The Introvert’s Christmas

Hi, I’m Nick. I’m an introvert, and I’m caught smack in the middle of my least favorite time of the year.

No, I’m not the Grinch, I’m not a Scrooge. I’m just your average introvert, and I wish to hell that Christmas would just shut up.

“Introvert” isn’t the same thing as shy or socially awkward or loner. We just find social settings (large ones, at least) draining of emotional/social energy and quiet (solitude or very small gatherings) energizing. The other guys, the Extroverts, have the opposite reaction: they charge up with the stimulation of a group and grow restless and listless when under-stimulated.

We live in an extrovert world, like it or not. Social conventions and social expectations require a certain degree of extrovert behavior, so even the most extreme of introverts (that’s me you see raising my hand) can put on their social suit and bring it when they need to, just as an extrovert can sit alone for a while without losing their mind.

But that obligatory socializing leaves an introvert exhausted and ready for some time away from the crowd, the party, the noise, the stimulation.

Maybe you’ve noticed – there’s a lot of extra crowds, parties, noise and stimulation this time of year. To us introverts, instead of peace on earth and goodwill towards men, a tsunami of festivities can lead to no peace in our home and an increased will to drink.

Being an introvert is like commuting in an electric car. As long as there are enough opportunities to hook up to a charging station, things are fine. You can get one big charge up overnight, or several smaller ones along your trip, but go too long between a recharge and suddenly you find you just…can’t…go…anymore.

Introvert Chirstmas

Introverts in an extrovert world learn to sneak in their recharge when they can. I used to recharge on the train to and from work every day. I put on my most obvious “leave me alone” body language – earbuds in, head down, book open.

In college I’d take two or three hour long walks at night or take a book and sit in the most obscure basement library stacks I could find. I’ve spent lunch breaks sitting in my car alone, parked around the corner after lying to non-comprehending extrovert coworkers that I was running errands.

There’s an achievable balance, a point where I can fulfill all my social and professional obligations, but refill enough emotional energy that I avoid a full blown panic attack because I just can’t get away.

And then Christmas shows up, and that balance gets challenged.

The holidays mean added social commitments (drains) in the form of office pot-lucks, white elephant parties, family gatherings, playdates, neighborhood block parties, etc.

The whole damn secular side of the holiday is based around a home invasion, for crying out loud. What’s more disrupting of your inner sanctum, your place of refuge and recharge, than someone sliding down the chimney at night and swiping your cookies in exchange for lumps of fossil fuel or unneeded consumerist goods?

My recharging moments get filled with ever more relentless noise. Christmas carols play everywhere. Despite our best efforts to keep gifts simple, piles start the spring up: piles of packages, piles of crafts, piles of cookie baking supplies.

Singing holiday toys that I manage to entomb in the garage for 11 months out of the year are brought out. My kids love these things, so I am treated to an endless loop of mechanical Snoopy in a Santa hat playing Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas on his little plastic piano until I’m praying someone will drop a Baby Grand on my head and put me out of my auditory misery.

In the name of community and tradition, plates of fudge and cookies are dropped off. Niceties are exchanged. I put on pants and socialize with the neighbors, because that’s what people do.

Advertisements and appeals fill store windows and online sanctuaries. Emotional tugs pull in confusing directions: think of the veterans, think of the children, think of the homeless, think of the farmers. Lead a cruelty-free Christmas, donate to Heifer International, examine your charities carefully. Buy new Toys for Tots, give experiences, don’t forget a gift for the mailman, don’t buy things at all. Donate to Wikipedia, don’t shop at Walmart, shop local, avoid the crowds – shop online! Drain, drain, drain. It’s death by a thousand cuts at this time of year.

People I rarely trade words with suddenly corner me at the coffee machine (which is literally in a corner, here at the office) and demand to know what I’m doing this December.

“Oh, I’m hiding in our hall closet and setting up a webserver to serve as a development environment for my wife’s blog and hoping that I can make it through the obligatory family events without having to mediate a political dispute!” seems too honest, so I tell them what they expect to hear: “Got a few parties to go to and then getting together with the family.”

My peaceful home, my refuge, is filled with a shining bright Christmas tree and there’s an electric train that would clack in a celebratory circle around it, if I didn’t constantly trip over the track and derail it. (The doctor says my ankle should be fine in about four weeks.)

My wonderfully bright and inquisitive and noisy children are home from school a lot more and so are their friends who are cutting out snowflakes so there’s a lot of pieces of paper in the middle of the floor and there are the scissors I just stepped on. (The doctor says I’m lucky and the nerve wasn’t severed, so I should regain feeling in my big toe within a year or two.)

The kids want hot cocoa and there’s an argument about who chose the last show on Netfix that I need to adjudicate. And they are all so cute and wonderful that I can’t deny them this joy but sometimes I’d really like them to just stop, just for a minute.

