Spirit Matters: Living like ‘the other half’

Jerrilyn Zavada

Raise your hand if you don’t like to leave your comfort zone.

Me: *raises hand*

For those of us who identify as introverts, doing something outside of our natural realm of being can feel downright brutal.

As introverts, we refresh our energy by going into our inner world, where we think, reflect, imagine, dream, learn and grow.

Many of us rarely, if ever, get bored there. We even – gasp! – like it there, which is difficult for those who lean toward a more extroverted way of being to comprehend.

Extroverts, after all, thrive on socializing – and that is where their energy is refreshed.

Introverts sometimes cannot comprehend how some of those of a more extroverted nature feel the need to talk All.the.Time. We know this doesn’t apply to all extroverts, but when, in the course of our daily lives, we encounter someone who doesn’t have an ‘off’ button, we might need a nap.

In like manner, we introverts, who thrive in quiet environments, can seem boring and disconnected to extroverts, who often find our behavior exhausting.

There is a third term in this whole mix – “ambivert” – for those who can comfortably shift back and forth between socializing and solitude.

Most people land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It is rare to find someone who is 100 percent introverted, or someone who is 100 percent extroverted. I would even venture to guess, either of these absolute states are mentally unhealthy.

We all need other people. And, we all need to be alone.

In my own life experience, I have learned to function outside of my comfort zone.

Yes, it was painful to leave my somewhat isolated ways, and be thrown into situations where I had to be outgoing-on-steroids, but those experiences ultimately lead to profound soul growth.

It was culture shock for me when I went from working in the Actuarial department at a major insurance company to working at a not-for-profit summer camp. Not only was I responsible for my own office job, but there were frequently other events and fundraisers that demanded I behave in an extroverted fashion over a period of time.

By the end of my first six months on the job, my body was completely worn down and reacted by giving me the worst head cold of my entire life. On holiday break, I slept for the first several days.

Although I enjoyed my work as a newspaper reporter, actively approaching strangers and asking them questions was uncomfortable for me. It became easier with time and practice, as most things do. But when my time as a reporter came to an end, it was only natural for me to revert to my more introverted ways – to a more balanced state of being.

And I think that is the key for all of us, to seek to live a balanced way of life – whatever ‘balanced’ means for us individually.

Even now, once I get into my comfort zone of being alone with my thoughts, I sometimes have to drag myself kicking and screaming into more social situations. Keeping a balance makes it easier to move more easily between the two.

Introverts, we need to be okay with carrying on conversations with people we don’t know, and sometimes even with people we do know. We need to be okay with venturing out into the world – even when everything inside of us resists – and learning from the lives of the people and other creatures with whom we share this planet.

Extroverts, willful silence and solitude is nothing to fear. It is a rich place for you to visit from time to time to listen and learn more about yourself and the world around you. And when you listen and learn more about yourself and the world around you, you can be even more interesting when you are with your friends, family and associates.

There is already enough duality in our world: black/white, right/wrong, good/bad, loud/quiet… the list goes on and on.

In the Christian Scriptures, we learn that Christ is the Alpha AND the Omega, the Beginning AND the End. In ways we often don’t understand, the Author of Life – who is Wholeness Itself – is able to hold everything we see as contradictory as one.

In my opinion, and in my experience, life is much more interesting when we recognize that not everything falls into a neat little category, and that venturing outside of our usual way of thinking and being can elicit more wisdom, wonder and fertile growth in our lives.

This week, challenge yourself to act in a way outside your comfort zone.

You never know what blessings might come of it.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada Novak at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and community.

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