Five-Minute Friday: Quiet

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

Because she was speaking at a conference I was attending, Susan Cain’s book Quiet went to the top of my list this fall, and, boy I wish I read it earlier. The book’s subtitle is “The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” which serves as an appropriate overview of the content. (You can see her TedTalk here, but, really, read the book!)

Cain offers scientific research, anecdotes, interviews, and personal experience to show how society may value the affable extroverts (think group work, hiring and voting for people who talk the biggest game, and being concerned that your kid is shy), but reserved introverts have so much to offer that we ought to acknowledge what they need to be successful, too: Quiet.

Reading Quiet was an eye-opener for me. I have always preferred staying inside with a book to attending a party. I despise group projects, needing time to myself to process before sharing with others. I recharge in solitude, not in the company of others. Prior to the book, I had accepted this about myself, but I believed these preferences made me “less than” my more sociable peers. Now I see how my introverted nature adds to the work I do and the person I am.

The book also reminded me that we need to parent the children we have, not the ones we were. My son is NOT quiet. On car rides when I would prefer to drive in silence, he demands music. When I have insisted on keeping the radio off, he has more than once told me, “I NEED the music!” I now believe him. Just as I NEED the quiet, he NEEDS the noise. We compromise.

Perhaps one of the more intriguing parts of Cain’s book is when she discusses “Free Trait Theory,” which claims we are born with certain personality traits but can break character when it comes to something about which we feel strongly.

Fundraising for diabetes research requires me to ask people for money, which goes against every grain in my body. First, I hate asking people for anything. Second, I REALLY hate asking for money. I remember one uncomfortable conversation in college when I called and asked my dad if I could borrow money because my side job as a waitress was taking up too much time and I knew I needed to quit. That was the only time I ever asked him for money (of course, it was not the only time he gave it to me). But, making pleas for donations is easy because I feel so passionately about the subject.

I attended Susan Cain’s keynote speech with colleagues from my new job. One of them said, “It’s a good thing they gave you that corner office away from the action since you’re such an introvert!” I told her I love that my office does not get a lot of foot traffic because I AM an introvert. She said she was joking and was shocked because she would have pegged me as an extrovert. I again attribute how I present myself at work to Free Trait Theory – I love what I do and will break character to do it well.

Susan Cain will soon be piloting a “Quiet Revolution” project in schools, and I have expressed interest in having my school considered. I wonder how much potential we could unleash if teachers, students, and parents valued introverts as much as extroverts.

Five-Minute Friday: Time

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity I participate in based on Kate Motaung’s blog, linked at the bottom of the page. Each week, Kate posts a one-word prompt, and people write for five minutes straight, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

At the moment, time is my enemy. Tonight is another “bad diabetes” night at my house – a night when diabetes did not get the message that it needs to play by the rules. “The rules” say that if I make sure my son’s blood sugar is a certain number at bedtime, he should be good for the night. When he’s not – when he’s too low to safely tell him to go to bed and hope I see him in the morning – it means loading him up with carbs. “The rules” state that at his weight, 1 gram of carb is supposed to raise his blood sugar by 5, and I should see that mathematical formula play out when I retest him 15 minutes later.

But, tonight, diabetes doesn’t care. I could write the pretty nasty things I imagine it is saying to me right now, but I won’t give it the satisfaction.

Instead, here I am, waiting ANOTHER 15 minutes when really I wanted to be in bed over an hour ago. I will be tired tomorrow. The Friday before a long weekend always goes at its own pace, but tomorrow will be particularly painful.

But Owen will not remember any of it. He will not remember when, this last time I went up with spoonfuls of sugar in a cup of milk (since the sugary OJ I gave him before that did NOTHING), he sat up in bed as I instructed, drank it down obediently (some nights we reenact the scene from Steel Magnolias), and, without even opening his eyes, he said, “BOO!” and promptly fell back asleep.

