Wednesday, 10 July 2013


So a funny thing happened after my last post in May.  I had several posts lined up in my mind, ready to go.  And then, poof!  I became unable to blog.  I would read a book and say, 'oh, I have lots to say!'  I have taken pictures of my garden for so many Saturday Market posts.....I have pictures and books from my 50th birthday.....but I couldn't post.  I couldn't, and still can't, quite figure out what happened. The closest answer I can come to, is one that is perfect in hindsight:  I am an introvert.  The busier my life socially got, the more I became unable to do anything about posting.  This is like seeing Susan Cain's book Introvert in action.  By the way, here is a quiz from Susan Cain's website, to determine if you are an introvert or an extrovert.

It was crazy for two months, and there was little I could do about most of it, without crippling friendships and obligations I had taken on.  I have learned my lesson.  It's ok to be an introvert!  Sometimes it takes one until they are 50 to realize this, though.  No matter how many warnings I had in the past, in overdoing it (and I have known this for over 20 years about myself).  As much as I thought I was an introvert, I didn't want to be rude, and I didn't know how to stop and think about what I wanted to do, really.  So I would get over-extended, and then socially burn-out, and shut myself up for weeks.  I realized, once again, I have a certain amount of energy for socializing, and when it gets used up, that's it.  Nada.  No more.

What I learned:

In the midst of all this activity, my family - husband and two of our children - went to England to visit his family.  I couldn't go, both because I couldn't get the time off work, and also because physically, I couldn't handle the big trip so soon after my operation in February.  There is also the small matter of having to socialize for weeks on end again, which lay there in the background of my mind, and I just couldn't go.  So I stayed happily at home, by myself.  All alone.   I missed my family more and more as time went on, and did wish I could have gone to England.  I love going to England normally!  Any time! Just not this time.  It was surprisingly easy to not go, and at the same time hard to let my family go, emotionally.

During this last week, my only week with no activities planned, was blessedly at home every evening.  Did I say I almost burst out crying at the end of the second week alone when it had somehow filled up and I hadn't planned it? That was when I said, stop.  It's been a hard lesson to learn, that who I want to be (someone pleasant and able to socialize) is not who I am (someone who likes one or two people at a time, and to really stay at home all the time.)

I knew, have known since I was 12, that I prefer to read, and to spend time alone. But I was afraid I would not have any friends if I did that, so I learned how to go out, and somewhere along the line, even though I kept reading and doing some writing, I forgot to check in with myself. I love going out to movies, and to restaurants, just not all the time.  In fact, not more than once or twice a month.  At most. And somewhere inside, I thought someone who never went out was a loser.  That's how powerful extroverts are on us.

I had three precious weeks of time alone every night (no matter what time I got home at!) and it has done me a world of good.  I'm now working on simplifying my life, and doing what I want to do.  As much as I can, with three children and a husband!  I can find more time to be alone, and to be still, and to be silent, and that seems to be what I crave most right now.

 I was most surprised that I couldn't blog during this time.  All the words about books dried up.  I couldn't even come and see you, which normally I love to do, and leave comments.  I went away, into silence.  However, I missed you all.  And my dear blog, which I thought at one point, is it all over for me?  I am so thankful to say, I am back.

As you can see, I have redecorated  - nothing like a new colour scheme to cheer the soul up!   And in true introvert style, I have been doing the things I love to do:

Gardening posts to come:
I have  been busy in my garden, planting 30 of the 50 plants for my birthday.  I will do a post about the plants, and my birthday!  We had a fabulous celebration. I just couldn't write about it, so much was going on around then.

I have also been reading, reading, reading.  I'm not quite caught up to where I should be, though I do have three books on the go. I have been reading, a lot. I will be posting about them.  I promise.  So many are very good.  Plus do the round-up of what I read for Once Upon a Time, since I did continue to read for it until June 21.

Two interesting books on the go involving silence:
 Two  books I have been dipping into at this time are A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland, and The True Secret of Writing, by Natalie Goldberg.  Both are about silence, and how necessary it is.

Maitland's book is about her journey to silence, and how she discovered she loved it, in her late 40's.  I am enjoying this book very much. Here is the original site I found the book at:  The Hermitary: Women and Silence.  I could swear I found this through Terri Windling's blog, but I can't find the link.  If I do, I will pst it here.

Goldberg's book is her latest in her series of writing books, of which Writing Down the Bones is the first.  I've had that one on my shelf for many years, and often dip into it. The True Secret of Writing is her distillation of many years of zen and writing practice.  She has taught for many years a retreat for artists/writers/etc.  The book is fascinating, if sometimes a little light. Her rules are simple and three: Sit.  Walk.  Write.  Sit and contemplate the world, doing nothing, for a minimum of 10 minutes a day (longer if you can).  Quiet the mind.  Walk slowly, no talking.  Look around.  And then write.

 It sounds simple, and it's hard to do, and exactly what I need.  If you are feeling blocked creatively, overwhelmed, longing for something but not able to get away, just want to do something differently, or learn to be here now, feeling the space around you that you are in, this is a book to try.