It is the rare Christmas where there aren’t at least two, and sometimes as many as four, family get-togethers in the span between December 23rd and 26th. You’ve got the immediate family thing, the medium-family thing, the big-whole-family thing with the cousins and the aunts and the uncles and the grandparents.

The logistics approach the complexity of the Normandy landings. I explain what “business intelligence” is to people who really don’t give a shit eight or ten times, bluff my way past my minimal awareness of and interest in the performance of the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Stanford Cardinals this year, and try not to drink inappropriately.

I can do all this, of course, but it takes effort. It’s like rubbing your tummy and patting your head, but with eggnog.

I hate eggnog.

Welcome to the Introvert’s Christmas.

Introvert's Christmas

When I was a child, I’d always adjourn to my room as soon as Christmas gift time was over. My parents always thought it was because I was eager to read the books I’d gotten or play with new toys. Over time I’ve realized it was more than that – it was a desire to be alone and move into the quiet of my space, an escape perhaps aided by a new book or a new toy, away from the aunts and the grandmothers and the uncles and the cousins and the awkward conversations about football and the teasing, invasive questions of relatives.

Now it is a lot harder to sneak away or sit nose-in-a-book. I’m expected to be an adult, to converse and opine, to shake hands and to hug.

Honestly, I drink a lot more during the holidays. It deadens the sensory stimulation of omnipresent carols, blinking lights, loosens my tongue and makes me willing to just babble, if necessary, to fill the spaces. We’ve been known to stash a couple of bottles of wine or whisky up in the master bathroom…they’ve rarely ever been used, but somehow the knowledge that they are there means I’ve got a refuge inside my refuge, a place I know I could go to escape when my usual place of escape has been overrun.

I walk a lot, sometimes alone, in the beautiful cool space of December air. I drink in the quiet of a snow day or the hiss of rain or the roar of wind and let it fill my mind and push out the exhaustion of parties and questions and stupid politics.

Sometimes I take preposterous and frequent bathroom breaks. Smartphones have been a godsend for introverts, I’ve got half the Western Canon loaded up on my iPhone and can sit in the bathroom of a stranger’s house reading Moby Dick for five minutes until I’m ready to meet-and-greet with the next potential friend.

Actually, who am I kidding? I make one friend a decade, so I’ve got at least five years left before I need to start remembering new people’s names.

I’m not ungrateful. I love to play host and have a good conversation with a couple of dear friends. I adore my children and the sound of their happy playing is soul-filling and hopeful. I can’t Grinch-out and decide that we are going no-tree and no-presents when they beg me to stay up late to hang garlands across our living room. I love the joy of giving presents, of thinking about my friends and family and figuring out how to bring them joy.

What I am is just exhausted.

As a grown man, I’ve wept in my closet, behind a locked bedroom door, because I had no more energy to put on my social face and make conversation. That’s what happens when an introvert’s battery runs out.

So please, don’t tell me to have a little Christmas spirit. If I look like I want some quiet time, if I have a book anywhere near me, if I’m staring at a glass of whisky, if I just up and disappear for ten minutes or an hour, understand that what you see is me looking for the one thing I really want for Christmas this year: true peace, simple quiet.

No blinking lights required.

Comments

  1. Oh, my. EXACTLY.

  2. So well put. Thank you!

  3. Most people tell me I’m not an introvert…but *this* is exactly how I feel about Christmas and all major holidays. There are about 20 people (maybe not even that many!) that I care to spend extensive time with at *any point*, let alone during the holidays. I just want to spend time with my family (the close variety, not the distant relatives) and be at home. I don’t want to go to Christmas parties, shopping or anything else. Just let me stay home and be peaceful.

    • Homebrew Husband says:

      People who know me professionally think that I’m an extrovert because I’m talkative, gregarious, etc. I present at conferences, lead meetings, etc. But the reality is that this is totally a learned behavior, like riding a bike or programming PHP or whatnot. I’ve just found that it is the easiest way to make my way so I can get home and have (with luck) a chance to recharge. So just because you are good at BEING social doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not an introvert. That “how do you get your energy” thing seems to be the real decider.

      • So, so true! I’m another one of those people who masquerades as an extrovert in public, but I’ve always been way more comfortable on stage, singing, acting, speechifying, etc., than mingling with the crowd after the show. My husband and I, both being introverts, used to gratefully pack up all the gear at the end of a performance, while the rest of our singing group traipsed merrily about “making connections,” and then we’d collapse into recharge mode once home. I used to think I was a night owl, staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning every night, but then I finally realized that the wee hours were simply the only time I found it possible to be totally alone, and I just didn’t want the next day to start yet! You have successfully articulated the introvert’s Christmas. If you ever have any advice on how to get extroverts to comprehend it, without taking offense, I’m all ears!

