“I’m not like you. I don’t live out loud.”
The woman before me kept talking, but the rest of her words floated over my head. “Live out loud?” Me? Um, no. I’m an introvert. [small smile to you other introverts here) I may have learned how to “turn it on” for public events, but I go home from those exhausted and in need of non-people, no-talking time to recover.
I lose my mind if I don’t have at least some alone time every day. By that I mean I get agitated, fidgety, exasperated, easily angered, and feel as if the world is caving in too close to breathe easily or think fully. My mind tries to shut down, to stop the inflow of experience.
It’s kind of like going underwater in a swimming pool. I can glide through the cool environment, feel the water slide over and around me, hear the dull thud of someone jumping in, see the blurry edges of pale legs all around, watch the sunshine play on the surface above, kick into the deep to retrieve the pennies or dive sticks, put my hands down for a handstand, twirl my arms for a somersault, and revel in the sensation created by each…but the whole time, I also acknowledge my chest getting tighter and tighter as I do not give it the oxygen it craves.
At some point, I have to surface and gulp the life-giving air up there.
My hubs and kiddos know this about me. If we go out – to one of their basketball games, to a birthday party, to an event – or have a lot of people over, they know that afterward Mom will retreat to her bedroom and crave quiet. I need to let all the communication and sensory experience settle. I must sort and sift the tidbits, casting aside what has no further use and pondering and testing the rest for wisdom and lesson. I participate in the events, talking and laughing and letting the experience flood in (swimming), but it doesn’t mean I am energized by it or need it to feel alive/useful/worthy/genuine.
Interestingly, my son is this way as well. He’ll say, “Mom, I need some non-people time,” and go off to his room to lie on his bed and stare at the ceiling a while. I’m grateful to know exactly what he’s saying and feeling.
So, having the “living out loud” concept applied to me struck a wrong chord. I’d always known that phrase to be interchangeable with “life of the party” and “social butterfly.” Words for those mysterious people who breathe underwater.
Now, though, I think I know what the speaker meant behind those words. And I plan to spend a lot of my foreseeable writing here on the topic.
The speaker was a woman who is very dutiful to authority. She does what is expected of her, even when she does not want to and does not appear to get particular fulfillment out of it. For her, to fulfill expectations is its own end. There is worth in living out the life others mapped out for her, in doing as she should.
And that might very well feel like she is only living on the inside, quietly. By day, she is what she ‘should” be. In her mind, where no one else can know, she is her real self.
When she declared that I live out loud, I think she meant, “You do what you believe you were created to do, you pursue the becoming of what you were created to become.”
I think ultimately she meant:
“You live with abandon.”
The more I learn about others and myself,
the more the race and pace swirl around me,
the more I see loved ones living but not alive,
the more I watch a decaying world age passionate minds and stop courageous hearts,
the more I think it’s worth spending some time writing about life like that.