Hubby took a road trip with our oldest grandson over spring break while I stayed home. I know some folks for whom being left home alone would feel like punishment akin to a root canal.
I am not one of those folks.
Sure, I had to go to work each morning. But once I left the office, my life was mine. I could sleep when I wanted, as much as I wanted, in a blissfully quiet house. A house, I might add, that stayed clean. I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and if I wanted. Truth be told, I lived on granola and salad and leftover Easter chocolate. Didn’t cook even once, unless you count microwave popcorn or boiling the kettle for tea.
The shower, the phone, and Netflix were always available to me exclusively. I binged on Downton Abbey. I could think my own thoughts without interruption and talk to myself with no one to eavesdrop. I rolled up the Welcome mat and exchanged it for one that said “I’m in here. You’re out there. Let’s keep it that way for a while.”
In short, I discovered that when you’re alone you can be completely selfish without inconveniencing anyone.
To be fair, not once did I need to shovel snow or mow grass. My vehicle didn’t break down. The toilet didn’t plug and the water heater kept heating water. Had any of those—or a dozen other possible catastrophes—happened, I’d have been only too happy to hasten Hubby’s homecoming. (At our house, the distribution of tasks is pretty traditional.)
But it also confirmed what I already knew: deep down, I’m an introvert. Not everyone enjoys time alone so much. Faced with a week like mine, a more extroverted person would have been going squirrely, maybe going out to clubs or the gym or Walmart just to hang around people. Maybe even to church!
Being introverted is not to be confused with feeling shy or uncomfortable in a crowd, necessarily. It simply means we gain energy from time alone, while hanging around people drains us. It often means we’re more comfortable giving a speech than mingling with our listeners afterwards. We can stand on stage and play a role in front of an audience, but making small talk with someone we don’t know well is torture. Many of us love to write but detest talking on the phone. We feel lonely at social events but never when we’re alone.
Are you more introverted or extroverted?
Neither personality holds a monopoly on self-centeredness, nor do any of us really need instructions for being our own selfish pig. It’s a skill we’re pretty much born with, of course. It’s kindness and consideration that need to be learned. How to serve others by putting their needs first.
Here’s my point. As long as I’m alone, it’s easy to think I’m pretty swell. If I’d never had siblings or roommates or a spouse or kids, I might have waltzed through life believing I was a perfectly lovely person and never uncovered the ugly truth that I don’t have an unselfish bone in my body.
But it’s in community where we are called to live, because that’s where, like the book of Proverbs says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”