On Being Introvert

In the beginning of a summer week, I am asked to go out with a few friends on coming Saturday. It’s not a circle of close friends, but one friend and a group of her friends that I have met occasionally. I am happy to be asked and I look forward to an evening out, good food and a few glasses of wine at an outdoor restaurant in the Stockholm summer light. It sounds terrific. The closer it’s getting to Saturday, the more I start to fear the idea.

When Saturday afternoon comes, I just dread going! Literally. It will be torture, I’m sure, I will have absolutely nothing to talk about and I will feel awkward all evening. I just want to stay home. So after hours of anxiety and indecisiveness I come up with some excuse and let my friend know I unfortunately cannot come. Do I feel relieved? No, not at all. I just feel awful. Guilty and awful. An that is not all, cause when I see pictures of the event on Facebook later, I think it looks so nice and inclusive, and I regret not going after all. Would I have enjoyed it? Maybe. Sometimes I actually do enjoy it. Sometimes I just wanna go home.

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This occasion was not the first time this kind of thing happened, it was not the latest and I’m sure it will happen in the future. The only thing that has changed is that I now have a better understanding of why I do and feel these things, and I try to one, not come up with fake excuses, and two, not feel too bad about it (but yes I still do). I’ve read a lot about being an introvert lately and I’ve gotten to understand myself better in the process. So the reason for writing this blog post is for you who know me to understand me a little bit better as well. Even if I don’t say yes to spending time together, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you. It is not about you, it’s about me. No really, it is, I promise! For those of you I don’t know well, or at all, maybe you know another introvert, or maybe you are one yourself, and can enjoy my tale anyway and maybe get an insight in why some people behave the way they do.

What defines introversion?

What defines an introvert? Well, let’s start with the words from a famous psychologist introvert, Carl Jung. In his Psychological types, from 1921, he defines introverts as persons who are reflective instead of expressive, who respond instead of initiate, who think first and talk second, and persons who talk less and listen more. Even more perhaps, it is about energy: To be around people, to socialise, takes a lot of energy and leaves you exhausted. To be alone, with your thoughts, at home, gives a lot of energy. Introverts are easily overstimulated. Compare this with extraverts who gain energy from socialising and get drained of energy when being alone. It is quite a difference, and it might be wise to add here that even if it is a scale, not black and white, around 75% of the population is thought to be on the extrovert side of the scale and only 25% on the introvert scale. This makes the extrovert behaviour somewhat of a norm and therefor there could be a need for some explanation or a reminder of the introvert behaviour. I needed to read about this to realize that it all fit like the perfect glove on me! Introvert_9sensitivitytodopamine_zps33d33aa2

So the reason for sometimes saying no is not that I’m shy or trying my best to be rude. I like to socialise with people, it just takes a lot of energy and I tend to feel awfully awkward. If I know people well, it takes a little bit less of energy, if I don’t know people that well, it just takes a tremendous amount of energy. Chit-chatting is just very hard to do. So I can only be social for definite amount of time, then I need to be alone. And sometimes I really don’t feel up to it at all. There are very few people that does not require energy for me to be around, just my immediate family and a few other people. The rest of you, I’m sorry, it is a bit of hard work. And I don’t mind the hard work from time to time, at all, but I also need to rest, a lot. And it is not only about meeting people, it’s about experiencing different events. It takes energy too just to be out of the house.

Introversion and friendships

I think I was quite lucky growing up. In books I’ve read about introversion there were stories about children feeling totally misunderstood by their parents, not understanding anything until older age. Me, I come from a family of introverts. It has always been OK for me to stay home in bed (not during school days of course) and read a book. My mother did. And watching TV and movies? Fine. It was my dad’s favourite pastime. Not that I always did, I was actually quite the social kid, with friends and hobbies, but I was always happy being home alone as well.

The funny thing is that even with this background it took a while for me to understand that one of my own daughters is introverted too. She was not much for playing with friends after kindergarten or school, and in weekends, never. This worried me. Oh no, she does not have any friends, she is socially awkward, something’s wrong with her, I was thinking, just because being sociable and extravert is the norm. This was all wrong of course. She is not the least shy or awkward in any way. She just think it’s enough with meeting friends at school and maybe a short while after school. Then she is perfectly content with being on her own or with her family the rest of the time. Basically, she is just like me.

