Saturday, April 2, 2016

Living as an Extrovert in an Introverted World

That title seems backwards, doesn't it? Isn't the phrase - How to live as an INTROVERT in an EXTROVERT world? Only I don't think it's an extroverted world.

I've spent wasted way too much time Googling statistics on how many Introverts/Extroverts there are in the world. (In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice: "Like anyone could ever know that!")

I have had a realization lately that me - a RAGING Extrovert, has probably close to 98% introverted friends. Tell me how this makes sense? Not only that I would have mostly introverted friends, but also ....where are all the Extroverts?

So I did what any logical, statistic seeking person would do - I took my poll to Social Media. Between Instagram and Facebook, of the 2000+ people that COULD have answered, only 58 did. Of those 58...38 were Introverts, 10 were Extroverts, and 10 considered themselves the new addition to the bunch - "Ambivert". Which, if you've ever taken they Myers Briggs Personality Profile Test, I'm gonna guess those Ambiverts are NF's. I'm KIDDING, people!! Mostly. But for the record, spell check does not recognize the word, Ambivert. And in case you don't know what the word, Ambivert, means: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features. Now, I feel the need to point out that MOST of my real life friends did not answer my poll. (I'm pretty sure they've blocked me.) I'm gonna throw in to that official count about 30 more Introverts and negative 3 Extroverts.

First of all, I think part of the problem in recognizing what side of the scale we lean to is an understanding of the words, Introvert and Extrovert. I am of the understanding that many people believe the word, Introvert, to mean someone who doesn't like being around people. Therefore an Extrovert  is someone who loves being around people. I suppose that is an okay definition, but it runs much deeper. For fear of boring you, I will shorten it. The two terms are really about where you derive your energy. Introverts need alone time to be recharged, and extroverts need people to be recharged. I'm over-simplifying it. You can Google it if you care. 

Like I said, recently I was surveying my real life friends and had a realization of how many of my friends are introverted. I just don't get this. You would think as an extrovert I would 1) be attracted to, and 2) attract other extroverts. Or maybe, as I've often joked with some of my severely introverted friends, that I attract introverted people because they know they won't have to actually talk in my presence. It's very safe for everyone. 

I was intrigued by the lack of extroverts responding to my little poll. Where are all the extroverts???!!! When it comes to social media, the only logical explanation was that they aren't ON social media to see my post. They are out doing what extroverts do best - being with people. I've also often thought that introverts tend to have the highest following, likes, hearts, whatever...on Social Media. My theory is because introverts are generally private people. So when they do post - the world listens. We all want to know what's happening behind those pulled curtains. Us Extroverts? We don't even own curtains. 

These are all generalizations. To further the stereotype, when we think of the word, introvert, we think of someone who doesn't like people - or at least being around them. We assume they are shy, and maybe even socially awkward. Standoff-ish and disconnected may be added to the list. As for extroverts, we think of them as the life of the party. Outgoing - even obnoxious at times. They are loud busy bodies who can't ever keep to themselves. (Have I offended everyone equally? K. Good.)

I know a lot of introverts who most people would disagree with the reality that they are introverts because, as according to Jen Hatmaker, they are "high-functioning introverts". Meaning they {gasp} like people. I know a few extroverts who I also have questioned their diagnosis. But only because even in their extroverted self, they pick a few close friends to re-fuel with while the rest of the world goes on believing they are an Introvert.   

Moving on to my point.

On an almost daily basis, I feel like I am "too much" for those in my life which is full of introverts. I fear I suck the life out of all of my friends, and therefore need to bounce from friend to friend to avoid doing so. (Such is the life of an extrovert living among introverts, I suppose.) I see the introvert/extrovert thing thrown out as behavioral reasoning almost daily. And I don't like it. Similar to all personality profiles - I don't like when we hide behind "that's just how I am". Because I don't think that is how we are designed to live least not fully.  When we use how we are "wired" as a means to live only for our own needs to be met, we miss out on community the way God has designed it.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the the interests of others.

I'm not intending to attack anyone with this post. My hope is to encourage people to do just what it says in Philippians to do.... look to the interest of others. In doing so, I believe we will leave more fulfilled and our little circle of influence will feel more loved and valued.

I have a very introverted friend who, through conversation, we have been able to recognize the hurtful tendencies that introverts/extroverts can put on each other. I appreciate that. She has been able to voice that there are times she needs to pull away, but that she does in fact want to be a friend to me. And, I have been able to voice that I feel like I'm bleeding her dry, and that's an awful feeling. 

