Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New Year's Resolutions: February Check-In

It's been a month since I set down my resolutions for the year, so let's do a check in and see how I've been doing.

1. Blog! - Well, obviously not doing great here. I wrote three blogs in January, which was more than I wrote in December or November, but that's still not even one a week. I get a week off in the middle of February, though, so we'll see if I can get some blogs schedule. So far I get like a 4/10 for this.

2. Live healthier. Oh, this has NOT been a good start to this. Thanks to a fairly nasty depression-anxiety combo in the second half of the month, I've been eating more junk food and going to the gym less than I did last year. We're going to have to try to jumpstart this again this month. 0/10.

3. Watch more movies. I've actually done REALLY well with this. I watched 17 new-to-me films in January (the best was Room, the worst was Flesh for the Inferno), most thanks to MoviePass. Watching movies alone is a good way for me to de-stress, so I've been getting a lot of use out of it. 10/10.

4. Reprioritize God. Not great. I powered through anxiety and went to church a few times but I don't really count that toward this goal because church attendance has been throughout my life almost wholly unconnected to my actual relationship with God. I've been spending a bit more time with God on my drives to work, but still nowhere near where I want to be. Like a 3/10.

5. Get back in touch with friends. Yeah, I didn't do this at all this month. Maybe like... once. 1/10.

So out of 50 possible Goal Achievement Points, I have... 18. That is pretty cruddy.

I think my resolutions might have been too broad for me to take in all at once. In the interest of doing better this month, let me shrink them down to some February-specific goals that will take me a step toward my bigger goals.


My February-specific goal for blogging is to write eight full blog posts during the week of February 14-20. That will be enough for me to schedule something once per week from now until my next furlough week in April.

For health, my goal in February will be to drink no soda at all (which I had done last year and then horribly backslid this month) and go to the gym at least twice a week. Obviously I'd like to go more than that, but this will give me something to move toward.

For movies, I'm doing pretty well, so I don't think I need to boost anything as far as more watching. But I would like to post reviews for movies within a day of seeing them. Right now I have like three reviews piled up and the longer I put them off the tougher it is to get them finished up.

For reconnecting with God, I'd like to keep it simple: spend a little time in Bible and prayer every day. I'm going to put my Bible and prayer journal on my nightstand (now that I have one) and hopefully that'll remind me to spend some time with God every night before I go to sleep, even if it's only a few minutes.

And for reconnecting with friends, I started a project last year to try to reconnect with several of my awesome lady friends. I'd like to restart that project and actually try to reconnect with them as promised. So that'll be my goal for February.

All right, folks. Here we go.

How are your New Year's resolutions going so far?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Some of the Best of 2015

I was pretty busy in 2015, but I did manage to consume a decent amount of art. So here's a quick rundown of some of my 2015 top 5s!

Top 5 Blogs I Wrote:
1. The Quest for Forgiveness: A Busy Post-Conversion Evening
2. Surprise Blog! And It's a Movie Guessing Game
3. Answering Extroverts' Questions About Introverts
4. Introverts Are Not Fragile
5. The Most Depressing Disney Songs

Top 5 Movies I Saw For the First Time:
1. The Last Five Years (2014)
2. Inside Out (2015)
3. Whiplash (2014)
4. Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)
5. Captain Blood (1935)

Top 5 Songs I Discovered For the First Time:
1. You'll Be Back from Hamilton the musical
2. (Never Gonna) Steal My Joy by Mandisa
3. Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding
4. Do You Really Need Her by Harry Connick, Jr.
5. WTF (Where They From) by Missy Elliott

Top 5 Books I Read:
1. Fight by Preston Sprinkle
2. Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex
3. Five Flavors of Dumb by Anthony John
4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
5. Gentleman's Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson
(As you can probably tell, I've been reading through my collection of Kindle books alphabetically. In 2015 I read from E-H.)