I love to be alone. I am never bored being alone at home. There is so much to think about, so much daydreaming to do. I have a full life with just me and my inner thoughts! And then there is TV. Other notable facts. I don’t mind going to lunch alone at work. Actually, I enjoy it. Especially with a day full of meetings, I crave being alone for a while with my thoughts. I love going to the dentist. I’m not joking. It’s an hour of lying down relaxing, and I’m absolutely not required to talk! Going to the hairdresser on the other hand… Let’s just say I have found a hairdresser that has understood the level of chatting that I am comfortable with during that colouring and cutting routine. the_brain_of_an_introvert-436567

Just because I like being alone doesn’t mean I don’t like hanging out with friends. Or that I don’t have friends. I do. But my friends have to be low maintenance friends. They cannot expect me to hang out too frequently, they have to be prepared for a few no’s when asking me out to events. Another trait that can be found with an introvert is lack of spontaneity. If I have planned a fabulous night with me and my laptop at home, I won’t be happy getting a phone call for a spontaneous get-together. I like to be prepared. But if we plan ahead, then I’m happy to go out or come over for a meal or for coffee of course, just don’t expect me to stay too long. One of my absolute best friends is an extrovert, always socialising with different friends and acquaintances, and that suits me perfectly fine. Then I don’t feel pressure of having to socialise more than I feel comfortable with.

There is always a risk of course for me, that I understand the friendship wrong. I might consider someone a much greater friend than they consider me, because for me getting together once in a long while, still means a good friend, while it for the other is a mere acquaintance. There is a risk of feeling hurt and left out. And even though I love to be alone, there is in parallell a fear of being excluded. I want to be invited (I don’t dare to ask myself) to the group, but then I’m unsure if I will be able to sustain a high maintenance friendship. Acquaintances are easier, cause they are by definition low maintenance, but it is not as fulfilling since it requires the small talk. It is all a bit of a struggle, that is all I’m saying.

Introversion at work

Reading among other a book called The Happy Introvert by Elizabeth Wagele gave me good insight in why I function at work the way I do. Among other things there were a test for figuring out whether you are an introvert. ”You sometimes procrastinate when you want to avoid interacting with people” That’s my life at work, for gods sake! Especially before when I had to call people on the phone. I hate calling people that I don’t know very well. I have now read that hating that phone is normal for introverts and writing usually is the preferred way of communication, so I have embraced that with full heart. Actually I think today’s technology really has made it easier for introverts. Writing emails instead of calling has never been that appreciated. Email is not for speedy answers, but now when we have all sorts of chatting abilities, this has become an approved substitute of calling people and it is heaven for people like me.

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As an introvert I definitely think quietly and seldom out loud. I talk when I have formed an opinion not during which I’m trying it to form it. Sometimes I just don’t always have an answer ready by the end of the meeting, I’m processing information, and yeah, I might be a little slow when it comes to that. If you want my opinion earlier, you might have to ask for it and then I will let you know where I am in the process.  I have noticed how my own meeting usually ends with ”Let’s think about this and decide later” instead of actually taking those decisions as originally planned. Now I realize I don’t have to see this as a failure. I need to think and digest an issue before taking a decision. Sometimes it goes faster to come to a conclusion after a discussion with co-worker, but I will still need to debate it in my head for a while before actually forming my opinion and take that decision.

The Happy Introvert also says ”Identifying introverts when they’re playing a roles, such as host, guide, teacher, or performer, can be difficult.” Or manager, I will add. I was a line manager for four years and I don’t think my introversion was as obvious (let me know if I’m wrong), not even for me, cause I played a role. The role of the manager. Then I actually had less problem walking around chit-chatting with the team, and less procrastination in general. I played the part. The same applies when being a hostess or ”on stage” making a presentation or some kind of performance. That is perfectly fine with me. I actually enjoy it. It is the chit-chat at the coffee machine afterwards that I found unbearable. So if anyone wondered why I don’t participate in Friday ”fika” (that is Swedish coffee break), this is the reason. I work only towards deadlines and Friday afternoon serves as the ultimate deadline at work and is when I am the most efficient all week. To interrupt the flow I have at that point, to do some cumbersome small talk at the ”fika” table? Sorry, just the thought it makes me feel scared.