We all want to be pursued. Even extroverts....especially extroverts. That's hard to do when we are only looking out for ourselves. The introvert waits for the extrovert and the extrovert waits for ....well, anyone. But what if we shelved our "needs" and pursued one other with a desire to know and be known? To serve? Because God created us to live that way. I am not saying He created us all to be extroverts, I realize that could sound like that....but He did create us to know and be known, and to love, and to serve, and to lay our lives down for others......the list is LONG for how he created us to live, and it has very little to do with how he created US, but instead everything to do with DYING to US. What if we stopped trying to cling to, or hide behind a temperament or personality trait, and instead chose to step outside of what feels "normal" to us for the sake of loving someone else? Can you imagine that kind of community? I'm trying to.... 

I realize I never actually addressed how to live as an Extrovert in an Introverted World. Because, I don't know how. I thought the answer was in backing off of my introverted them their space. I don't know generally how that plays out for my introverted friends, but it can leave me feeling very lonely. Maybe me feeling lonely IS me laying my life down for my introverted friends? I don't know. If you Google how to live as an Introvert in an Extroverted world....there will be lots of advice. From what I've read, most of it tells introverts to just be them and not feel bad about it. (That was a very short and uninspiring paraphrase.) But I wonder where that leaves the Extroverts? Because I personally, have grown to believe that the danger of being an Extrovert means you are just needy. What a gross feeling. 

I'm rambling now. I would love to hear from Introverts AND Extroverts - how do you want to best be loved by the opposite temperament? And, I challenge you to answer that question NOT with: "I want them to let me be alone", or "I want them to be with me". I don't believe we live in an introverted OR extroverted world. We live in an image bearing world. We are all created in the image of God (whom I suppose would be the Original Ambivert??) - so how do we extend grace and love to those whose Image needs different things?

Discuss amongst yourselves....I'm all verklempt...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Be Still

Per Wikipedia: The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. 

In the world of Fight, Flight or Freeze....depending on the situation, I am either 100% fight or 100% flight. Freezing seems weak to me. An excuse can always be given for fighting or flighting, but freezing??? It's just not me. (No offense to you if freezing IS you...all three reactions are no good seeing how they are all avoidance anyway. I'm just saying why I'm not a freezer.)

At the beginning of each year, I pick a word (or five) for the year. 2015 my word(s) were Truth, Rest, Strength and Joy. 2015 is not a year I can claim victory over. I battled in all of these areas. Sometimes fighting for them, and other times trying to find the nearest Exit sign. I don't miss 2015. 

As 2016 rolled into existence, I found myself coming before the Lord, so weary, asking for my word for the year. I would scribble down some words, only to cross them off because they didn't seem right. The one word that I kept thinking would be my guidepost for the year was FIGHT. 2015 wasn't going to get the best of me! In the struggles of my health, my job, my marriage, my family, my ministry - I was ready to put on my big girl panties and fight! Flight was no longer an option.

But then this happened. I was reading in Deuteronomy (26:18-19) and this jumped out: 

18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. 19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Now, at risk of completely taking these verses out of context or twisting them into some prosperity theology, bear with me for a minute. What stood out to me was, 1) I'm a TREASURED possession. (Not that I live that truth, but true it is.) And 2) HE WILL SET YOU. (Duly noted, it does not say - Claw your way to the top, claw your way into the existence you deem, HE WILL SET me.)

I realized in that moment that I HAD been fighting. Scratch that, I had been striving. Maybe there is a difference. I had been striving to make my world the way I wanted it. To be the person I dreamed would be fulfilling. To be anything but content, joyful or even thankful with my current lot. The list is long, really.

And just like that - in an instance, my word FIGHT was replaced with BE STILL.

What???!!! No!!! You've got to be kidding me! Isn't being still the same thing as freezing? It's weak! It feels like surrender......

It feels like surrender.

Naturally, I fought this idea.

Until this past weekend that is, when I was at a retreat with millions of other women around the world. For the third year in a row, I have had the privilege of hosting a local IF:Gathering. One of the things I love about this weekend is the ability to glean from so many different women (and men this year) all in different places of their journey. Everyone is sure to leave the weekend with something that resonated with them! And resonate it did.