        • Yes! I can rock public speaking (I’m a terrible singer/actress/etc, so I stay off the stage) but I’d rather stay home or just speak with a small group of people…that I know. I’ve noticed until I figure out a specific group’s dynamics I stay much more to myself until I can put on the ‘appropriate’ mask of interaction for that group.

          I worked clothing retail for over a year, helping put together outfits and all that…stuff. Making 100+ “friends”a day… I was really good at it, but I was so drained by the time I got home… I was NOT someone my family deserved to be around. Batteries, totally, drained. I functioned on ‘E’ for that year and leapt at the chance to get back into a bookkeeping position where I could keep my work relationships to 3 to 5. ;-)

      • I totally get this! People think I’m confident and extroverted, but the very idea of small talk with strangers at a big party makes me want to hide. Put me in a small group with a few people I know and a couple newcomers? I’m good. No problem. But the words “mingling” and “networking” make me feel panicky. I have learned to ignore these inclinations out of necessity. No one ever believes me when I say that I was a very shy child and a late blooming, wallflower in high school. After a big social event (or sonetimes half way through), I just retreat to a quiet corner with a book or a magazine. Even 20 minutes alone makes a big difference in my mood. Thankfully, I’m married to a thoughtful and considerate extrovert, so when he sees that I’m burning out, he’ll stick close to me and sort of shield me from all the other extroverts who are unwittingly invading my bubble. It takes all the social pressure off me and means that I can smile, nod and not have to contribute a whole lot until I feel social again.

  4. YES YES YES !!!! as an introvert, I can never explain to my extrovert husband about the battery running low well enough for him to understand —- knowing there are others like me…… PRICELESS !!!!

  5. So refreshing and honest; I love it. Thank you for sharing your perspective, I feel similarly at big parties, except that I could drink eggnog by the gallon (by the 1/2 cup I guess, let’s be honest). I hope you have a restful, peaceful holiday.

  6. From a fellow introvert, thanks so much for sharing!

  7. hallelujah

  8. So so true. Great read!

  9. I love this! I am not an introvert, but my husband and one of my children are. We are traveling to visit family this year after a series of health issues has meant my in-laws and all of the grandparents are no longer able to come visit us. This means extra time recharging for the introverts since they won’t have their own home to retreat to. Thanks for another reminder to be aware of them and how they are doing during this hectic time of year.

  10. Oh my, I swear I just read about myself.

    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Carolyne Thrasher says:

    Absolutely! The feeling of panic starts 5 days before Halloween for me. My husband is a pastor so add all the secular celebrations to the religious and by New Year’s day I’m ready to be committed.

  12. I hear ya fellow introvert!

  13. I don’t think I’ve got it as bad as you, but this is the reason I’m taking the day off from work today. Since returning to work full-time in June, I can count on 1 hand the number of hours I’ve had to myself. today I really just needed the few hours after getting the kids to school, to sit back and try and organize my thoughts and just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee…..in complete peace….and complete quiet….with nobody needing anything from me. I still only get a few hours. There’s the turkey to pick up and volunteering in the 7-yr-old’s class this afternoon, for 2 hours, for candy house decorating, but its a few hours that will re-charge so I CAN enjoy the coming week.

    Take care of yourself Nick!

  14. Yep! Forget the parties, for me, just going to the grocery store this time of year is exhausting. There are so many more people there.

  15. Nick, it must be challenging to be married to Erica, who seems to me to be a classic extrovert. Thanks for writing this. I feel exactly the same way, but I’m glad you mentioned that some of us introverts may NOT be socially awkward or painfully shy. We just like our quiet time.

    • ROFL. Nope, I’m a hardened introvert, too. I just fake extroversion in public well. Nick and I literally have dates where we go to a coffee shop and read silently next to each other. :D

      • My husband and I do that! Our favorite date is a trip to the used book store and then a quiet restaurant. I thought we were the only ones!

        • And then you take turns reading the new (used books) and occasionally chatting at the restaurant, right? Like sometimes you’ll share the cool stuff from your new book, but if you start talking too much then your partner gives you that “Um, I’m reading here, honey” look and so then you just romantically hold hands in between flipping pages in contented mostly silence. :)

          • I can totally relate!! These days, we are the “awful” people with smartphones, haha. I ‘d guess people are probably appalled-”look, they don’t even put their phones down when they go out to dinner!!” That said, we will both be reading something and then talk about it, only difference is the medium, and it’s what we’ve always done anyhow. My husband is kind of a semi-introvert, less so than I am, or at a different point in the spectrum, , or something . He’s less stressed out and exhausted about it, anyway, but also doesn’t really like social gatherings.

