I came home ready for them to pounce upon me and encircle me; little bodies jumping at mine, big and little hands reaching out to hold mine, shining faces just because of me, and the fact I was home.
And I was.
There, it was beautiful. Even in the rain. There was goodness: some new connections and good conversations, the ability to think without interruption, not having to figure out what to make for breakfast-lunch-dinner for five whole days, a morning hike up a mountain and the chance to play with dye pots and so much yarn.
But this year was hard, too. Though maybe in the hard parts are goodness, as well.
Maybe I've mentioned at some point that I am an introvert. Incontrovertibly. It's a big stretch toward that comfort line for me to willingly walk myself into the midst of a large group of people almost all of whom I do not know. I also tend to lean way over above the self-doubt hole, such that I inevitably fall in face first now and then. Which is what happened often during my time at Squam last week.
There is this paradox – of wanting to find and connect with others who are living a similar life as you, walking a similar trajectory, but at the same time finding yourself faced with a whole lot of unproductive comparisons and score keeping. It's not intentional – it's not wanted – but it somehow creeps in there. Or it does for me. There is another paradox, too, for us introverts – of wanting to make these connections, and be seen – acknowledged – for who we are and the daily truths of our lives, but simultaneously shying away from notice.
Why I say that maybe there is some goodness in the hard parts of last week, too, is this: Because I had made the choice to walk myself into this place, and so ran head first into all that discomfort, self-doubt and comparisons, I had the chance to think about it, and just why it matters so much to me that other people know my score, so to speak, when if they know it or not doesn't change it one bit. I don't think I have an answer, and I sure as heck didn't have a revelatory experience to where I can now say I don't care a bit. But it was interesting to recognize and think about. And maybe that will take me a little closer to change.
I had a chance to visit for a bit with a friend today, who is also an introvert, and we talked about this: how in our culture, it's the outgoing person, the extrovert who is praised, and who us introverts are encouraged to emulate. But man, that's tough. As I was sitting at breakfast one morning, listening to the conversation going on around me – travel plans, this and that – sitting with some folks who I wished I could impress, truth be told, I realized that part of the stress of situations like that for me (larger group conversations) is that I'm just not so good at small talk. I'm not good at speaking up (all those faces turning toward mine, my words tripping over themselves...), and so I listen: this I'm good at. And this is valuable. It's easy to say that there is goodness in quiet and listening. And that's a fact. But what I tell myself is that because the words don't flow smoothly out that I'm just not interesting, I have nothing to offer – or that this is what the others in the group must think because of my quietness.
So here's the conundrum: how to accept and be true to an introverted nature, but not fade into the background? How to make connections and be acknowledged, but not force yourself into an outgoing mold you do not (and ought not need to) fit?
At any rate – I've gone off topic, and included two posts in one accidentally – what I wanted to say about home, is that one thing I realized while I was away, was how much more grounded in home I have become over the past year. This was a pleasant surprise – one that presented itself as a happy, quiet little realization in the face of the harder times: as good as it was to be away for a time, and for all the good parts, I was also content that it was just for a time. Content at the back of my heart, knowing that I would be back home again before long, with Jim and the boys, back at our home, with all it's beauties and frustrations, back to our days figuring out what in the world we're doing with this homeschooling thing and how to keep the house from erupting into chaos as we do.
There are still a few dozen things (more than I sometimes feel I can handle) swirling around needing attention; the boys still yell at each other, then hit each other, then break down crying; new meal ideas haven't magically planted themselves in my head – nor have our next homeschooling lesson plans; I still end the days weary, with important things left waiting on my to do list, and I still doubt too often whether I have anything to say or the words to say it. But I am home, I am noticed and welcomed with love, and that is enough; it is good; it is ground beneath my feet.