my friends have recently (and vehemently) (and unanimously) informed me that i’m not an extrovert.
i sort of thought i was. i take initiative. i hold my own in conversation. i have interesting things to say. people (mostly) listen when i talk. in high school, college, i raised my hand in class more often than most. i say my piece in meetings with everyone from executives to neurosurgeons. i let myself be known. right?
apparently not. apparently extroverts do catlike cartwheels on camera in crowded cemeteries. about five people reading this will catch that specific reference, but you get the picture: if that’s the kind of person i’m being compared to, then i’m definitely not an extrovert.
introverts, on the other hand, do things like clam up in social situations where they don’t know many people (check); avoid making eye contact with strangers (check); fiercely guard their privacy from their neighbors (check).
hmm. so maybe i’m not as extroverted as i thought. and maybe, just maybe, i don’t let myself be known as much as i thought, either. am i an enigma? are there parts of myself that i hide from other people? and, if so, how much of that is a good thing? i mean, everyone has to have some secrets, right? keep some things close to their chest? not air their dirty laundry to the world?
how much authenticity and vulnerability is the right amount? for me? at this time in my life?
i think the answer is more.
so far through this process, there have been very few people i’ve been truly authentic and vulnerable with. i’ve sobbed uncontrollably with them. i’ve thrown things across the room with them. i’ve despaired with them. i’ve talked about hopelessness and death and fear and anger and guilt and resentment and envy with them.
i’ve been consoled by them.
and in some cases (though not all), i’ve had to teach them how to console me. i’ve had to tell this handful of trusted ones not to try to fix things, not to try to cheer me up, not to tell me everything will be ok, not to ask me to look on the bright side.
because i already know about the bright side. and, believe me, i try my damndest to spend as much time on the bright side as i possibly can. i like the bright side. the bright side is good to me.
but then there’s the dark side. the dark side sneaks up on me suddenly like a thunderstorm in the southwest. take yesterday, for example, when i was blow-drying my hair and picturing my life in a few years — done with chemo, healthy, happy, vibrant, impassioned. and then…BAM. i die. just like that. or maybe it’s not quite so sudden. maybe i lose more motor function and end up in a wheelchair. maybe i lose my ability to speak, my cognitive reasoning, my memory.
and yeah, yeah, i know all the standard responses: “it’s not worth dwelling on the what-ifs.” “it’s about living life to the fullest while there’s still life to live.” “any one of us could get hit by a car tomorrow while crossing the street.” “life is inherently uncertain.”
i know all these things. i do.
but what i want you to know about me is that sometimes i’m really, really sad. sometimes i can’t stop crying. sometimes it seems hopeless. sometimes i want to give up.
so, in a small gesture of extroversion (and authenticity) (and vulnerability), i’m asking you, when i and my thunderstorm come to seek comfort, just to hug me. and let me cry until i’m too tired to cry anymore. and tell me that you know it’s hard. and that you care.
because there’s nothing else to do. i’m not going to be ok. i have a chronic illness that will kill me unless something else does first — or they find a cure. and most of the time i accept that and i’m ok with it. but, sometimes, i don’t and i’m not.