  16. So true! And so exhausting…

    One “stealth” recharge that I’ve discovered (it’s kind of old-school) is to find one of those
    all-music, telling of the Christmas story midnight church services. I don’t mean a modern mega church type production, but a smaller sort of thing designed for people to contemplate the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not the most religious of folks, but the quiet, music, and ritual have done a great job of calming and refreshing after a lot of chaos.

  17. My husband and I share your feelings and it’s okay to make boundaries for peace on earth.

  18. Preach it, brother! Silently lifting my Lagavulin in your direction.

  19. For the first time ever, I (instead of some lame excuse/lie) simply said, “I don’t feel up to a party this week” and skipped a work party that the mere thought of sucked my soul dry. My family understands when I say “No, I can’t do that” So, we celebrate Solstice at our house with just the immediate family….just soups and cornbread, a lit tree, fire in the fireplace, and family enjoying each others company. All other celebrations are optional for me!

    Thanks for making me feel like less of a weirdo in this frantic, busy, extrovert world!

    • Yes! We began celebrating Solstice years ago when we realized Christmas, with all its admonitions and obligations, held no real joy for us. At Solstice, we similarly have a simple light-filled celebration, with a handful of friends, a fire, delicious, unfussy food, and no gifts.

      • I love this idea, thank you both, it sounds wonderful! I think I’ll try to do this next year, it’d be too much more to pile on now for this year.

  20. As introverts, my small family’s favorite Christmas was when it was just the three of us –me, husband, and teenage daughter. We hung out in pj’s by the fire, drank hot drinks, read, talked, and enjoyed a peaceful day together. At dinner, we didn’t even cook — just grabbed and grazed on the expensive ingredients purchased for that over-the-top meal we had been trained was essential for a Christmas celebration. In my universe, keeping it real means keeping it small.

  21. Thank you SO much for sharing with the world what us introverts feel. And, also, just because we’re not shy, it doesn’t mean we’re not introverts. Some people do not understand that….

    • Homebrew Husband says:

      Yes, shy, introvert, socially awkward, etc. All totally different things. Sure, they can relate…if you are a shy introvert you may be less inclined to learn to have dynamite social moves. But in general, not. the. same.

  22. “I’ve spent lunch breaks sitting in my car alone, parked around the corner after lying to non-comprehending extrovert coworkers that I was running errands.”

    Ha! Yes, pretty much all of them. But you always get busted eventually.

    My name is Bill W. and I am an introvert.

    I’m also not as nice and accommodating about it as I was when I was younger. Introverts have a way of getting walked over by extroverts because it is hard to get extroverts to accept your lack of enthusiasm for social events at face value. That means that they will start digging to try to get you to “come out of your shell,” when is ultimately an even more aggravating and exhausting process.

    So, I no longer make excuses. “Yes, I am sitting in my car reading a book because I don’t want to spend my lunch talking to any of you. No, I don’t want to go to the bar after work. Nope, I will not be attending the holiday party. No, don’t ever show up at my house unannounced; you will be turned away. Yes, that even applies to family. No, really, I’m not joking. I need 72 hours to work up to the idea of socializing with people. It has nothing to do with you or how much I like you, but if you choose to take it personally, you can also choose not to take it personally.”

    So, I guess now I am an introvert and kind of a jerk, but life is more pleasant for me that way. I’ve found that the people who really are your friends eventually come to accept this even if they don’t understand it.

    • We could totally hang out. Like, quietly, in the same room, reading seed catalogs and not actually talking. Most of my friends understand that I can just go away for six months or more at a time sometimes. I’m not mad or anything, and I’m not trying to be rude – I just don’t have a lot of extra energy to socialize.

    • Bill W. ~ Last two paragraphs I can totally relate as, yes, I became a jerk eventually, too, because peeps would not stop pushing the envelope. I have said continually to peeps “It’s nothing personal…” Thanks for sharing!

  23. Amen, brother. A-freaking-men.

  24. Very well put….My wife can’t understand why I get ba-hum-bug this time of year…Sometimes I think its the stress of figuring out what gifts to give, or which relative is going to host the festivities, and who’s bringing what and why and so forth and so-on…Jeez

  25. Amen!

  26. Can I get an AMEN, brothers and sisters?

    • It was hard for me to learn socializing. If I hadn’t had a younger sister I don’t think I ever would have. Not having any other kids around, someitmes she would sit outside my bedroom door for an hour with her toys waiting for me to be ready to play after school. My mom would call me “People’d Out.” As in “don’t worry, she’s People’d Out. She’ll come out and play in a little while.” Once I had to go hide for a little while at my own birthday party. One of my friends asked my mom if I was angry at her. Mom said, “No, just give her a couple minutes. She’s People’d Out.”

      • I like that term “People’d Out”, thanks for sharing that Emily.

        And thanks Homebrew for sharing your thoughts about being introverted. ‘Tis how I feel all the time as well! I call it ‘sensitivity’, and most days I just want the world to leave me alone!

