Differences in Processing Time

In 2015, I read Susan Cain’s Quiet, which is about the hidden power of introverts and the many talents they can bring to the table and how they are often overshadowed in America—a far more extroverted country than, say, Japan. Introverts tend to be misunderstood as “shy” or “rude” or “antisocial,” which has been a source of frustration for me throughout my life.

To me, the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is what I call “processing time.” Extroverts are way better at making decisions in shorter time frames than introverts, at least in my experience. They come up with solutions faster and their witty comebacks are that much more effective and funny because they are spontaneous. Introverts need more time to process and consider all options. This may lead to a better-informed decision, but it’s useless in times when a quick decision is mandatory. And I find myself annoyed because I come up with the perfect witty comeback… four hours after the time when it should have been said.

I consider myself fortunate to work in a department that consists of mostly introverts (editors and writers). We understand each other’s “antisocial” tendencies and need for “processing time.” We don’t have too many long-winded water cooler conversations because we just want to get back to our desks and focus. However, I think I got a little spoiled by my workplace, because when I go out into the real world, where the majority of people are extroverts, I get frustrated when they don’t seem to understand my “slow” thought process and impatience with small talk.

Then I also realize that perhaps I am not being as understanding of extroverts as I ought to be, and I may be using “introversion” as an excuse to avoid social situations that might otherwise benefit me. So the need for a fine balance comes into play. There are times when a quick decision is necessary, and there are decisions that require more thought. There are times to go to parties and social gatherings, and there are times to go home and relax and read or watch a movie. Some projects would be better when worked on in a group situation, and others are best worked on individually. As with many other things, it’s a matter of understanding other people and what they’re like and how their brains function.

It’s not like in the days of elementary school when you can immediately write off that one kid as weird because he likes to play by himself, or avoid another kid because he likes to be the life of the party. In the real world, we have to work together.


Bridezillas and the “Perfect” Wedding

Confession time: I used to watch Bridezillas, that horrible reality show about brides abusing their future husbands, their hapless bridesmaids, their mothers, their future mothers-in-law, and basically everyone else they came into contact with in their quest to reach the altar.

Now that I’m planning my wedding, I understand the beleaguered brides’ plight much more than I did when I watched the show. I don’t sympathize with or condone their bad behavior, like breaking into bar fights on the day of the bachelorette party or engaging in unnecessary drama. But I understand the pressure, and pressure makes people do crazy things, like having a crying fit over something as seemingly simplistic as what kind of flowers to put in a boutonniere.

I still find it amusing that the most common piece of wedding advice I’ve gotten is “it’s your wedding; do what you want.” In all honesty, if I could do what I wanted, I’d just have a church wedding and avoid all the rigmarole and expense that comes with the reception. Hell, if I could do what I really wanted, I’d have the wedding at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The reality is that “it’s your wedding; do what you want,” but with several caveats: what the budget allows, what your family will and will not tolerate and/or pay for, what his family will and will not tolerate and/or pay for, what the church will and will not let you have at the Mass, and so on.

So… it ain’t Burger King; you can’t have it your way. In that sense, wedding planning must be the smallest microcosm of what marriage is going to be like: realizing that you can’t do what you want anymore, at least not without consulting with your future spouse. This has been particularly mind-blowing to me because I’m a fairly independent person. I like to do what I want, and I don’t like having to consult what seems like a thousand other people for their opinions, because then I begin to second-guess my own opinions.

Then there’s all the “informative” material: wedding magazines, wedding etiquette books, sites like Pinterest and the Knot and WeddingWire… and the list goes on. I read or scan through it and literally get sick to my stomach. It’s too much. Weddings are a business and an industry, and the vendors have to make money and will inundate you with aggressive advertising for stuff you don’t want or need. It’s easy to get bogged down in it all and forget that you’re planning for one day. One day. Yes, it’s one very important day, but it’s still one day. No wonder some women become bridezillas.

The fear of becoming a high-maintenance bridezilla has caused me to stay far, far away from all that “informative” material. I don’t want to read a sappy story about how Person X and Person Y met and planned the Best Wedding Ever and how they did it all incredibly cheaply and it all turned out looking like a Disney fairy tale. To me, it ought to be less about the wedding and more about the marriage, the journey together, the ups and the downs and the day-to-day stuff that can make you or break you (not to mention the spiritual aspect of it, but that’s another blog post). I just wish that for every wedding magazine, there was a marriage magazine, and for every happily-ever-after, picture-perfect wedding, there was a good, stable, lasting marriage.

I guess all the wedding hype is another symptom of how our culture is so laser-focused on momentary pleasure and making things look Facebook- and Pinterest-worthy, but I think that’s yet another blog post for another day. I’ve bored y’all enough. 🙂

Perpetual Quest for Happiness

*I apologize for the length of this post.*

Here’s an article about why Americans are so anxious all the time, and it’s no joke. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications have become much more prevalent in recent years. We are searching for happiness and can’t find it. Our search for happiness has made us stressed and oddly enough, less happy. The word “self-care” in the article reminded me of Tumblr, where discontent, unhappiness, discrimination, perversion, and pornography abound. (They call it “4chan junior” for a reason.) Yet there are occasional rays of “light” in that darkness, and these rays of “light” take the form of posts about ways to treat yourself right and perform “self-care” methods. Take yourself to the spa. Binge watch all 4,000 episodes of whatever popular TV show you can’t get enough of. Go ahead and eat that entire tub of ice cream. After all, you only live once (another common Tumblr mantra).

These self-care methods have nothing to do with actually improving oneself: finding the source of the problem and taking steps to fix it. They are just bandages to cover the great gaping wound that’s been inside all humans from the instant of conception. We are on earth (in the words of the “Hail, Holy Queen” prayer: “this vale of tears”). We are the Church Militant. We are in a perpetual struggle for our souls and the souls of others. We will not be perfectly happy until we meet God in heaven, assuming that we win the fight and make it there. Realizing that we will never be perfectly happy on this earth can, in itself, make us a bit more happy. It helps to know your limitations.

I firmly believe that social media, although it can and should be used for good, has greatly contributed to our discontent with ourselves and our anxiety. We see the exterior of others’ lives as they choose to present them and compare the muck and murk of our interior lives with that. In doing so, we cannot possibly see our lives as good or even decent. We see our perfectly ordinary and usual lives as something to be improved so that we can be as happy as our friends in their staged selfies. We try to fix what ain’t broke. Back when I had Facebook, I’d get a stomach ache every time I logged in because I always felt like the most imperfect person among my so-called friends. I’d read about their accomplishments and their perfect relationships and see their lovely vacation and wedding photos and wonder what the hell was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I that happy, that perfect? Facebook was feeding my cognitive distortions and warping them even further, so I deleted it, and I was happy to live in ignorant bliss while my “friends” conducted their just-as-imperfect-as-mine lives.

The author of the article states that happiness is about communicating with others (which we do surprisingly little of) and caring for others. I have found this to be true. Few things are more satisfying than working out one’s differences in the old-fashioned way: a face-to-face talking. Few things bring happiness like a good time spent with friends or family—when the cell phones are put away and everyone is engaged in the conversation. As an introvert, I’m still struggling to figure out a good balance between time spent with people and time spent by myself, doing things like reading and writing. Once I hit that balance, will I be happy once and for all? No, because life has a way of punching you in the face without warning. No one thing is going to make you happy consistently, all of the time. And it’s OK to not be happy. The search for perpetual happiness where it is not possible, and ignoring the panorama of other emotions we face as humans, has made us anxious, and to quell that anxiety, we need to look to others and our connections with them.

Anxiety comes from the self as ultimate concern. —Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss