Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Inner Power: Being an Introvert in an Extraverted World

I'll say it now, I'll say it a thousand times, 'til I'm blue in the face: Being an introvert in a world where extravertedness is considered "the norm" is tough. It's exhausting, not only to BE an introvert where extravertedness is often rewarded with friendship, leadership opportunities in the workplace, and greater opportunities to advance in a person's life and career, but it's also exhausting to have to explain your introverted nature to the rest of the world. These explanations never do the introvert justice either, because, frankly, extraverts (a.k.a. "normal" people), can't wrap their minds around how an introvert can be an introvert in the first place.

I was born an introvert. When I came out of my mother's womb, I didn't cry, but silently observed my surroundings for the first time (until, of course, the doctors made me cry, to make sure I was "normal"). As a small child, some of my best times were spent creating imaginary worlds with my toys, pencils or crayons. I didn't crave interaction with others. I was happy on my own. Socializing with other kids made me anxious. Every time we'd go over to a new house with new children, I'd be overwhelmed with dread, even though, once I got there and got going, I'd play along just fine.

People think that introverts are antisocial, but that's a common misconception. The reality is that interacting with others is extremely emotionally taxing for us. We feel comfortable in our own heads, with our own ideas, and our own understanding of the world, and interacting with others is like actively translating one language into another, in real time. Sure, we can do it, but, when push comes to shove, we prefer speaking in our native language.

Really, I'm not antisocial. I can actually be quite charming:

I've found that, throughout my life, I've encountered some very insecure extraverted types, who need constant validation through enthusiastic interaction. Typically those types of people end up being deeply insulted by me. They take my lack of gregariousness, my selective conversations, and thoughtful, careful demeanor as a personal affront, or sometimes are just profoundly annoyed by me.

At certain points in my life, I've been bullied by these types, those who interpret these traits as an indication of laziness, inattentiveness or stupidity. Extraverts tend to take a very "at face value" approach when it comes to personalities, and, not only that, but those who are the loudest, the "squeaky wheels," if you will, appear to them as being the smartest, most focused, most interested, and leadership-quality individuals.

I must twist a little wry smile at this assumption when I think about how my French grandfather used to say, Ce sont les tonneaux vides qui font le plus de bruit. (Empty barrels make the most noise). 

I'm not saying that all people who speak up are not as intelligent as those who are more reflective, but, after sitting through meetings with extraverts, who tend to fire off mediocre questions, or make mediocre points in rapid succession, while someone like me takes all of the information in and formulates a very thoughtful idea or question at the end of the discussion, or perhaps even afterward, after I've had time to research and understand the subject better, I think it's wrong to assume that just because someone is quiet and observant, that he or she just isn't clever enough to think of something to say.

Those who don't understand introverted folks and make these assumptions, as I mentioned, can turn into bullies, particularly in the workplace. I can't tell you how many times I've heard:



"What's wrong? You look mad [sad, upset, etc.]"


"You have a faraway look on your face. Are you daydreaming?!"


"You don't talk enough!"

The list goes on. This kind of bullying sends me further into my shell, of course. Not productive.

I've had employers and coworkers become angry with me for not scheduling enough one-on-one, in-person meetings. While I take ownership for some of these instances, I always consider that meetings are a two-way street. If you want to meet with me, put it on my schedule. I think maybe they'd get it if I explained being an introvert to a person who was an extravert like: Imagine that, every time you wanted to talk to another person, you'd have to recite the full Pledge of Allegiance. That'd become pretty tiresome, right? You probably wouldn't want to schedule a ton of meetings. Well, that's the amount of energy that I have to expend every time I meet with a person. 

Maybe they'd get it? In my 33 years of history with extraverted personalities, I doubt I'd make any kind of revelatory breakthrough, but it's worth a shot.

Mostly, the onus has been on us, the minority (one in four people are introverts), to change our ways, to expend more energy to "convert" to extravertedness for our eight hours or so in the office, in hopes that we don't offend too many people and can be recognized just enough to advance in our work. Still, introverted tendencies break through this facade. We aren't compelled to constantly reach out to others, we don't think well on our feet, and we work to establish quality over quantity (something all but lost in today's world). 

Last night, I was discussing with another introverted friend how we introverts needed to start a movement, to get people to be more understanding toward people like us, particularly in the workplace, because it takes all kinds of people to form a healthy society. I guess that movement begins with informing the bullies and those who are offended by us. We could say things like:

"I am interested in this subject, but I need more time to reflect on it."


"Stay tuned: I might have something to add to this topic, but I need some time to think about it."


"I'm not ignoring you, I'm just really 'in my head' a lot of the time. If you'd like to share something with me, please feel free to set up time to meet."


"I am not always very expressive when I'm concentrating on something."


"I'm not anti-social, I just need time to recharge my thoughts between meetings/social interactions"

Oddly enough, the more we introverts talk about ourselves, the more people might understand us and see us as "not so weird." 

It's a start anyway. We "lone wolves" need to stick together!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Star-Crossed: Is True Love Really Rare?

I know it's post-Valentine's day, but, due to a recent avalanche of engagement announcements, including that of my younger sister, I've been pushed into a direction of contemplating the truths about real love. Additionally, when people ask me about my love life (of which I have little to divulge), after I tell them I think that some people just aren't meant to have true love, they scoff at the notion.

Yet, these are the people who will tell you that finding that one someone who treasures you and will valiantly do anything to be by your side, with whom you share a common mind and mutual attraction, is a rare and special gem. Still, these same people seem to think that, for the single folk, love is "just around the next corner!"

Well, which is it? Either love is rare and special, or it's a dime a dozen. My money is going to be on the former, or else it's not worth having at all. If every day I can hop out of bed, walk the dog and find the man of my dreams, well, then, bah, it's a joke.

Mathematician Peter Backus at Warwick University cleverly used the Drake Formula (an astronomy formula that calculated the number of possible highly evolved civilizations within our galaxy), to calculate his chances at finding true love in London. His estimated calculation was 1 in 285,000, and that was not counting the number of women who would actually like him back. I guess that math is one way to look at it, but still, I think, too many wildcards there for it to have any true accuracy.

Still, a person has to actually meet these other potential mates somewhere. Let's face it, how often do post 30-somethings mingle outside of their own social circles? Plus, in big cities where everyone pretty much keeps to themselves, there's not much of a shot of chatting up some random in public. So, we join "singles" sites and activities, searching in narrow channels for that one special goldfish to escape from the proverbial sea of regular fish and swim our way.

Plus, let's be honest, some of us have better chances of attracting and keeping a person than others, whether it's our care in physical appearance, our emotional wholeness and well-being, or our ability to commit ourselves to another person. If we are not ready to receive someone amazing, then it doesn't matter if that person throws him or herself at us. Some people ruin it with their own emotional weaknesses, and other times people are too self-involved to recognize it.

However, even if we know we are whole, and well, and we put on our best sparkling smiles and do everything right,  love can still pass us by, or maybe we meet the right person and they aren't emotionally whole yet. It seems as though everything has to be in perfect alignment for the cogs of love to start churning.  And, even if they do seem to work perfectly at first, life can wear on them, knock them out of alignment, and eventually cause a breakdown.

What I've observed about people who seem to truly be in love and who seem to be lasting is that they don't carry an idealized image of love and the other person in their back pocket. Sometimes the other person may do things that drive them fruit-batty, but, what they have decided, somewhere deep down within them, is that they absolutely, without question, love that person. That person is THEIR PERSON, the one that they can depend on, the one who knows them the best, the one who can wordlessly make everything okay again after an argument, the one with whom they share the most precious of memories, secrets and inside jokes. In spite of tough times, there's a mutual appreciation and an understanding that this couple is in it together. Lasting love requires a lot of emotional strength.

(Sure, there are some people who get together and stay together unhappily because they don't have the emotional strength to bail out. I'm not even discussing these folks. I'm talking about true love.)

At any rate, when I look up at a vast expanse of stars, shining in the vacuous night sky, I think, maybe, to me, a teeny speck on a teeny planet, 1 in 285,000 seems like impossible odds, but, in the universe of infinite possibilities, those odds probably seem pretty lucky.

I guess it all depends on you (and the size of your universe, of course).

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Unemployment Land: A Pointless Essay

Welcome to Unemployment Land This is how we roll.

I never imagined that, at 32 years of age, I'd be unemployed for this long. When it comes to my skills in relation to my field, I'm no slouch. In fact, I've got skills and experience in areas that a lot of people in my field wish that they had. Still...after two almost-hire situations, where things fell through at the absolutely last minute, I'm seven months adrift (thank you, holiday season)in this jobless ocean, getting weary, and a bit cabin-feverish to boot.

Knowing now the length of my journey, I feel like I should have kept some kind of Captain's Log to remind myself of the once-gung-ho, optimistic job seeker who awoke at 5:00 a.m. and spent entire days applying to new opportunities, anything even remotely close to touching her wheelhouse. She is not the me of today. I have to say, I'm slipping, and I'm afraid I'm becoming a little weird.

These days, The Beags, who has no consideration for allowing a person to sleep in, whimpers at my bedside at 6:15 a.m. each morning until I slide dramatically onto the floor, still exhausted, with exaggerated groaning to make the dog realize just how inconsiderate she's being. Then, I carefully place my feet (with one broken toe) into my sneakers, grab a hat and a hoodie, and glare furiously while I wrangle up the dog, who is leaping and spazzing like she hasn't been outside in months.

We take our abbreviated couple-of-blocks walk, which I feel guilty for (for my dog's sake), but it's not fun walking around on an ouchy pinky toe more than is absolutely necessary. Beags randomly lets out a startling "A-rooo!" at something across the street, which, of course, turns out to be nothing at all. I swear, she's either going senile or she just likes the sound of her own guttural bay echoing against my sleeping neighbors' houses.

Two poopies. It always has to be two, before we go back in. That dog is like clockwork. Or, if there aren't two in the morning, there's another one in there, and it'll need to come out later, and let's just hope she's outside at that point.

Back inside, I feed the pooch a little bit of kibble and a fish oil pill, and I consume some kind of breakfast, usually bread with PB and banana (or almond butter), and some water with electrolytes. I check my email, pore over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, read articles, and find out what interesting people who are not me are doing with their lives. After that, I log onto job sites and poke around for new opportunities that seem like things I could really see myself doing, and I might bug some recruiters via email to see if they've got anything new for me.

After my morning job hunt, I might do some writing or sketches that will never see the light of day, or I might attempt to do a little research on something I'm interested in. I might call a friend or my mother, and enjoy a long conversation about life, which usually involves ruminating over the same obsessive thoughts, and looking at them from a different angle each time. Even though the person I'm talking with and I are totally sick to death of the subject matter, I can't stop going down that same path over and over. It's a little depressing, so I decide to do a bit of straightening up after the phone call in order to somehow sweep away the melancholy.

I might sing as I clean, or dance around like an idiot (although, not so much, since the toe incident). I might practice different accents in front of the bathroom mirror, or examine the width of my flapjack-esque, flat and wide butt in the living room mirror. I might see how well my socks slide on the hardwood, and then decide that I should probably vacuum, but not right now because I don't feel like it.

By this time, of course, I'm still not dressed. I get myself ready (for nothing, really), and make myself some kind of healthy stir-fry lunch. The Beags and I go out again for a quick pee. I realize that it's too hot outside for a hoodie. Then, we go inside and I hop on the social media/information superhighway wagon again, take care of bills, read that day's OkCupid messages (which I rarely answer), check a few more job sites, and stand up to stretch every so often. The Beags often bugs me while I'm typing, shoving her nose under my hand to force me to stroke her silky little Beagle head. I pretend to try to bite her, but The Beags, having gone through this charade all too often, sits stoically, calling my bluff as I lunge at her, teeth bared. Nudge, goes her nose. I acquiesce.

A little later in the day, I might have a training session scheduled, either a bike ride or a swim (I can't really run on a broken toe). It's one bright spot that gets me out of the house, devoted, on a mission. Afterward, I come home, shower, check email/Internet stuff again, and perhaps I'll get a call or a text from someone I know, one of those working people who actually works a 9-to-5. Maybe we'll hang out, grab a (cheap) bite, or a drink, or maybe I'll spend the rest of the evening watching Golden Girls,some nature show, or Grey's Anatomy. Maybe I'll spend some time thinking about what I should accomplish with ALL of my free time tomorrow. And, somehow, I'll manage to stay up until 11 or midnight, only to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.

---THE END---

P.S. Want to help me out of Unemployment Purgatory and help me land the job of my dreams? Check out my professional website, here: (and pass it on)!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

2012: My Review

I've avoided writing a lot of intensely personal posts this year, mainly for professional reasons, but it's now time for my (personal) year in review, so here we go...

It's odd, I never imagined being 32 years old and being in a position where I couldn't make ends meet. I thought I'd have my own property, a booming career, and a more intricately detailed life plan by now. In the past year, I've realized that, not only does a person need to fight for those things in this modern day, but also sometimes a person needs to resign or re-imagine his or her dreams in order to muscle through tough times.

Some of this, I admit, is my fault. Some of us are blessed with a life that nurtures confidence. Others of us go through things that tear us down and it takes years and years to rebuild that confidence. I spent my entire twenties thinking that I wasn't as intelligent or capable as others in the world of business. My entire career, from journalist to marketing professional, consisted of me constantly second-guessing myself, undervaluing my work, and, in some cases, allowing bosses to lead me blindly by the nose, instead of relying on my own intellect and research skills. I thought that I was sub-par at everything, regardless of praise or accolades from outsiders. If there is one thing that I have benefitted from in being laid off, it is the ability to step back and realize how wide the gap was between my perception of my professional skills and reality, and that my insights and instincts regarding my profession are better than those of most "gurus" out there. I've blown the poker faces off of several interviewers with my knowledge of user experience and marketing science. I've learned never again to undervalue my skills or debase myself so that people can treat me with less than the respect that I deserve. The saying is true, if you don't value yourself, no one else will.

Realizing my value in the professional world has been a blessing and it has opened the door for many great interviews and opportunities. Unfortunately, even with everything being in the right place, sometimes it's just the wrong time. I've had two "almost hire" situations in the past four months, where I thought I was just waiting for final approval from the "higher ups" before I received the offer, only to have it shot down at the last minute on a technicality, budgetary or otherwise. They say a person shouldn't get his or her hopes up until the deal is on the table, but it's hard not to get jazzed up when you hear those words, "We're just waiting on approval to extend the offer." Especially when it's a great job and you picture yourself there, sitting in your own office, imagining what your new day-to-day routine will be, thinking ahead on what projects you'll sink your teeth into first. It's heartbreaking when you have those daydreams snatched away at the last minute.

Luckily, I do have the immense support of friends and family, who have been there through all of the ups and downs with me. It's funny, I guess, that I've always been nice and cared for others, but I have never once expected anything in return. The support and kindness that I have received have been more than my heart knows what to do with. Accepting all of it is difficult. All I can do is be grateful and gracious and hope that I can get back on my feet soon so that I can start paying back and paying forward.

Speaking of being on my feet, of course, my life would be entirely different if I hadn't signed up with Team in Training this year. With a wonderful and supportive team encouraging me onward, I completed feats of fitness that I never thought possible, and continue to do so every day. I would never have gone for that full Ironman dream had I not had the confidence to run a marathon on my own.

