branch libraries. That is a lot of resources.

County of Los Angeles Public Library Home Page

The best thing is that the majority of these resources are free. Totally free! That makes your library card the best card in your wallet. All of your other cards, bank cards, debit cards, credit cards, all cost you money. You have to pay up for all the stuff you bought with them. Pay up plus interest!

But everything you get with your library card is free. As long as you return everything by the due date.

Subject: County of Los Angeles Public Library
Friday, August 26, 2011

Hermosa Beach Library
90254  310-379-8475

The items you placed on hold are now available.  You can pick them up at the
library listed above.

They will be held for two weeks, until the date listed below.
You can check your account by visiting our website at http://www.colapublib.org/

Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl’s Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Life / by Meghan Wier.
Wier, Meghan.
call number:650.1 WIER                                  copy:1
Pickup by:9/8/2011

Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength / Laurie
Helgoe, Laurie A.
call number:155.232 HELGOE                              copy:1
Pickup by:9/8/2011

Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money / Frederica J. Balzano with Marsha Boone Kelly.
Balzano, Frederica J.
call number:650.13                                      copy:1
Pickup by:9/8/2011