I’m working from home today and I’m already on my fourth cup of coffee. My Keurig isn’t the newest and the coffee has recently not been as hot as it should be, so I tend to drink it down rather fast. I have my personal laptop playing Spotify in the background. It’s playing the new Flaw album that came out only a few weeks or so ago and I’m amazed that they’ve kept the sound they had from 2001, yet making the new music relevant and fresh. I’m in my basement office despite the house being entirely empty; daughter is at school and wife is at work. Only the dog and cat are here to keep me company, but neither of them like the basement if I’m honest. Like they know it’s a hole in the ground with a heavy two-story house sitting on top of it.
A basement is where you put the things that you don’t want normal visitors to see in your home. The place where things are taken to be forgotten or stored for the next time it is appropriate for them to be taken back out. The place where you can hide from the normal stresses and problems of the world if only for a little while until it is time to ascend up the steps. I often see the basement as a pretty damn good metaphor for how my life is lived and conducted. The basement is the place I go to remove myself from normal life and descend into a world of my own making, where my decisions are my own and thusly, I own the decisions I make. Normal problems of life don’t follow me down here and in most circumstances, they don’t return until I’m ready to face them again. In the past, I’ve spent hours and days in a figurative basement I created in my own mind shutting out everything except the most critical of things.
Fifth coffee down.
It is only now, while I’m sitting in a literal basement, that I finally see the potential for damage that my own descent into introvert holes can create. There are people in my life that need me to be present in both physical and mental capacities, people who depend on the idea that I’m engaged as much as they are in the circle of life we’ve created together. This was something that I did not truly understand until I wasn’t a member of the circle we created, where I had to be invited and even ask if it was okay to enter again. A personal journey into my own life, as I now understand, required that jolt to the system that not being at home last year forced me to take. At first I was a reluctant passenger, not wanting to admit that I was the cause, not wanting to admit that I had a problem. In reality, I did have a problem, I was the cause, I was to blame.
After a few weeks, I knew that something had to give. I had to learn that in order to get what I needed to stay out of the introvert hole, I needed to force myself through situations where I was uncomfortable. Force is such a strong word. Perhaps instead of force, I needed to choose to be in situations where I was uncomfortable in order to get into situations where I could retreat into solitude. The people around me, the closest ones, needed to understand from me why this was a necessity. That is exactly what I did, finding all sorts of online blogs that I could share with my wife to help her understand my introverted nature from her extroverted point of view. We were, from the beginning, like oil and water, but I know now that is okay. It’s okay to not be the same and see the world differently because that is what makes us unique and complimentary to each other. We’re suited for different situations that, in turn, makes us together prepared for every situation that one or the other shares taking the lead on.
I’m okay with what has amounted to a continuous journey of learning. Nothing is absolute and nothing is ever a problem that can’t be overcome. The amazing thing about all of this is that not only had my wife given me another chance last year, but, together we have worked to get to a mutual level of understanding we can both be happy about. We have started to, through actually talking (go figure), recognize the signs in each other when support is needed vs. solitude; taking charge vs. just observing; talking vs. listening. We are by far not the perfect couple. I’m scared of the perfect couple, it’s not natural. Perfect couples, to me, are like sleeping volcanoes that will at some point blow up and decimate everything and everyone around them. My sister-in-law is the Queen of bottling things up, creating pressure, and then to explode suddenly over something that essentially is trivial at best.
Sixth coffee down.
After a year of discovering with my wife at my side helping, I’m now in a good place where I feel that problems are recognized and talked about before they end up causing a larger problems. We both talk a lot more now than we ever have in the past and it took us almost losing our marriage to understand why this is so important. In a time where people get married and divorced at ever-increasing frequency, I’m happy with the fact that we decided together to work through our differences and adapted to our marriage at 16 years and stopped treating it like we were at 1, 5, or 10 years. Marriages fail, in my opinion, because one or both participants failed to adapt to the change that marriage demands. People get older, wiser in some instances, and therefore, it is logical to assume that a marriage needs to change in order to accommodate and stay strong.
I will always be an introvert. My wife will always be an extrovert. We understand that somewhat now. We are cognizant of the fact we’re different people who need different things; sometimes not at the same time. She gives me the time I need when I need it to regroup, collect, and process my thoughts. I give her the time she needs when she needs it to connect and feel included to our lives. We decided together to put the effort into our relationship despite the bumps and road blocks that life inevitably throws our way. It wasn’t an easy lesson for me to learn personally as I have lived my life for more than 35 years clinging to a mindset that avoided life. Enlightenment, to me, is understanding how you want things to be around you, but knowing that you’re not in control of anything other than your own actions. The acceptance of that fact is what makes us choose to do things that aren’t what we want to do, but rather what we need to do in order to live.