Not only did Team in Training provide me with a fit body, more confidence and new, quality friendships, but it also provided me with the ability to give back to others in ways that I couldn't myself. Raising money for blood cancer, even though initially I had no connection to the cause, has felt overwhelmingly gratifying. I can say with certainty that I've helped to contribute to a cure that can help millions of people, forever.

One major thing I can say for 2012 is that it has toughened me up, more than ever before. I have endured a lot of disappointment, a lot of heartache, but I have also gained lots of love, great health, and a stronger belief in myself.

I don't set "New Years Resolutions" for a number of reasons, but I will say that I hope 2013 brings me a real offer to a great job, the ability to meet fundraising goals so I can continue participating in Team in Training, and that I continue to become a stronger athlete and a better friend to everyone in my life. I hope that everyone in my life who is struggling finds peace and a better situation in 2013. I'm going to throw these wishes out into the atmosphere and, with any luck, they'll come true.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

True Gratitude


I find it extremely ironic that people in this country spend one day piously declaring all of the things that they are "thankful" for: good health, loving friends and family, shelter--you know, the basics--and then, the next day they spend camping in front of retail stores, and then clawing each others' eyes out for the last discounted big screen TV. All of the warmth and good feeling that Thanksgiving is supposed to leave us with is promptly ruined by greed and commercialism.

It rips my heart out when I think that people actually die in stampedes of shoppers or get shot over merchandise on the day after a holiday. STAMPEDES OF SHOPPERS. A stampede is usually a term reserved for a herd of cattle. One member of the herd starts running and signals the others to follow suit. There is no thinking involved, just animal instinct. I cannot fathom that anyone could trod over another human being unless that person where not thinking, perhaps in some trance-like state.

It guts me further to think that companies like Best Buy and Wal-mart pay more attention to their bottom line and less to the danger that is caused by mob of deal-thirsty shoppers. If shoppers ripped each other limb from limb within the aisles, they'd call for a clean-up in Aisle Five, issue a statement of condolences to the family, maybe a quick settlement, and that would be that. The profits reaped from Black Friday sales are simply too great, and, besides, law enforcement isn't stepping in to resolve these problems.

Furthermore, many of the "big box" stores plunk their discounts right on top of the backs of their own workers, offering low wages and poor or no benefits. When you're out punching someone in the face for your new laptop, it's kind of a double-blow, and, eventually, that double-blow comes back to bite you in the butt, in the way of a downed economy, which forces you to seek deep discounts for your electronics, which pays it all forward once again in a limitless downward spiral.

I guess what I am thankful for is the ability to be compassionate and to find other ways to show my gratitude to others besides buying them things. I am thankful for the ability to think critically and to have a good moral compass. I am thankful that I try to be a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. And I'm thankful that you are reading this. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Power Of Heartbreak

There's a reason that people say that love is the most powerful force on Earth. People live for it, die for it, and do things that they never thought physically possible for it. Love can send us soaring toward rosie-colored horizons one day, and leave us dragging our wounded bellies along cold, hard rocks the next. One thing is for certain, love can teach us a lot about ourselves, and, also, heartbreak is heartbreak, and it always feels the same, every time.

Researchers have found that brain actually interprets heartbreak as a physical pain, much akin to holding a paper cup full of scalding hot coffee without the protective sleeve. Hold that coffee cup for days, weeks, months on end, and it can definitely do some damage. The experts also say that taking NSAIDS may help alleviate some of that heartbreak pain, but the only real healer is time.

The pain from heartbreak can be crushing. Some people can brush it off and pretend it's not happening. Other people (like me) have to wallow in the melty warmth of the depths of my sorrow and get all introspective for months until I come out and am reborn an even stronger person than I was before. At the end of every relationship, I look at myself in the mirror and say, "Well, here we are again, just you and me, going it alone," and I feel like a warrior. I paint my cheeks in tears and I wail and wail before I start my journey to find that stronger, wiser person.