Top 5 New Board Games I Discovered:
1. Coup
2. Legendary (both Marvel and Encounters)
3. Splendor
4. Concept
5. Codenames

How about you? What were your top 5... anything of 2015?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Introverts and Extroverts in the Hundred-Acre Wood

The other day, I watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh for the first time in at least a decade, possibly two. It was that surreal experience of rewatching a film you haven't seen since you were a young child and still somehow remembering all the words because you watched it so often then, they stuck in your mind for years.

The first two stories are pleasant, but I found the third one absolutely fascinating in terms of my own life and who I've become over the last few years.

It's the story of Tigger, who bounces everywhere and all around people's lives without regard for them, and Rabbit, who is driven absolutely crazy by Tigger's bouncing and will go to any lengths to stop it. And all I could think of as I watched was, "...That's absolutely me and some of the extroverts I've known."

Most of my extrovert friends are kind, gracious people who are beautifully aware of themselves and don't just steamroll over others. But I have known a few who... did not have that self-awareness and happily just bounced themselves into my life, uprooting my garden and destroying my house and insisting that bouncing is what they do best and if I was upset by it, that was my fault, not theirs.

I saw poor Rabbit constantly harassed by Tigger, who, despite Rabbit clearly being uncomfortable with him, continued to push and push, determined that he could get Rabbit to see his way eventually.

And... I'm not sure how I feel about the ending.

For those of you who don't know the story, Rabbit gets completely fed up with Tigger making a mess with bouncing and attempts to lose him in the woods forever (which, sheesh, is kind of dark) only to get lost himself and need to be rescued. A bit later, Tigger bounces himself up a tree and gets stuck because he's afraid of heights, and he rashly promises that he'll never bounce again if only someone will help him get back down. When he does return to the ground, Rabbit holds him to his promise and Tigger, crestfallen, walks off, and then Pooh and all of his friends lament how sad Tigger is and how they "like the old bouncy Tigger best," and then Rabbit says he guesses he does too (though I am not entirely convinced he meant it -- he was pretty clearly being guilted into saying it), and then everyone is happy and they all bounce together.

That's not really the answer I was looking for as an introvert. Because while I don't think Rabbit should keep Tigger from bouncing forever, the fact is, Tigger is still going to make a mess of Rabbit's life with his bouncing, and that's never really addressed. The actual answer would be for Rabbit to say, "Here, bounce as much as you like, but don't bounce me," and Tigger would say, "Sure thing," and then everyone would really be happy.

As an introvert, the last thing I want to be told is that if I just lighten up and realize that the extrovert really is the fun one, I'll be happy. Because I may be having a perfectly good time by myself, and for an extrovert to come along and disrupt that for their own enjoyment shouldn't be something that's OK.

This definitely didn't hit me the last time I saw this movie -- but the last time I saw it, I didn't know I was an introvert, let alone that it was OK to be one. It does a pretty good job of setting up the story as if both the introvert and the extrovert would see the error of their ways and change to help the other... but in the end, only the introvert actually does. The extrovert doesn't have to change a thing. That doesn't seem quite fair to me, and it's a little disappointing for a story I loved so much as a kid.

Monday, January 4, 2016

My New Year's Resolutions

It's a new year. It's 2016. I apparently didn't make any kind of notable resolutions for 2015, so I can't tell you how I did there.

2015 was a very busy year, thanks to my cross-country move and finally having a real job teaching theatre. It's been an amazing adventure and I'm looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a teacher, a friend, a wife, a Christian, and a person in general.

So here's a few of the things I want to do this year.

1. Blog! I'm going to try a new thing this year. My teaching schedules gives me six furlough weeks spread throughout the year, mostly one every couple of months. My goal will be to use those weeks to try to get my blogs for the next month pulled together and written out. I may have to blog only twice a week, but I'd really like to return to regular blogging and not just like once a month when I have something I desperately need to say.