Books right now:
 I have managed to get my hands finally on the new Sylvia Plath biography, Mad Girl's Love Song by Andrew Wilson, from the library on Monday.  I've already read two chapters.  It's very good.  Current mystery reading  is Summertime, All the Cats are Bored, a newly-translated French noir mystery by Philippe Georget.  I'm really enjoying this one.

Gifts from England from my wonderful husband:
Before I go, below is a picture of what my husband brought back from England for me.  Books I had specifically requested, and my favourite biscuits (cookies) from Marks and Spencer, and some tea.  I just opened the presents today, and keep fondling the books.  At long last I am holding them!  As you can see from the cookies, I've already opened the package and had 1 or 3......


Boneland - Alan Garner - never available over here, I am almost beyond happiness to finally get to hold this book and read it.  The 3rd one in his Weirdstone Trilogy.  Colin, grown up.
Living Dangerously - Katie Fforde - I have Cath at Read-Warbler to thank for this one.  Ever since her amazing delightful review, I have been wanting to read this.  Our library only has one of her other books, Love Letters, which funnily enough is the other one in this review!   I just got it out two weeks ago. Living Dangerously (the one I really wanted) is mine to keep!!
Gossip From the Forest - Sara Maitland - same author as A book of Silence, above.  This just came out, and is about fairy tales and forests.
The Girl on the Stairs - Louise Welsh - have been waiting for ever for this to come out in small paperback (not the huge one that is almost the size of a hard cover), the same as
The End of the Wasp Season - Denise Mina.  Hurray!!   They are both mysteries.
The Small Hand - Susan Hill - if it ever got here, I didn't see it.  Dolly was also on my requested list, but my husband could only see this.  I am so happy.  A lovely ghost story by one of the best writers of them.

Other reviews:
Terri Windling
Ursuula K Le Guin in the Guardian review.  (spoilers)
Fantasy Book Review (spoilers)

Gossip From the Forest
Guardian - June 21/13 review
Guardian - Oct 2012 review
Alex in Leeds
Eva at A Striped Armchair

A Book of Silence
Ursula K. Le Guin

Living Dangerously
Cath at Read-Warbler
Random Jottings (lovely post on Fforde's books in general)

Small Hand
Margaret at Books Please

The End of the Wasp Season
Mysteries in Paradise

 Sometimes an introvert just has to go away for a while.  I really wish I knew before-hand so I could put a little notice up here!  Anyway, I am feeling somewhat full of words again, and able to write, as you can see.  I missed you all!  I hope you have been having a fabulous summer reading........

And a shout-out to Ana at Things Mean Alot, who just on her post today linked to Jack Zipes review of Gossip From the Forest  and Philip Pullmans' Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, A New English Version!!!  Here is Ana's post, and here is the post at the LA Times.  Now I HAVE to get Pullman's book!  I'm also thinking there is some synchronicity here, so must get to reading Gossip From the Forest asap.


raidergirl3 said...

Aw, poor you. ((hugs)) from far away that you can take at your own time, when it feels right for you.

Quiet was such a great book; I felt the same way, realizing why I need to veg out, especially after intense socialization times. Glad you've figured some stuff out, and got some time to yourself. Two weeks home alone, with no obligations: that in itself should be the test for introverts - does that sound wonderful, or terrible?

Cath said...

I did the test and, not at all surprisingly, I got the same result. Since we moved here to Tiverton, 10 years ago, I set about simplifying my life. Like you I do not like a hectic social life *at all* and now I have the life I want, living quietly with Peter, doing the garden, cooking, reading, spending time with family. For me personally, it's enough. I sincerely hope you manage to find a balance that suits you. It's *so* worth it.

Oh, I hope you like Living Dangerously, Susan. Any time you want something that's not available over there you only have to ask. I will happily go shopping for you.

Susan said...

raidergirl: thanks for the hugs! From friends, I have no problems taking them! :-)

I like your idea of the question itself as a test: two weeks home alone, fear or joy? I think you're right, that would be an easy way to tell introverts and extroverts apart.

I do wonder if we are taught to be social, and if girls are praised for getting along so much so that we think it's normal to go out, and abnormal to not to want to. It takes a lot to undo it, doesn't it? Seems you and Cath, and me now, are learning to - our real natures have finally gotten through to us.

Cath: Thank you :-) I like and admire how you've figured out what you need, and have it. That's exactly my goal now too. It would be easier if I didn't have to work, but as I do, it means a lot of my social energy is taken up by being at work. It's taken me years to figure that one out. Now that I know, I can be clearer with everyone about what I can do. I find that helps, just to let people know I love them, even if I can't go out as much!

I was so thrilled when Toby brought Living Dangerously out yesterday. I hope to read it very soon. It looks so enjoyable! And yes, I will let you know - and thank you :-) so very much, Cath.

Daphne said...