You could listen to the stories of hundreds of women who participated in this conference and probably hear hundreds of different themes. The theme I walked away with, however, was that God has placed me...he has set me. (Funny how that worked out, huh?) I am where he wants me, dealing with what he knew he had planned for me, and he is not asking me to make much of myself or my circumstances in the midst of it. And he is most certainly not asking me to flee it. Instead he was urging me again this past weekend to be still. To let him fight for me.

This makes absolutely no sense to me still, but I'm excited to figure it out let Him show me. I know I have a responsibility to still do things. To work diligently. To take my medicine and go to doctors appointments. To serve my church and my family. I do not believe that being still lets me off the hook of having to work or be faithful. Maybe it just has much more to do with a heart posture that accepts where he has set me, his treasured possession, and knowing full well that I cannot use my magic wand to manipulate life into the way I think it should be. Maybe it has more to do with truly believing that with every step I take in faith (and even in doubt), He has a plan for it. I guess I'll find out. But my prayer for this season is that I can get radically okay with my weakness. That instead of throwing punches or sprinting in the opposite direction of all that I am not okay with - I would just freeze.

Can you just imagine the rest that could be found when we actually let his strength manifest in our weakness? The rest that could come from putting down my ammunition and letting HIM fight for me??

I'm ready. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Since November.....

My last post was November 4, 2015. That is way too long to be gone from something I love so much. You'll need to bear with me on this one though. I'm not sure how much sense I will make. Please try to follow along. Let me explain.

If you have been around these parts for longer than half a second, you have probably heard me talk about my health woes over the past couple of years. I began running about 6 years ago. I fell in love with the sport, with the community. I was HEALTHY for the first time in my life. June 22, 2013 was my last race. Just six weeks prior I had completed my first and only full marathon. The next several months I spiraled fast and furious. My health was fleeting. I suppose all of our health is fleeting.  And despite my best efforts, I could not get it under control. I began seeing countless doctors and specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me. Some previous spinal issues were the only thing any of us could pinpoint. I don't really need to rehash this story. I've blogged about it before. Many times. Most notably, February 19, 2014, I shared about how I was ready to embrace the pain. I couldn't stay numb. Well....I had no idea what was coming in the next two years.

My last half marathon - June 22, 2013

On November 5th, 2015 (the day after my last blog post) - I had a call from my doctor telling me that recent blood work revealed that I had Lyme Disease. Um. What? I don't recall ever being bitten by a tic in my life. Heck, I don't think I've ever even seen one! But that's what I had. And it explained everything. Back story, my chiropractor for YEARS had been asking me to be tested for Lyme Disease. I would smile and thank him politely and tell him exactly what I just told you - I have never been bit by a tic. In November, he knew I was heading in for some labs as I had taken yet another turn for the worse. He strongly encouraged me to request a test for Lyme (which somehow had NEVER been run in my many years of trying to navigate my random health issues), and to just get him off my back - I agreed. I'm so thankful I did. But to think of the results?? I feel so invaded! Stupid tic.

So Lyme Disease. What the heck is it? (Don't worry, this entire post isn't really about Lyme Disease...hang on...) Well, it mimics everything apparently. And from the list below, my Doctors had looked at everything (and so much more), except ALS. I was a mystery. A frustrated mystery.

Now that I know what I'm dealing with, the learning curve has been steep. I've taken in information everyday since November 5th about what this is, how it is effecting me and how to #killallthelyme. It honestly did my mind and heart so much good to just KNOW what I was dealing with. I've always felt like I could deal with anything that comes at me as long as I know what it is. Me and the unknown are not friends.

My Doctor immediately started me on medicine to begin to eradicate the bacteria. I also was able to get in to a Lyme Specialist about a month after my diagnosis. That's when the real fun started. See, during treatment for something like Lyme disease, a little phenomenon known as The Herxheimer Reaction sets in. The first few months of treatment have been Brutal (with a capital B). Unless you are a nerd and actually follow that link to read about what a Herxheimer Reaction is (Herxing for short) - let me just sum it up. Basically, every symptom I've ever had for the past 12 years (which is when I began having symptoms of this awful disease) have all returned all at once - and on steroids.