2. Live healthier. In particular, I'm hoping to get to the gym more often -- easier with this semester's schedule than last semester's -- and cut down on the amount of sugary snacks I eat. These are both doable and I'd like to feel better about it this year than I did in 2015.

3. Watch more movies. I have missed movies this year. 2015 was my lowest movie-watching year since 2008, when I spent the first eight months on the road with NLDC and watching no movies at all. I don't have to reach Movie Challenge Year levels, but I hope to see movies more frequently, especially now that I have MoviePass.

4. Reprioritize God. This second half of the year has been very busy and it's easy for God to get lost in the shuffle. I want to try and make sure God is at the forefront of my mind this year. I want to make sure I spend regular time in Bible study and I want to make sure I get back into the habit of praying for things instead of stressing out about them.

5. Get back in touch with friends. I attempted (very poorly) to do this last year, so I'm going to give it another shot this year and try to reestablish contact with far-away friends. 2015 was an exciting year but a lonely one, but there's no reason for me to be lonely when I have so many amazing friends, even if they are far away from me. So I want to make sure and contact these folks more often and make room for them in my life.

There are a lot of other little things I'm hoping to accomplish this year, but these are some of the biggest ones. This year I'm going to try to do a a six-month check-in at the end of June and see how I'm doing staying on track for this. I'm sure it'll go in fits and starts, but every step I take toward self-improvement is always good!

What are you folks hoping to accomplish this year -- big or small?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why Church Scares Me

(As is often the case, talking about church is a tough subject for me. This was an especially vulnerable blog for me to write but I don't get to blog often these days so if I felt strongly enough about something to write it, I figured I should post it too. Graciousness would be appreciated more than ever on this post. Thanks!)

A few weeks ago, I was part of a discussion online about church anxiety. In the course of the discussion, they genuinely asked those of us who had fear about going to church to share why that was. I responded that I didn't have fear of going to church anymore but shared what I remembered fearing in the past.

Well, turns out I was being overly optimistic and the reason I hadn't been fearing church was simply that I hadn't been going to church. Despite the fact that I felt like I was kind of supposed to attend church out here in California, all the fear and anxiety has come rushing back whenever it comes time to actually do it.

But at least if I'm going to be besieged by fear while attempting to attend church in my new home state, it'll give me an opportunity to continue to work through the question that had been asked of me: Why do I face so much fear at the thought of going to church?

The answer I gave at the time was certainly a piece of it, but I now realize it was just a small portion of it. I talked about being afraid to be myself in front of other Christians, particularly in connection to my struggles with depression and anxiety. While that's definitely part of it, I am now discovering a bigger piece of the puzzle:

I don't trust Christians to accept me as one of their own.

I consider myself a very strong Christian. I believe firmly in the teachings of Christ. I take the Bible very seriously. I affirm the essential tenets of the faith about salvation through Jesus alone. I attempt to surrender my everyday life to walking with God and not just pray or talk about him occasionally. I seek out God on my own outside of church and trust him to take care of me. I know my faith is strong, I know my desire to live in faith is sincere, and I know that the core of my identity is found in following God.

I doubt the evangelical Christians I know would claim I wasn't a Christian at all. But in the evangelical church, there are "strong Christians" and "not-strong Christians," and I seem to nearly always fall in the "not-strong" category.

I've been told my faith and walk were weak for all kinds of reasons, both by folks at my own church and folks at other churches. These reasons have included not wanting children, liking Rob Bell's writing, not voting Republican, listening to Eminem songs, not interpreting specific Bible passages literally, not going to church every week. And even when it's not spoken out loud, I know that sometimes it's being thought -- and I'm not just being paranoid, I know it's being thought because I was, in a sense, taught to think and feel that way when I was part of the "in" crowd, growing up in the church. I'm pretty sure if you had asked me in middle school or high school what I thought about people who did all those things I mentioned at the start of this paragraph, I'd say something like, "Well, maybe they're not walking with God at the moment. I'll pray for them." I'd never have meant it maliciously or judgmentally, but in my mind, the lines were clearly drawn, and those outside the line couldn't be let into the "solid Christian" inner circle until they gave in.