Love's purpose is sometimes to tear you down so that you can rebuild yourself into a better human being. It is nature. Like nature, it is not always kind, but it teaches you to survive. It points you toward the way that you're supposed to grow by pointing out what is flawed in you. Love exposes all of your weaknesses, all of your strengths, all of your strengths that are also weaknesses.

Breakups are rarely even for both sides. When most relationships end, there seems at first to be a clear winner and a clear loser, but, as time fills in the gaps, both people involved become a little of both.

Love for a person is the hardest emotion to get rid of. It's like a stain on your heart; it takes a lot of hard work and the proper solution to get it out. Time can wear it away, but it never completely goes, and that's okay. A spotless heart is not one you can really trust.

They say that the average person falls in love seven to eight times during a lifetime before finding "the one". When I was a teenager, hearing that, I thought the number seemed so epic, so unreachable. Now, at 32 years of age, I've been in love six times. Each beginning feels like the first one, but each end feels like the last, like another will never happen again.

As we get older, the opportunities are scattered and the likelihood of finding someone is lower, but, also, our standards are higher. We know what we want. The chances, when, at last, we find someone, of that person being "the one" are much higher. Take comfort in the process and hang on. Don't settle for someone who doesn't fuel your heart. Until then, love yourself, for, even when turned inward, love can be a very powerful thing.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Skinny On Getting Skinny (What's Not So Great About Losing Weight)



Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful and happy that I have lost much of the weight that I have needed to lose, and that I've overcome so many personal hurdles to get here. I earned every one of those 70+ pounds I've shed in the past year. There are just certain unexpected things about losing weight that people don't really tell you about because the focus is always on how amazing it is.

39" is what the tape measure that I wrapped around my hips this morning read. I don't remember when my hip measurement was 39" last. My waist, 28". Another inch off of my hips in two weeks, a half inch off of my waist. When I started measuring, my waist was 36" and my hips were 47". I now have two pairs of jeans left that actually fit me. Almost none of my dress clothes fit me. And I'm unemployed. I'm seriously considering heading to Goodwill just to find a few things that actually fit me in the meantime, because I really don't know where that tape measure is going to stop. I haven't even hit a full marathon distance yet. No one is sympathetic. They just laugh at me and say, "Oh, what a TERRIBLE problem to have!" No, really, it's not cool.

And then there are the advances. Advances, from men, of course, wanted and unwanted. I can't just go out somewhere with a girlfriend and hang out anonymously anymore without guys peacocking over. Sure, looking better has its perks when you're out: cute bartenders giving you their FULL attention and your having the luxury of the full effects of flirtation at your fingertips, but, most of the time it's annoying. In this town, I've learned, men are really aggressive. For example, I was waiting for a date (the guy was really late and he even lived nearby--bad, bad) in a chic Hollywood hot spot. A guy working on his laptop started chatting me up and invited me to come sit at his table while I waited for my date. Within a few minutes some of his friends showed up, and began flirting and vying for my attention. By the time my date got there, I was sitting at a table, surrounded by men. The laptop guy even had the nerve to hand me his business card in front of my date. The look on my date's face WAS priceless, however. Maybe he'll think twice about being so late to a date!

Anyway, while it's nice to have men interested in me, it does make me sad. I feel like I'm still the same me I've always been, maybe with a bit more wisdom, but it's only the outside that is different. I guess it's biology talking for most people, and it takes a lot of mental evolution to be able to look beyond basic appearances to what's inside of a person. In a way, I feel like my fat was kind of a way of weeding out the superficial and finding people who liked me the way I've always wanted to be liked: "Just as I am."

It's hard not to feel like the fat girl when you're so used to being one. I still look at clothing and think, "That's way small, I'm never going to fit into that," and then I do fit into it. Sometimes I look at other women, and I think, "She's so much thinner than me," and then we stand in front of a mirror or take a picture together and I realize that we're the same size. It's a total head trip.

I guess it takes time to get used to a new body, and these are the "shrinking pains" associated with it. Like I said, I wouldn't trade all of this in for the old me, but still, no victory comes without a little bit of bitterness.