        Wish there was a ‘like’ button here as I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, thank you all for sharing!

  27. Amen.

    Well said. Very well said.

  28. Oh. My. Goodness. Thank you so much for putting into words the dread I feel at the coming week. I can’t wait for next Friday.

    PS Have you read Susan Cain’s seminal work “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”? It is the most articulate affirmation of introversion I’ve ever read.

    • OMG this is soooooo me! Good at being social, but totally learned behavior. I figured out awhile ago, I go to parties with gregarious people who can do all the socializing so I can sneak off somewhere and become part if the wall. IF that person isn’t there, I’m it, fine, but soooo DRAINING! The recharge is definitely when I’m away from all the hustle and bustle, preferably in the comfort of my own home. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. Next time my sister,husband, daughter ( the Extroverts) feel the need to explain that I’m really not a bitch/loner/antisocial I’ll just print these so they can give out lol. Kidding.

  29. A number of years ago I found a local church that, fall to spring, observed Vespers at 5pm. The church was completely and only candle lit, and a small group from the men’s choir would sing chants. Now, I am not Christian but being raised Catholic has instilled a love of ritual and pageantry, so this quiet, beautiful, restful space and time helped me make it through a hectic holiday season. They stopped the practice a few years ago and I’ve missed it ever since.

    • Homebrew Husband says:

      The great big Episcopalian church in Seattle does a compline service on Sundays. Back when we lived nearer to there, we’d go periodically. Not for the specific Christianity of the thing but for the sort of communal-silence of it. A half hour of quiet while the choir read and chanted their verses, surrounded by a shockingly diverse range of Seattle and Capitol Hill denizens, sitting in pews, in chairs, lying on the floor. I’d nod off, think about all sorts of stuff, and just enjoy the way everyone there was respecting everyone else’s space.

      • That sounds great! I should start investigating some other places of worship in the city because it’s nice to have a place and time to step out of the crazy, daily routine.

  30. Even to the one friend a decade, I could not agree with you more! I’m over here quietly smiling at your words with sweet relief that while I like to be alone, I’m not alone.

  31. I know exactly what you mean. Thank you for writing this, it makes me Happy to know I have these things in common with so many other fellow introverts.

  32. I feel your pain. I love the winter holidays for the lights and sparkle but I dread the forced march of parties, relatives, and cheer. In the past I’ve hidden in the corner cuddling the family pet but now the kids drag me front and center. Ah well, only happens once a year. I may have to try that bathroom trick of yours!

  33. I can completely relate. Thankfully my family is a nest of introverts and we have no trouble going no where on Christmas. We do go to small family gatherings (one for each side of in-laws) but pretty much leave it at that.

    My sister’s extreme extrovert family is a 3 hr max visit. Anything more has me with a migraine, a hubby who is out warming the car for an hr, an elder kid who checked out as soon as we hit the door going in and the younger toughing it out cause he gets along with the cousins but doesnt see them often. And the sister is just mad cause we never stay long or often…

  34. I’ve always referred to myself as kind of reclusive, but I just read in your post exactly ME, so I guess I’m really an introvert. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

    I am married to an extrovert and it gets to be exhausting. Seems to get harder the older I get!

  35. Thank you for putting this into words! This how I have felt for years and always felt like I was odd for being that way. I hope that your holiday is peaceful at least most of the time. :-)

  36. Great post. Thank you.

  37. When my husband casually mentions yet another party we’ve been invited to, I inwardly groan and wish that he could go and people would understand why I didn’t really want to be there, that it wasn’t about them at all. Thanks for you thoughts….bottom line….nobody will ever really understand us introverts….not really.

  38. Christmas in a cabin in Plain – we have that on our ‘next year’ list. Quiet, peaceful :)

  39. Very well put, fellow introvert! When it comes to friends I know I seek out quality instead of quantity. I’ll sign up for a cup of coffee with a truly close friend over a cocktail party ANY day! And after the holidays, not to totally be Humbug Mom – but I just want to pack away Christmas so the surfaces are clean and I’m not tripping over ‘decor’ when I walk through the living room!

    Does this ring a bell to anyone?:
    “In simple terms, you are pulled toward people you already know. You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people — in fact, you may enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends — but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. For you a relationship has value only if it is genuine.”
    (Excerpts from Strengthsfinder’s definition of ‘Relator’ theme)
    BTW – please note it’s a ‘strength’.

  40. AMEN!

    DH is a total extrovert as are most of my kids. Wine gets me through the parties. Fortunately, we live in the country and in a part of the world where winter is long and hard so I can use that as an excuse to not leave the house – and often do. DH has learned it’s better to go to parties by himself rather than drag along a crabby hermit who just wants to sit home by the woodstove. It only took him 40 years to learn that.

  41. Yes.
    Too hard to pull all my loosely aggregated molecules together to remain a solid person when extroverts feed off me.