The moment when I realized how heavily this was weighing on me happened a few weeks ago, when after attending the same church two weeks in a row and going to one of their midweek home groups, I was contemplating skipping church one Sunday because I felt miserable and overpeopled and under no circumstances wanted to speak to anyone. I asked Jacob if he thought that would be OK, and he told me I could do whatever I wanted to do.

"But now that I've gone there twice and expressed interest, I feel like I'm obligated to go, and that not going will reflect badly on me," I said.

"It won't," he said.

"But that's how you can tell the good Christians from the backsliders," I said. I'd said it as a joke about church culture and didn't know it wasn't until I realized I was crying.

My Christian peers talked a lot as teenagers about making our faith our own, but as I grew up, I learned that meant doubting things that I'd been taught and studying through them and then sometimes coming to a different conclusion than I'd been taught. Never a conclusion that I thought was very far away from where I started, but apparently it was far enough away that I started feeling more and more distant from the evangelical church I grew up in. It's important to note that I never felt distant from the God I grew up with -- I always felt like he was walking with me on the journey and listening to me and guiding me and when I landed on something new, I never felt like he was looking down on me for not having the exact same doctrinal stance as my home church. I felt like even if I was wrong, he was like, "OK, well, you and I are still good, so keep walking with me and we'll get this figured out eventually and you'll be stronger for it in the end."

I trust God to have enough grace for me. Just not Christians, apparently.

At the home group I went to a few weeks ago, they asked me to share a little bit about myself and my faith, and I found myself uncertain which parts of my faith story I was supposed to share and which I wasn't. Would my time in NLDC count against me, where probably 75% of my ministry teammates spoke in tongues? What about my time in the Lutheran church we'd just come from in Indiana? Could I mention my fondness for the progressive church folks that don't like to be labeled much but would include writers like Rachel Held Evans and Samantha Field and Zack Hunt and (still) Rob Bell? Could I talk about the lessons I learned in each of these groups and how they stretched and challenged my faith to make it stronger in the end, or would I immediately be suspect because of my association with them? I found myself couching my phrases in careful language like "I learned a lot" which could, in a sense, protect me in case I had uttered one of those red flag words I found so easy to spot in my more active churchgoing days.

And this is why I am afraid of going to church. Because I know in so many churches, even ones that try not to do this, there is an unspoken mental checklist that I may not meet, and if I don't check off the boxes, I'm immediately in the "outer circle." And frankly, that's where I feel I kind of ended up at my home church growing up -- or I feel I would if I was honest about what my faith looks like these days. When so much emphasis is placed on having the right doctrine (as is the case with a lot of the more evangelical churches), it just takes one wrong move to end up on the "and, God, please help show her the truth" prayer list. And I don't want church to just be a place where people pray for me that I'll "get back on track with God" -- I want it to be a place where I can share the lessons I've learned and the thoughts I'm having and not be immediately corrected.

I'm sure some of this is unfair. I suspect the Christians who have read this far in the blog would jump in and say, "We would never think like this!" and they probably wouldn't. But I also know that when I was a regular churchgoer, I would have been the first to insist I didn't either -- and I did, it was just subtle enough that I didn't realize it until 10 years later after I'd moved away from where I was. I'm sure not everyone is as prone to judgment as I am (that tendency is still there, I'm just better at recognizing it and keep it in check). But the amount of times I have had my faith or my love for God criticized for something that I viewed as nonessential leads me to believe that I'm certainly not the only one.

I would like to find a way to get past this fear. Maybe reimmersion is the only way I'll get past it and I need to suck it up and keep trying to go to church even when it makes me nauseous with anxiety. Maybe I need to spend more dedicated non-church time with the Christian friends of mine who I do trust to be wonderfully gracious, and remember that if these people exist, others do as well. Maybe it's almost entirely depression/anxiety-related and will be something I deal with my whole life.

