Beginner's Heart

via flickr

via flickr

It’s hard for me to convince people I’m an introvert. Most of the time (if it comes up at all), I just let them think what they will. I know how much time it takes me to recover from any ‘gig’ — whether it’s a holiday tea or a professional meeting. And if it’s staying ‘away’? Without my usual structure & rituals? It can take days. But because I genuinely enjoy people — I love their stories, their mosaic lives, even their hard times are illuminating — it’s assumed I must gain energy from them. I don’t. Being with people, even teaching (which I do adore) uses me up. I’m exhausted for ages.

Being a non-working stiff has been wonderful for me: endless ribbons of time unfurling before me, a horizon that stretches into wherever. What’s happened, in these past few years since I ‘retired’ from my FT job, is that I’ve had the time to just be. As well as take on projects I’ve always wanted to do (like writing more tanka, and sending out more work). But what seems more important is the be-ing time: time to cut out a picture from a magazine & glue it into my writer’s workbook. Time to try a new recipe, and think about how the pieces will work together ~ will the olives offset the sweetness of the tomatoes? will it balance as it melds? Time to write a dear friend about his dear friend who is almost certainly dying. Time to watch a bird on the feeder.

the author’s

These are things I did — write letters, read, write in journals, watch animals & birds, draw them — even as a child. And in some ways, I suppose that I’m revisiting that child. Not so much a return to childhood, really, as a kind of recursive process, a ‘running back,’ as the Latin root tells us. It’s a reacquaintance, and a recognition of bedrock traits, values, even influences. I have always written — even before I could write words. I’ve drawn, albeit badly (and still do!). I’ve loved animals (sleeping w/ a taxidermied squirrel!), and been house proud since my ‘house’ was the villa’s wardrobe, a bedroom sans windows.

Introverts, as the definition notes, need time. LOTS of it, really, and all alone. Or at least in quiet, w/out crazy noise, or activity. Not TV (which I don’t care for at all — it sucks me in & it’s NOISY), not the dogs barking at passersby. Just quiet time, to look a lot like a couch potato, I suspect. I can sit at the breakfast room table drinking tea or cappuccino, watching birds, for easily an hour. More, some days. I can mess w/ ‘stuff’ — organising my desk, looking up a reference, answering an email — for another couple. And all the time, something tight in me is loosened, eased. As it did when I would sneak away as a 9-year-old, crawling through the bars on the villa’s windows, and heading out the gate w/ my dog, to roam the sleepy streets of the city just the two of us. The city was quiet, and all I could hear was that: the quiet heartbeat of a drowsy city.

These days, driving in the car (especially when the weather is great & I can put the top down on my old ragtop), I can turn on one of the kajillion riffs I have on a classical piece I adore, and I’m as happy as that odd child. Not, perhaps, ecstatic (that’s reserved for seeing the grandson, or other big events!). But brimming over with quiet bliss. And I bet ever introvert out there knows exactly what I mean.