Introversion and (social) media

As mentioned earlier I think the latest technology really have made life easier for introverts. Take social media, Facebook and Twitter, some say these applications have made people less sociable, not meeting people in real life, just virtually. Well maybe extraverts have become less physically social in that way, but I would say it is the opposite for me as an introvert. ”Writing is the preferred way of communicating” and never has it been easier then now to communicate, to interact, to chat and to discuss, with anyone about everything. Just because it is on-line does not mean that it is not sociable. And it is so nice to be able to communicate without having to be present physically all the time. You choose when to interact. You can take time to collect your thoughts and come up with the answer, and choose when you want to be socially active. The person at the other end is doing something else in the meantime anyway. Social media also actually helps in the face-to-face interactions. It is perfect source of information to use in those cumbersome conversations at the coffee machine. You actually now have things to start chit-chatting about. ”Oh, I saw you were at … this weekend” It is just such a good help!

Since I watch a lot of TV and love watching shows, I can’t help but end with a bit of reflection of characters on TV. Without doing any thorough investigation my thinking is that introverts are not that common as main characters in TV shows. Extraverts make such interesting, dramatic and easily understandable characters, because you know what they think and feel, they express it all the time. They express their emotions, blurt out what they think and create conflicts and drama. We get them, we love them, we get how the think and why they react the way they do. But can I relate to them? Not always.

What about introverts, are there any and can I relate to them? Well, there are two characters that come to mind. Peggy in Mad Men, who is socially awkward and likes being alone, and is struggling with how to act at her workplace. And then there is Rayna in Nashville. I don’t know if she would qualify as an introvert, but she is a women that doesn’t express her feelings openly, who doesn’t pick fights and create drama, and therefor is somewhat difficult to understand at times. She is a characters who’s journey is not always obvious and easy to follow, since it is much an inner journey, going on in her head. And that I can relate to too for sure. There is always a whole novel going on in my head!

My TV week in Review – Week 18

How to follow up that Nashville post, I really don’t know. But I do tweet about TV every day, so why not put those thoughts into the blog as well at the end (or as it turned out, in the beginning) of the week. The blog is called Tora on TV and Things after all.

Last TV week started with a new episode of Veep (4×03). I’m just so fascinated by these narcissistic and completely unapologetic characters, never ever considering anyone elses feelings.

There is one thing though I don’t enjoy and that is the bullying of Jonah! This is somehow supposed to be funny, the bullying of the nerd, and it seems to be a thing in movies in TV. Never got that! Still don’t! Even if he is annoying, or actually because he is annoying, it is just not funny. So I got more than a little worried when Jonah now also is the victim of sexual harassment. Is this another thing we should actually laugh about, even if it is not funny? The thing is, I actually couldn’t help laughing, but at the same time I was disturbed. Luckily Veep helped me out here, or actually Dan, the man, himself, who  for once gave Jonah a few words of support, acknowledging that it was sexual harassment, and that is was wrong. Those words of support did not stop Jonah to take a bit of revenge. 1 to Jonah, 0 to Dan.

images-4On Nashville (3×20) it’s getting obvious that Juliette is not handling motherhood well, and it is not only that she is ambitious and insecure, this is more, and I’m actually really eager to see how this story will continue. What else? Oh, those flashbacks? Eeew! Both Rayna and Deacon looked awful and history was re-written. I think I will forget these scenes ever happened and remember only how Deacon walks into the Bluebird and sees Rayna sing while still a teenager. I prefer that version. Otherwise I loved how Deacon within seconds of letting Juliette in, in a state of panic, is spitting out his burning question: “When do girls start having sex?”

I still enjoy The Good Wife (6×20) but please tell me how many times can Alicia, Carey and Diane stab each other in the back, become best friends and support each other no matter what, then stab each other again… Why do they even want to work with each other any more?

mad-men-season-7-joan1Two things about Mad Men (7×10). Did they very suddenly figure out they should give the red head a storyline. She is seldom in it anymore, I don’t even remember her name, so little do we see of her. Joan. Her name is Joan, and she is fabulous! And I don’t mind she struggling with motherhood and being a single mum. But this guy just suddenly showing up, and she is ready to give up on her kid?!?! I read somewhere that Nashville’s storyline were to slow and they need to speed things up, but I love slow burning storylines, and things building up, makes it all the more real and rewarding. So Mad Men, learn a bit from Nashville will you, this was just way to quick! And the second thing. Glen. Wow, did he grow up or what? Betty, no!