I genuinely don't have an answer for this. I don't mean to simply shift the blame onto others and say "It's your fault, you're all so vaguely generally judgmental and you should all change everything for me." Because I know that's a little bit what this blog sounds like but it shouldn't because I know that's a terrible answer. I'm still just very, very slowly sorting through this, and I've just unlocked a tiny piece of the puzzle, and I haven't really gotten to the part where I figure out how to respond. But for anyone who was wondering, anyone who was thinking, "Why in the world would someone be afraid of church?" ... well, here is one reason.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Two Normals

It occurred to me the other day that I have two "normal" modes in my life: pain and pain-free. Sometimes I switch between them so easily that I almost forget how different it was in the other.

Due to complicated health issues, I've been left without my regular arthritis meds for several weeks now, and it's begun to take its toll on me. I'm waiting for my doctor to get back to me authorizing a transition medication while I wait for financial assistance on my regular stuff to be finalized, but the past couple days I've become increasingly aware that I have subtly shifted gears in my life into "pain normal."

When I'm in pain-free normal, I can, for the most part, pretty much do what I want, go where I want, eat what I want, wear what I want. My daily activities are full of choices where I make my decisions based on what I want.

Pain normal, however, is different. Pain normal is all about survival, and that gets complicated.

This means I suddenly start thinking about the activities I may not be able to do on my own to get ready in the morning, and I worry about what I will do if I have to leave before Jacob gets home on a day when I cannot brush my own hair.

It means I find myself almost automatically adjusting to "arthritis driving," where I hold the wheel lightly with one hand and stick the other through the hole in the steering wheel to help drive with my forearm. And then I switch hands so that neither hand has to grip onto anything for long.

It means I am consciously, constantly aware of all the time I spend on my feet, and much of that time is spent eyeing the nearest chair and calculating when I can sit again, because the more I sit now, the more likely it is that I'll be able to walk tomorrow. At the same time, I'm keeping an eye on the people around me who may start seeing me as lazy if I sit too often.

It means I start planning ahead what food I buy to eat for solo meals. I can't choose anything that goes in the oven, because baking sheets are tough to hold. I can't choose anything I have to cut with a fork and knife. I can't choose anything that I have to exert force to open.

It means I have to get very tough with Puppy again and start enforcing commands like, "Move" and "Get off," because if she climbs on me or sits on an arthritic limb, I may not even be able to remove someone as tiny as her.

It means I don't reach out for my husband's hand while we're walking together unless I've calculated we're at the just-right angle to each other, otherwise it inadvertently gets pulled it in a painful direction.

It means I put away the pants with two sets of buttons and allow myself extra time to get dressed into the ones with even one button.

It means every time I'm in conversation with anyone, at least a quarter of my mind is preoccupied with the pain itself and trying to find little ways I could shift or move that might lessen the pain in that moment. Maybe if I took my weight off my right foot. Maybe if I leaned on my other arm. Maybe if I sat up straighter or adjusted my shirt or lightly massaged my wrist.

There are so many extra steps here that have simply become part of my new normal. It's exhausting, but it wasn't until almost three days into it that I realized why I was exhausted. It was because all my mental energy was going into making these extra decisions, even before the pain has gotten quite that bad yet. But my mind has prepared for pain, and so it is bracing itself and changing its patterns and changing its routine.

Hopefully I'll get back on the necessary medication and return to pain-free normal soon, and all this will fade into the background again. But in the meantime this is the normal I'm living in. Living with chronic pain is far from fun, and I'm one of the lucky ones in that I was accurately diagnosed and have found effective treatment that I will soon be able to afford. Not everyone gets to be in my boat. Even when I've returned to pain-free normal, I want to make sure I remember what life was like in pain normal, so that any time I see someone in a similar situation, I can have a deeper empathy and compassion than before.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Answering More Extrovert Questions!