    I have arranged my life so that I rarely socialize with more than my partner or, on holidays, my core family of four. When I do attend an event where there are masses (more than 5 people equals a crowd), or when I travel by plane, train, etc., which is often, I prepare myself for dealing with other people’s energy by first exercising or having an acupuncture treatment or meditating.

    I also learned years ago to take magnesium every day. It makes a big difference.

    I celebrate Solstice and the rest of the pagan sabbats by deeply appreciating the gifts of our living planet. I circle with a women’s group that honors the full moon. I even volunteer for worthy causes when it seems like a good energy exchange. Aside from that, my interaction with people is one on one. When my partner and I go out to a restaurant, we often read. It’s cozy and fun. There’s nothing wrong with living this way.

    Thanks, Nick, for speaking up for us introverts and being the true saintnick of this season.

  42. Absolutely, I concur! I feel the dread building the beginning of November. I walk past the liquor store on the way to the grocery store, I see those beautiful bottles of single malt scotch, calling to me. I also envision the book, journal and full glass, no ice, please.
    With glued on smile, I forge forward into the crowded Christmas night.
    Thanks for the great post.

  43. Yes, indeed! Totally see myself in this blog post.
    Now, very deliberately, older with kids grown, my husband and I live on an Island. We live on a rural road that’s Very Peaceful. There are no street lights. The homes along our dead-end road are on 5-acre plots and you can’t see most of them for the trees. Its oh-so-quiet. No family visit for holidays because the ferry lines are too long, so a simple snack-luck gift exchange is done on a day other than the major one. In fact, all of my children are “minimalists” and we avoid “junk” giving. Our home is nicely lite up and decorated but nothing flashing. Other people who live on this Island tend to be of the same mind – or they’d have moved back to the Big City by now. So you get that both my husband and myself are introverts as well as our kids. We’re now taking super care of our introvert selves. Sound like heaven? It is – to us.

  44. Wow. I guess this post taught me that I am a total EXTROVERT! I am so sad when everyone goes home and the house is quiet. I don’t really like Christmas for all the hype. The hype cheapens what is otherwise a wonderful time to be with people…or yourself and a glass of wine in your case. :)

  45. Your blog is the gift that keeps on giving. Whether helpful household tips or lessons about life, its usefulness and relevance continues to knock my socks off. My life is full and fulfilling, without vicariously reading about someone else’s. Your posts fill my cup with tiny tidbits and huge revelations of stuff I want to know, oftentimes things I didn’t even know I wanted to know…. Nick’s piece on being an introvert gave me words to understand what I subconsciously know about my husband and partner of 40 years, and have spent a lifetime “interpreting” about him to his family and friends. It wasn’t until I read the comments and responses that I finally understood (light bulb switched to ON) that I too am an introvert, despite feeling and being perceived as very social and outgoing. The Roman Jones cartoon provided the defining clue: “Introverts make their own energy, and, rather than taking it from others, ‘give’ it on social contract.” It explains so much to me about how I relate. Thank you both, for your gifts.

  46. My father brought home this album when I was nine years old, and I’ve never seen Christmas quite the same way. I am not only an introvert, but really don’t care for the way we celebrate most holidays and Christmas seems to be the sum of all the threats of all the other holidays put together. Add to this that i share my life with an absolutely darling woman of great character and thoughtfulness who entirely loses it at Christmas time for religious reasons as well as all the family hoopla and the general sparkliness that dresses up what is mostly a pretty bleak reality. I mostly find refuge in my office or the rec room music studio. At a semi-regular gathering of musicians, someone broke out the Christmas carol books, and after two or three, I broke in with my own rendition of this ditty, to the general merriment of all, and then we lapsed back into the miasma of bad Christmas music.

  47. OMG yes, brimming over with yes. My kids are with their dad the day after Christmas through New Years and I spend that time alone, usually tackling one home improvement project (this year it’s my 1960 bathroom). Quiet. Silence. I can go without speaking for days. I call it my end-of-year reboot.

  48. Nancy S (I guess there are at least two of us posters here :)

    So glad Nick shared… the ‘safe’ way :) It is so good that introversion may finally acknowledged as ‘normal’, even if incomprehensible to extro’s. I remember my teens in the ’60′s, when the holy grail was ‘popularity’ …as in extroverts were ‘liked’, with the obvious implication for us introverts. I resented the “…people who need people… are the luckiest…” song deeply, but secretly thought it must be true, and there must be even more ‘wrong’ with me than I suspected, Then I ran across the ‘energy source’ explanation, and was so relieved. Actually, it was also pointed out that extro’s are about 85%, and intro’s 15%, of the population… so I was OK!! … just a minority :)

    I love people, but even those I enjoy and engage at length, drain the battery. I like 30 sec comments/jokes with strangers, while erranding …. probably because I’ll never see them again!