So what is Lyme TO ME? Well, over the past 12 years it has been a lot of things. But in the past three months....I just want to tell you a bit about where I've been, and why I haven't been here. Like I said, it's been every symptom I've ever had on steroids. I have had days on end where I can't turn my head. Heal pain that is so intense that I stand up and fall back down. Numbness and tingling down the entire left side of my body - making it difficult to sleep, hold things, walk for extended amounts of time, and type. Joint pain that makes me assume I'm 80. Muscle pain - scratch that, bone pain. Fatigue that fully warrants narcolepsy. (For real. One minute I'm standing, the next I better be near the couch or my bed or it will get ugly fast.) Simple tasks like showering and getting dressed in the morning leave me feeling more sore than running that marathon. I have tremors/spasms in my left arm that freak my kids out. Sometimes I like to "tremor" near the back of their head just for kicks. I have lymph nodes in my neck that look like a giant goiter. Thank God for #sweaterweather. And the one that has probably been the hardest for me to handle - cognitive. Several months before my diagnosis, I began telling Aaron I was worried I had early onset Alzheimer's. I would go to the grocery store and walk up and down every isle not remembering why I was there. I would leave with milk because we always need milk. But that was never really what I went for. There have been moments I couldn't remember how to get home. Thankfully I have a teen driver who is almost always with me. I will be talking and stop mid sentence not even remembering we were..... sorry...what are we talking about? I can't find words, and if I do find them, I can't get them out. Reading is VERY difficult, because the words form a big black blob instead of smooth sentences. It takes me 20 minutes to read and comprehend 5 sentences. I can barely get my thoughts out in a status update on Facebook. What I once would pop out in half a second now takes me 15 minutes of typing and re-reading to see if it makes sense. Most of the time I think it doesn't. And as for writing....something I LOVE to do...well, if you are still reading - you are understanding why I haven't been writing. It has taken me almost two hours to get this all out. I hate this.

So that's all. I don't want to talk anymore what Lyme is. I want to tell you my heart.  I shared this with some friends today....and because my brain can't do it again, I will just cut and paste....

I've generally managed my Dx well...until yesterday. I cried most of the day. 2.5 years ago I had enjoyed 3 years of being the HEALTHIEST I've ever been in my life. (Which is a huge deal for this girl who battled an eating disorder her entire life.) I was truly, genuinely healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally. I was running half marathons regularly, and pushed for a full Marathon. I was at a healthy weight. I had a thriving health business. Then within 3 months post marathon, I spiraled fast and furious. The next 2 years were spent trying to figure out what was wrong. Now I know. I just don't get how Lyme (which I've probably had for over 12 years) attacked so fast and when I was at my healthiest. Was it the stress of the marathon that brought it on? Stress of life? I don't know. But I miss my healthy self. I miss running. I miss being able to take a shower and get dressed in the morning without needing to take a 30 min rest break. I can't wait to return! As for today, I'm back to fighting. #lymewarrior 

As much as I have been thankful for a diagnosis, this has all been a little surreal. The emotional roller coaster over the past few years (and even still currently with some remaining strings waiting to be tied) has been more than I thought I could handle. But here I am. Still standing. I honestly feel like I'm just in survival mode. I have a family to take care of, a church to serve, a business to run....and at the end of each day - sleep welcomes me. All 10 hours of it. I don't understand what God has for me in this - and I don't believe I may ever know. But it is certainly forcing me to decide if I trust him with my life. He knew these days were coming. I'd be lying if I said I was fully okay with it. Like Jacob, I've wrestled. I'm still wrestling. And my limp is severe. And I know we aren't done yet. 

Here's the raw truth. I hate that I was at such a good place in my life (mentally, physically, etc) and it's gone now. I hate that I can't run, or bike, or walk the dogs, or walk longer than 10 minutes period. I hate that I can't write. I hate that I can't read. I hate that I can't take care of my family. I hate that I have to endure this (and that those around me have to endure me!). I know the right response is that in this life I will have trouble, and Jesus is no stranger to pain, and why should these things NOT happen to me....and I try to tell myself those things regularly. But I gotta be honest. Everyday for the past three months, it has not come easy to believe these things from the core of my being. I'm sad and angry. Come Lord Jesus, come. But equally at the core of my being I can fully say that I believe He loves me. And that matters most. 

I realize this was the most lame blog post I have ever written. And it's not entirely important. And why are you still reading? But I had to start somewhere, so this seemed logical. I'm going to try to write more frequently. I fear it will be a bunch of nonsense as this post has been - but writing brings me life and joy.  See you soon...