Back in May, I wrote a blog with my own answers to some questions I'd seen extroverts asking about of introverts. Recently I came across another whole post full of questions from an extrovert trying to figure out how we goofy introverts worked. So I figured I'd answer a few of their questions here, just like I've done before. As always, this is just from my own personal standpoint and generalizing a bit about some of the introverts I've spoken with, but here's my take on it. I'd always welcome other introverts' experiences and stories!

Q: Generally, do you want to be encouraged to come out / stay out / etc? I have some introverted friends and they're always going home super early, and I can never tell if I should be trying to get them to stay out. Or trying to get them to come dance with us, etc.

A: Awesome question. Remember that "encouraged" is not the same as "pushed." I like to be invited to spend time with our friends -- it's always good to know that you'll be missed if you're not somewhere -- but if I say no, I don't want any more pushing than, "Are you sure? We'd love to have you" or, "Aw, I'll miss you!" If I say no again, respect that "No," because then it's not encouraging, it's implying that I don't know what I want, which is often just not true.

Q: What could I do to make a party more fun for you? Let's say I'm the host. Have video games and a pet? A 'quiet room'? Should I start a conversation with someone who's by themselves, or is that putting them on the spot?

A: Having activities around for me to participate in is always great. I'm terrible with small talk and mingling and don't enjoy it at all, so having a game or a movie that I can plop myself in front of and interact with people during makes it much more likely that I'll enjoy myself.

But, yes, absolutely start a conversation with someone who's by themselves! As long as it's just you talking to them, it shouldn't be putting them on the spot, although if they freeze up for some reason you might want to make it a quick one. Once I get going in a conversation I'm good, but getting started can be a real pain.

Obviously if you're a host you can't just spend the whole night just talking to me, but extroverts sometimes excel at being "transitioners." Those are the people who can start up a conversation with someone, say, "Oh, man, you should talk to so-and-so over there, they love this kind of stuff," and then call so-and-so over, make introductions, and get the conversation rolling before taking off to do something else. That's the kind of thing I find especially unpleasant, forcing myself into other people's conversations and finding something to discuss, so if you have an opportunity to facilitate it for us as an extrovert, that takes a lot of pressure off us and can make for a much easier time.

Q: How can you tell if an introvert doesn't like you? If they do?

A: Well, some introverts will be pretty straightforward about it. Shyness is not intrinsic to introversion. But for people like me who are nonconfrontational, the #1 sign that an introvert likes you and is comfort around you is that they make space for you in their life. I go out of my way to spend time with those who do not drain me (typically those I like). I am polite to those I don't like but don't spend any more energy on them than is necessary, because I want to conserve my energy for those who are important to me.

Q: Is something like dancing / clubbing or going to see a show more appealing to you, since there's no talking?

A: That will for sure vary based on an individual's hobbies and interests. I'd be all over going to see a show but I'd give clubbing a hard pass. But, yeah, finding an activity to do together may be more fun for introverts since they can focus their attention on that activity and socialize along the way in a more natural manner.

Q: What part of interaction is tiring, exactly? Thinking of stuff to say? Wondering whether it's the right thing to say? Or what?

A: That can be a thing, but that's more social anxiety specific than anything else, and that's its own thing, though obviously introverts can have social anxiety. For me, it's having to keep up the energy of fake-enjoying the socializing. I frequently don't enjoy socializing until I get into a conversation that's interesting to me, but it's not really acceptable for me to be openly bored with it, so I have to put an unusual amount of energy into faking enthusiasm. And faking enthusiasm is VERY exhausting.

Less tiring social groups for me are ones where I feel comfortable with halfhearted interactions or tuning out entirely when I'm bored, knowing that the people I'm with aren't going to judge me if I check my phone while they talk sports with someone who cares.