wc7w35uxy2jg-600x338I caught up on two episodes of Orphan Black (3×02 and 3×03). On the sweet side we were having incredibly hot Michiel Huisman, taking a break from Game of Thrones, trying to setup house with Sarah and Kira, but that lasted of course only for a second or so. Cause on the not so sweet side it was just getting way gory with dead clones, brain surgery, water stress tests and chopped fingers.

nashville-308-synopsisFriday and Saturday was spent rewatching Nashville with my 10 year-old. My 14 year-old already watched, she just couldn’t wait for us. Eight episodes all’n’all (3X05 to 3×12) and the biggest revelation was to realize how good the Luke and Rayna story really is. The one about finding balance between love, family, business, pleasure, individualism and partnership. It is brilliant and just so much easier to enjoy now that we could concentrate on the story instead of only wondering what the hell Rayna was thinking. (Still wondering, but I can at least appreciate the story this time. Pretending it is a parallell storyline of some sort.) And yeah, Jeff Fordham is hot!

Speaking of, or thinking about her at least, of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I did revisit one of my favourite Seinfeld episodes this week, ”The Caddy”, from season 7. It includes the most memorable Elaine quote in my mind, when she explains to Brenda Strong’s Sue Ellen that the bra present she gave actually is a bra, and not a top! And the lawyer that Kramer is hiring to sue Sue Ellen when she is causing chaos and crashes walking around New York with only a bra (under a jacket though): ”She is flouting society’s conventions. It’s totally inappropriate, it’s lewd, salacious, outrageous.” Still fabulous satire! You need to watch! Netflix.

What was your favourite TV moments this week?

How a show called Nashville changed my life!

The last week of October, on autumn school break, I brought my husband and two daughters, 9 and 13 years old, to Nashville.  We had the most fabulous vacation, quite unexpected, and I thought I’d tell you how we ended up there, and how a TV show can impact lives, my life! 

IMG_0965 I’ve always been a TV and movie buff, but I must admit, the number of hours spent in front of a TV or in a movie theater had seriously decreased the last couple of years. I lost a bit of interest in movies, and although TV was getting better and better (and more and more), since the TV and only laptop always seemed to be occupied by the kids, I found myself watching less and less.

So it was really by accident, in January 2013, I saw a TV panel discuss new shows coming the Swedes way. One in particular caught my interest, since it had Connie Britton in it, whom I loved from the fantastic Texas football drama Friday Night Lights. Hayden Panettiere, who was the most adorable, unbreakable cheerleader in Heroes, and Eric Close, the most handsome guy from Without a Trace, was also in it. That it was a drama, set in Nashville and told the story of the world of country music, seemed just like so much fun.

I set the recording to the digital box for the first episode, but then forgot about it (or maybe the TV was occupied) and forgot to record the next episode. Then after a couple of weeks I noticed that TV3 would air the first five episodes in a row on Saturday afternoon. After episode two I was hooked. After episode four I was obsessed. The show was great in many ways, one of those was the fantastic music performances, but the reason for the obsession was a couple called Rayna and Deacon. If you have seen it, you know what I mean.

Rayna and Deacon

The next episode couldn’t air soon enough and I started searching internet to find out more about the show. In US it had premiered in October 2012, and they were already on episode 12, and I was watching YouTube clips, reading reviews and spoilers, as well as joining the Facebook fandom! In May when spending a long weekend at our internetless summerhouse, I was so desperate rewatching scenes from the latest episode, I quickly volunteered to go grocery shopping, and was then sitting in the parking lot outside the store watching scenes on my phone over and over again. Yes.

After weeks of trying to calm down after a crazy season finale, when home alone, I decided to try this thing called twitter. I created my account, followed the Nashville creator, the actors and other things related and then spent weeks feeling ridiculous with zero followers. Then boom, three Nashville fan accounts followed me back, and I dared to start! Twitter fandom is fabulous, just start writing a few tweets, comments and answers and things will come to you. Six months later I had twitter friends from Israel, Netherlands, UK, Argentina and of course the US, with whom I was discussing and doing serious fangirling, sharing our love of Nashville, but sometimes also other topics.

