In the last years I have thought of myself as an introvert. Though I enjoy time with people, I find I need the time alone to refuel. But that is only true for a part of me.
When I was younger I would come out more evenly extrovert and introvert on the tests we would take in curiosity to see what we would be labeled by research. In seeking the quiet for my introverted self, I missed something important. My extroverted self was being starved.
I think of the beginning of the calendar year when some people on line were choosing words of the year. I didn’t have to think twice. The word I chose was balance. Even then I knew what I keep bumping up against in life. I have skewed the focus in my life like a fun house mirror distorting the lines and angles of my spirit. I have allowed past fears to limit my focus to the safety of my own company since I know that I am accepted there. I have let old scripts tie me down.
This morning a writing colleague wrote about her opening to the improvisational side of life. I understood it. I find it easier to improv — when I am alone. So today, I decided to move out of the setting that protects me from chance. Seeing there was a farmer’s market at The Forks, a local historical place that also is sure to have something going on during weekends in the summer, I hopped the bus — no insulation of metal and glass to keep the world away as I passed through town.
It’s Folklorama in Winnipeg right now so, as expected, there was a cultural celebration going on. The inviting rhythms and tones of Punjabi music filled the air. Beautiful jeweled tones sparkled on the woman dressed for the event as performers and viewers. Watching the performers was wonderful but being able to visit with the people at the market took the real edge off the hunger of my social self. I had thought to stay longer but tiredness set in. The small tastes of conversation had set up a restlessness in me that I could not fill in the crowd.
Walking downtown, the quietness of viewing the architecture and people as a passerby settled some of the restlessness but not the feeling of loneliness. At the bus stop the day began to change.
A conversation with another woman waiting there led to the awareness that we lived only a block apart. Visiting with her on the bus drew another woman into conversation with us. Part of the conversation was about the pavilions for Folklorama. Wanting to point out the location of my favourite pavilion, I saw the sign showing that is was open for the week I was able to attend. With a spontaneity that had characterized the day, I got off the bus to attend.
I knew that I would enjoy the music and the way they would connect the dances into a story. I knew I would see a variety of ages and skill levels woven into a delightful show. What I did not expect was the warm visits that seemed to follow me throughout the evening. Yes, it started with me offering to take a picture for a group outside the door, but then I do that in all kinds of places.
Being in the first group of the evening on the first night of their performances meant I was one of a few in the cultural display area before the dances started. Finding myself wondering about the part of the country some writing colleagues were from sparked an added interest in the displays. Somehow that telegraphed to the people there. The women working in the space seemed to want to share with me about their country. One of the women even gave me a souvenir.
But it didn’t stop with the volunteers. I went out to watch the karaoke area and a woman invited me to sit with her and her children. I think my obvious delight at the joyful abandon her husband sang with was the catalyst. The visit had enough depth to quench my thirst like a cool glass of water. She even got me to go up and sing Sweet Caroline with her husband giving me moral support. The three school age children with them filled that part of me that shines when children are in the group.
Stopping in for a dessert was no different. This time, the couple in front of me noticed my curiosity of the menu and were willing to give me ideas about the various desserts since I had eaten dinner earlier. They even invited me to sit with them and their friends while we ate. That hungry extroverted part of me pleasantly filled with the nourishment of friendliness. When one of the other people in the room came up and put his hands on my shoulder singing Sweet Caroline, my anxiety was quiet enough that I could laugh delightedly.
Someone asked me to come and sing a couple more songs so I did. My stomach was still in knots but as had been talked about in a conversation earlier this week, the goal can’t be not to feel anxious. The goal has to be to do the things I enjoy anyway. The screen was set up so that I didn’t have to look at the audience. In the Phillipino community in town, karaoke is a part of the social atmosphere so to sing didn’t mean a person had to feel like being a diva. It was a good place to take those few minutes to build courage to let go of some of my fears.
If I didn’t need to catch my bus, I think I would have found it hard to leave. I actually think I will try the local church where some of the people I met may be attending. It may only be the festival or the fact that I teach music and the local community loves music, but there was a feeling of home that I have missed.
My appetite has been awakened to the reality that my social self needs feeding. I saw some volunteer openings for visitors in some of the homes for the elderly across town. There is one around the corner from me. I know that I am not alone in longing for company. I think I will go check out the possibilities there.