    My husband is more intro than I, and now I know that he is totally incapable (not unwilling) of making ‘small talk’….. along with quite a few other people, who may be judged aloof or arrogant.

  49. It is nice to hear all of these introverts piping up! I feel the same way. I regularly have to tell my kids I need a time out, just so I can get some alone time to recharge. I feel I need it in the dark days of winter even more. My husband is more introverted than me, and we have to go out of our way to actually spend time together. I’m lucky to have a nice core group of introverted friends who have low key parties and find it natural for someone to by quietly by themselves. I recently listened to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. It think you all would enjoy it immensely. Here is her TED talk. I find it to be pretty powerful too.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

  50. Wow, I totally relate, to the T! Thank you for expressing what I feel! :)

  51. Homebrew Husband says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments, everyone! I’ve written plenty of stuff before, but it has always been of the “here’s why plants don’t grow well behind windows” or “here is the procedure for rebooting the server farm” sort. This is the first time any of my writing seems to have actually touched someone’s life in the way some of the comments and emails I’ve received have made it clear this post has. Thank you, and may you all have the RIGHT sort of holiday season for you: quiet, social, or somewhere in between.

  52. You are not alone my friend!

  53. Debbie Farnam says:

    For years I worked as an occupational therapist…which required me to come out of my somewhat quiet demeanor and really talk to people. I always found that I needed 5 min at least to go sit in my car somewhere during my lunch honor. Weird, that 5 min could make such a difference. And for years I would have to fight for that little bit of time because they wanted us to work through our lunch times…exhausting. Thanks for helping me understand myself and perhaps have the opportunity to give someone else a break!

  54. I spend 3-4 weeks about 3 times a year at the home of my son, his wife and their two kids (now 4 and 7), all of whom I totally adore. I could never understand before why I felt so drained after these visits. Could it be, I asked myself, that the house is simply so tiny (and I sleep in the kids’ playroom) that there is no escape?

    YES! Your blog made me realize exactly where I stand. I am an actress — have been for many years (mostly amateur but some pro) and also a former pro singer, and I’m very much at ease on stage. But as Kat says, the crush of people afterwards is uncomfortable. In a social situation, I will gravitate toward those I know rather than go out of my way to talk to new people. My husband is even more introverted than I, so we have little social interaction (although we are both good at it, seemingly). We are not party-givers or -goers. Of course when we do give a party, it’s always very close friends, so that’s OK. But even then, the joy of taking off the dress-up clothes and putting on my jammies far outweighs the joy of giving that party.

    I’ve realized I would prefer to read than watch TV or movies, because reading is calming and quiet (even when the murder mystery is frantic).

    I no longer drink (haven’t since 1995) but I certainly comprehend the desire to do so in social situations. It does indeed “deaden the sensory stimulation.” And without it, I am much more affected by the “noise — all the noise — all the noise – noise – noise -noise!” the Grinch speaks of.

    My birthday is Christmas Eve, and I love decorating for Christmas and riding around looking at the lights and hearing Christmas music. And I always feel a terrific let down when it’s all over. And a secret sense of relief.

  55. Yep. That’s me and luckily part of my family is also on the introvert side. It works since each type has someone to hang with or not hang with. Thanks for sharing.

  56. I am a profound introvert and this fits me exactly. I’m not shy, not socially awkward – just find it emotionally taxing to pretend I am something I am not. I have an ex-wife who never could figure this part of my character out. I’m now with another introvert raising her introverted son. Life is great.

    Life is challenging for those of us who don’t seek the spotlight or want to be the center of attention. I’ve spent almost all of my adult life learning how to fit into the cacophony of this extroverted world and think I have finally found my balance. I, too, no longer rely on drink to get me through social situations but still struggle with the noise and the mindless small talk of these settings. I’d just as soon poke my eye with a stick than mindlessly chatter just to fill the social void. It’s gotten to the point where I keep a short list of socially appropriate topics to chat about at parties (weather, grandkids, work, sports (go Seahawks!)) but even having these conversations is tortuous. I can go on but I think you get the point.

    The key is ‘Know Thyself’ and then figure out coping strategies to contend with the necessary social engagements we all go through. This takes a lot of practice and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. The real trick I’ve learned to listen to my instincts and pace myself.

  57. This is me, also. Growing up in a large family was tortuous during the holidays. My mother still gives me a hard time when I stay behind from the Christmas Eve round of bar hopping or whatever activity my siblings have cooked up. Those alone-time opporuntities were sometimes difficult to find. As I have gotten older, I have become more selective about what I do – and more protective of my need for quiet time. And my dogs totally understand.