Q: When there's something going on that you don't want to go to, what is unappealing about it? Just that you're tired and don't want to be even more tired, or something else?

A: Well, some of it is what I said up above, the effort of faking enthusiasm takes a lot out of me. But frankly, it's usually just that I'd rather do something else. I mean, if you go to a restaurant and you order the food you want, nobody asks you to explain what was unappealing about the other options. You simply chose the one you wanted. And that's what it's like for me most of the time. I love being alone. It's peaceful, I don't have to explain myself, I can do whatever I want without running it by the group. Sometimes it's not that going out is unappealing, it's just... not staying in, which is more fun.

Q: Is hanging out with a few good friends still draining, just less so, or is it a completely different dynamic?

A: Still draining but less so. Mostly because there's less feigned enthusiasm, both because they're comfortable with me zoning out AND because we already have things in common and are more likely to cycle around to things I can be genuinely enthusiastic about. I still need to refresh myself, but hanging out with a small group of close friends is MUCH less draining than a large gathering of mingling with acquaintances.

Q: "You're so quiet" / "How can I get you out of your shell" - these are annoying, right? Why?

A: Yes. Yes, they are. For a couple reasons. For one thing, it's not like we're not aware that we're quiet. Calling attention to it does nothing but make us needlessly self-conscious. I tend to get grumpy when called out on my quietness, because the alternative would be for me to be saying things I thought were boring or useless. If I have something to say, I'll say it.

It also carries a connotation of, "You're not contributing to the group," which is frustrating because, like I said, if I have something to say I'll say it. Contributing meaningless conversation is way worse to me than silence.

Oh, and gosh, "get you out of your shell." Generally the offered solution to that is making me do something that would make me incredibly uncomfortable, because I guess after I do that I'm supposed to be more comfortable with someone who I know at any moment might push me into a situation I don't want to be in? There's really only one good way to "get me out of my shell." Be patient, be consistent, and be friendly, but accept that I make friends slowly and I acclimate to groups slowly, and that's OK. Telling me to get out of my shell is the equivalent of saying, "YOU'RE NOT BEING MY FRIEND FAST ENOUGH," and almost nothing will shut me down faster.

All right, I'm done with my mini rant. On to the next question!

Q: You suggest that introverts generally would prefer silence and their own thoughts to having to discuss something they're not interested in. Do you mean that thing where somebody really really likes video games and won't shut up about video games and you're just sitting there nodding (everybody hates that) or something else? Because I think that very few people will hit upon something they both are passionate about on the first try, and if you give up trying, you'll never find it, right?

A: This is a good point. It's not that I'm opposed to trying. It's that I'm opposed to sticking around with a topic we're not interested in for a socially acceptable length of time. If it was my choice, I'd totally vote for rapidly tossing questions back and forth: "Do you like sports?" "No. Do you like music?" "Yes. I love classical." "Oh. I don't care about classical. But I like showtunes." "I hate showtunes. Where are you from?" "Miami." "Oh, hey, I love the beach!" "Me too!" Cue beach stories, I guess. I don't know, I don't love the beach.

For most people that sounds super bizarre, but for me, dancing around the unacceptable statement of, "Hey, one of us isn't really interested in this, can we move on?" is a frustrating and strange experience. As soon as I find that topic we're both passionate about -- or that topic one person is passionate about and the other is interested in enough to ask questions -- then I'm good, but, gosh, can it be a trial getting there. Not that it isn't necessary sometimes, but this is why I sometimes like to be a silent lurker in a group of three or four, because that lets me listen for topics others bring up voluntarily that I can hitch onto and get a conversation going without having to pretend that I'm super interested in how they fixed up their old car.

Q: Also, just to make sure: if I've invited the introvert out and they've decided to stay home, they're not sad, right? They're okay?

A: Well, probably. Sometimes introverts get sad and, yeah, they'll probably want to be alone then. But, as a rule, assume we're fine. We usually are.