He will not know that I have had to prick him 6 times (and counting) because I kept getting error messages on his test strips. He will expect me to be my bright-eyed self in the morning, and he will want my attention after school and may even ask for a family movie night since, after all, it’s Friday.

I will do my best to play along. I will not tell him how exhausted I am for having to care for him tonight. I love caring for him. I love making diabetes a little easier for him to manage. I love that he does not fully wake when I tell him he needs to eat this or drink that because he is low, because it means he trusts that I’ve got this. I always promise him I will be back to retest him and he doesn’t need to worry. I am not sure if he even hears me say this, but maybe he does subconsciously and it helps him sleep a little better. That makes one of us.

Time’s up. Time to retest.

Ode to the Marble Jar Friends

If you’ve been reading, you know how much I love Brené Brown’s work. I finished a free e-course of hers on trust in which she described a concept that illuminated my thinking on friendship.

Brené describes trust as a jar, and you build trust with someone when you do actions that put marbles in that jar. This concept is not revolutionary, but what was eye-opening to me – and to her – was that her research showed that it’s the small gestures that fill jars – remembering someone’s family members’ names, checking in after a big meeting someone had at work.

I started thinking about the people I consider “Marble Jar Friends,” and I realized she is right. I am grateful that one particular Marble Jar Friend has granted me permission to write about our friendship.amy

Amy and I grew up on the same street, separated by just 5 houses, and she was my first friend. We are very different people and do not have much in common. We do not talk to or see each other on a regular basis.

On the surface, it might appear that we are friends solely due to our shared history and the fact that we have been present for each other’s big events – weddings, funerals, births.

These big events are important. But it’s the small ones that fill the jar and continue to sustain our friendship.

When we played house when we were little, Amy always let me be the working executive going off to do my own thing while she “babysat” my (Cabbage Patch) Kids.

Add a marble.

When we were in middle school, I wanted to try out for a chorus part in the high school’s musical. (I can’t sing. At all.) Amy agreed to sing with me so I wouldn’t have to do it alone.

Add a marble.

In high school, when an ex-boyfriend was being particularly cruel, Amy loudly asked me about my new boyfriend when he was within earshot.

Add a marble.

20160111_200007When I moved to Los Angeles in 1998 to play house with Brendan (that same “new” boyfriend!), Amy gave me a framed sign about friendship that I hung above my kitchen sink. When she bought her first home 10 years later, I gave it back to her to hang over her sink. This past summer when Amy attended our goodbye party prior to our out-of-state move, she handed me a gift, and I knew it was the picture, which now hangs above my sink.

Add a marble.

When my dad died, Amy was the first person I called from the hospital after notifying family. She was my only friend who had known him as long as I had. It was 4 am and her phone wasn’t on. Four hours later I was home alone because Brendan brought the kids to school, and I did not know how I was supposed to be me in a world without my dad. Amy’s car pulled up in front of my house, and I collapsed in her arms and sobbed before she even made it through the door.

“Don’t you have to be at work?” I asked her eventually. Work would wait, she said.

Add ten gazillion marbles.

A month later, I had surgery, and Amy remembered and called me that night to see how it went.

Add a marble.

This year was the first time my kids celebrated their birthdays away from family. Amy called both of them to acknowledge their special days. It probably mattered more to me than it did to them.

Add some marbles.

I have never heard Amy gossip. She’s told me when someone has bothered her or disappointed her, but she has not spoken ill of them or divulged their personal information. I know whatever I tell her won’t be broadcast to others, and this means she has never emptied the jar by betraying me.

I hope many people consider me a Marble Jar Friend, especially Amy. Thinking of our marble jar has made me more aware of the marbles I am putting in my jars with other people – and maybe taking out. I need to make a more conscious effort to be aware of my friend’s small moments and recognize what matters to them.

So here’s to Marble Jar Friends – may we have enough of them, and more importantly, may we strive to be one of them!