  58. mikekinseattle says:

    I, too, am an introvert. My holiday melancholy starts before Thanksgiving and doesn’t lift until after the New Year. Three extrovert holidays in a row: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. For Thanksgiving, I have to come up with excuses why I just want to have a meal at home with my wife and 2 grown children, and not with friends and their families. For the month long Christmas season, I dread the inevitable invitations to parties, potlucks, holiday drinks, and other social events. I avoid them all if I can, and feel really guilty about it. Guilt has been a part of my holiday seasons for as long as I can remember, and that just deepens my depression. And now, a fellow at work whose parents are Canadian invited me to a Boxing Day (Dec. 26) celebration at his house. Yet another holiday to dread.

  59. I fall pretty much in the middle of the introvert/extrovert scale, so I can’t relate much, but I AM extremely shy, and I agree that being an introvert is nothing like being shy. When I’m in a group of people I don’t know well, I can be standing there WANTING to talk and socialize but it’s like there’s a brick wall in front of me and I just can’t. It can be very painful.

    I have one extremely extroverted daughter and one very introverted son. It makes life rather interesting at times.

  60. Oh, gosh, yes, yes YES! I’ve had company for the past week, only to be capped off by my extended family’s party on the 24th (last night). I was social and engaging, as always, but my battery is dead. I am spending this beautiful Christmas day alone, in my pajamas on my sofa. “No, you can’t spend Christmas alone! Come eat with us!” my friends and family say with looks of pity. As a hardcore introvert, I cannot seem to explain to others that I NEED this day of recharging, buried under a blanket with hot cocoa reading a favorite book. Yes, all day, doing nothing but that. Introverts are not reclusive nor shy; we enjoy being with others and can be as socially engaging as the next person. But we need to recharge in order to do it again. The dread we feel prior to events is anticipatory of the extreme exhaustion we know we will feel and time we will need alone to recharge; the dread is not a dislike of engagement with others. We actually quite like that part. Thanks for explaining it so well.

  61. Excellent blog!

  62. Oh how I wish I had come across this when you wrote it!! I did get the book ‘Quiet’ which has helped. Yes, I do what I call “turtling” from TDay (which I like because I like to cook) to the day after Christmas. It’s as though an anvil has lifted from my shoulders now that it’s over! Baking for Christmas is fine but all the hoopla is so draining… Workplace cheeriness, disbelief that I will be alone (I’m lucky that way), etc. By Dec 20 glimmers of being in the mood to buy gifts appear so I manage to do that. People who think I’m gregarious are surprised to learn otherwise, but those who look below the surface understand. Most excellent piece Nick; thank you. Oh, and I was cruising thru due to the FB post wondering how the blog site is doing. So far, so good-you both do a great job :).

    Here’s to a wonderful New Year for you both :). Thank you!!

  63. It is a pleasure to read posts like yours. I’ve always known I was a ‘loner’, but it was only recently that I have explored what being an introvert is like for other people. Who knew there were so many people out there who feel and act the same way as I do and guess what – we aren’t nearly as ‘abnormal’ as the extroverted world seems to think we are!

  64. Lunch breaks in the car. Totally me! I have to switch between 3 different parking lots so people don’t notice, but it’s necessary for my sanity.

  65. I felt like crying while reading this. The knowledge that someone understands what it’s like to be drained of all energy is such a relief. I love Christmas and holidays. I decorate, cook food, make mulled wine, all that jazz. But at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I get tired of explaining to not-so-close family that “Yes, I’m a graphic designer. No, you’ve probably never seen my work. It’s fine, I don’t mind answering questions but HTML is only that interesting to me, haha….ugh.”

    It’s just one big blur in the end because I have to sit through hours of it and then Mom gets mad at me for running off every once in awhile. I don’t even have the luxury of drinking a bit because once your nosy Aunt sees you downing a cocktail, there are jokes and “concerned” questions.

    This Christmas was particularly stressful for me. I had to finish designing billboards on Christmas Eve, Mom was demanding that I finish painting 20 ornaments (each takes approximately 4 hours to do, so it’s not easy especially when she plans to just give half of them away to people who wouldn’t appreciate art if it hit them in the face and yelled “Tag!”), and I spent 14 hours baking and assembling cookies and then helped host a cookie exchange for said cookies, another 4 hour endeavor (all of which I did on no sleep).

    The holidays are over now and I love the days when my family is out at work/school. I get to stay home, work on my designs, cook and tend to my chickens. Hopefully, it’ll be enough of a recharge before I’m obligated to attend a graduation party for my least favorite cousin in the cousin (made even worse by the fact that she bullied me when I used to babysit her). Ugh, I need my chai and a book.

    • I often wear earplugs. Hide’ em with my hair so no one knows. That keeps me from having to process everything everyone says and does. I can still hear important messages and interact when I want to, but others can’t impose their soundworlds on me.
      As for participating in over-the-top obligatory activities: I have learned to move slowly. Others can run their races. Aah, peace.

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