Rayna and Juliette So why is this show so special. Of course it is not only Rayna and Deacon, although the chemistry between the actors, Connie Britton and Charles Esten, is unreal. (They are also super hot and they are in their late 40’s!!!) It is the fantastic music, written by local songwriters, and always fitting the stories of the different characters so well. The characters, ranging from young diva Juliette (played by Panettiere), the accidental artist, Scarlett, and wannabe songwriter Gunnar, to big country music stars like Rayna and Luke, might seem stereotyped at first, but no, they rise above that becoming all so full-fledged, complex and relatable – annoying, adorable and flawed – all at the same time. It is just a very well-written show taking place in a truly authentic music environment.

No wonder I got inspired to go to Nashville, to see where all the scenes were filmed, and to experience the music and atmosphere of Nashville. I had a somewhat hard time to convince my family to go, or as my 13yo daughter told me. ”I’m not even that into music!” Well, maybe they wouldn’t enjoy it, so I kind of gave up on the idea, but then I saw a tweet from the Ryman Auditorium (who everyone who has seen the show know is the Mother Church of Country music) that First Aid Kit, our favorite Swedish band, would play on October 29, which was the exact week of the school break! It was a sign! Tickets to that show, and tickets for the trip, was bought quicker than anyone could say – country music! (The First Aid Kit song ‘Emmylou’ is featured in ep 1×12. Yep, after the elevator scene!)

IMG_0999I was nervous for sure about bringing the family on an expensive vacation overseas, just because I happen to love a TV show, not knowing if they would enjoy it at all. But I needn’t have worried. Everyone loved it! We were walking along downtown Broadway, stopping at every boot shop and debating with our 9yo daughter if she should have boots with heals or not (she got one pair of each). We went to see an NHL hockey game (yes, this was a concession I made and the Predators lost unfortunately), visited Nashville Zoo (kids loved it, the clouded leopards were the favorites), breakfast at the famous Loveless Café (blueberry pancakes of course) and the Country Music Hall of Fame, where the kids got the task to find different instruments, the oldest, the weirdest etc. And yes, there was one weirder and more innovative than the other. Fantastic really! My appreciation for country musicians just exploded.

We did the the backstage tour at the Ryman Auditorium, took the ABC Nashville bus tour to understand where different scenes took place including a visit to the famous Bluebird Café, a day trip up in the mountains, visiting the fantastic Dutch Maid Bakery & Café and nearby Foster Falls, and of course a fair share of shopping. Music is everywhere and anytime in Nashville, at 11am a Saturday morning and late on weekdays. On top of some nice lunch and dinner music performances, we saw two fantastic shows, the First Aid Kit at the Ryman of course, and then finishing off the week at the legendary Grand Ole Opry, listening to among others, Vince Gill!

If you’re living in Sweden and have not watched Nashville I don’t blame you. It started out on Mondays 8pm on TV3 with very little advertising. Since nobody watched it, they thought better to move it to Saturday afternoons, not telling anyone of course, and then to Saturday mornings. You didn’t catch it then? No? Well finally, they put it on their streaming service and Nashville is now available on Viaplay, all 53 episodes. Season 3 is now on winter break, but will be back on US TV February 4. That hopefully means that Viaplay will have it available for streaming no more than one week later. So a little bit of time for y’all Swedish guys and gals to catch up on the first two and half seasons.

Not all TV critics have understood how good Nashville is yet, they see it as soap opera, and a soap opera cannot be that good, can it? Well, it can, and one critic who does get it is TVdags.se editor-in-chief, Kjell Häglund, who is one of not so many people in Sweden having discovered Nashville. He also happens to appreciate it, a lot! When naming the best TV drama of 2014 he put Nashville on top, above True Detective. Just like me and many fans, he sees just how very well made this music drama is by creator Callie Khouri and her team.

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So you obviously know by now that I am obsessed, but what other affects has this show had on the family. Well, husband walks around in cowboy boots, shirts and sometimes also in a nice Stetson. Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Girl is on repeat on Spotify and so is the Dixie Chicks. Kids are constantly belting out songs from the show. Me, I have these fabulous fellow fans that I chat with more or less every day. I’ve started listen to Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert and loads of other great country music. I’ve also started to write a little, something I always wanted, as a guest writing fan for the fabulous Nashville Forever blog, and I’m going back to Nashville soon, cause it is just such an inspiring place to be! And yes, I have a new favorite shirt!