I hear you! And maybe that's why my blogging has dried up lately. I have a much fuller social life than I have in a long long time, and I just don't have anything left when it's time to blog. I have no words other than, "I'm busy, I'm happy, and I miss you all!" That's about it. I'm just trusting that it's how it's all supposed to be right now, even though I do miss blogging and I miss catching up with blog friends. Oh well -- friends are friends no matter what, even when things go quiet for a while.

Molly said...

Oh Susan.... I am SUCH an introvert and can relate to everything you have said here. I think it takes living half a century to finally become aware of who we are.. and accepting ourselves (or at least, that has been true for me).

Thank you so much for your kind encouraging words... and yes.. I think you need to create a London space in your home in which to escape for an introvert adventure :)

Jeane said...

I'm definitely an introvert, and have recognized that for a long time. It's something I accept about myself, but it's harder to get other people to recognize that. Some folks will just never understand that I can be very content with my books and my garden!

Belle Wong said...

So funny - my blogging (and commenting and Twitter) dried up last month too, and it was because things got so busy. I wasn't sure what was happening, but what you've posted makes sense to me. I do like going out with friends, but I need to have a balance. And a lot of me-time! What a lovely stash of books you got from England. I didn't realize Alan Garner wrote a third book in the Weirdstone series. I read books 1 and 2 when I was a kid and have reread them a few times since. I just checked and my library only has it in audio, so I guess I'll be listening to Boneland! I'm looking forward to your gardening post - I think the only thing I miss about not being at our old place is the garden.

Peggy Ann said...

Susan, I ended up via Cath's blog and am glad I did! Great post. I have become so much more solitary in the last 5 yrs. or so and have been wondering why and is there something wrong with me. I took the test and surprise it said introvert! 10 yrs. ago it would have been extrovert. I'm in my 50's and I think maybe we just hit an age where we just don't have the energy anymore and allow ourselves the freedom to just say no. Hmm, gave me lots to chew on today! And I am going to definitely look for that book on silence!

You can get some of the books unavailable to us in the US via Alibris used or Book Depository by the way.

Susan said...

Daphne: Yes, friends are friends no matter what. We meet each other through blogging, as you and I met, and then it moves on into real life. I think of blogging as a pleasure,and it's the only way I can do it. I do hope one day you can return to it - but like I said on your blog, you're happy, Daphne, and that is the best of all. I'm so happy for you!!

Molly: I wonder too if we do things that we have to during raising our families and having careers, that maybe aren't genuine in our natures, or something we think we ought to do, until mid-life (and The Change) comes along, and wakes us up. At least, I am finding that out for myself. I suspect from many of the comments here, and on your blog the last while as you've worked out how you want to blog, that this time of life is for discovering who we are really.

And yes, a London homage in my writing space would be lovely!!plus maybe the north pacific, since British Columbia plays a large part in my makeup also :-)

Jeane: I'm laughing as I read yours, because I'm so content with my books and garden too! Sometimes I think I'm becoming too hermit-like, that I want to stay here too much. I am so contented though, and so peaceful. It's a strange and new experience for me, and I am liking it. Thank you for your lovely comment, it's gotten me to think further about what doing this is giving me :-)

Belle Wong: I wonder how many of us have a correlation between going out alot (or outward activity involving others, not necessarily going out) and not being able to blog? That would be an interesting question to pose.

If Boneland came out here in Canada, I never saw it, so I'm not surprised you didn't know - it got very little press over here. Over in the UK of course, it got so much. I'm so delighted my husband was able to find it. Book Depository is a good way to go too, so far I haven't had a problem getting books here from them.

Susan said...

Peggy Ann: What you said also hits a cord, as everyone's comments here did. I am definitely noticing my energy levels are lower and that I tire much more easily than even 5 years earlier. I thought it was recovering from the surgery, so maybe it's that and entering my 50's. Maybe too, a whole lot of us were socially conditioned to be more extrovert, and midlife means a return to our center - if we allow ourselves to find our way through the change? I don't want to assume anything here for anyone, and I'm just starting it....I find it striking how much I have to balance things more now. I do like the idea of having the freedom to say no now :-)

Yes, I have used Book Depository through here, to try it and so far it is working fine. Thank you! I hadn't still given up hope of finding any of the books yet.

Susan said...

Peggy Ann: Welcome, and thank you so much for leaving a comment right away! I'm delighted to meet you.

Alex in Leeds said...

Gossip From The Forest is a fantastic read and perfect if you're feeling a little in need of space and silence. :)

Trish said...

It IS absolutely OK to be an introvert! I'm much much much more sociable online than I am in person and I sometimes feel badly that I am such a "terrible" friend--just now I was texting back and forth with a friend who I haven't seen in over two years even though she lives down the road and we text quite frequently. I just don't have the energy for face to face interaction like others do (and can I tell you how much I'm dreading the BBQ we're going to tonight?). Hopefully with the realization you've come to some of those limit and boundaries will be easier to define. xo!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I can get the same way sometimes. I just get so tired from life that the idea of blogging gets overwhelming. I think the best thing to do then is just step back like you did and come back when you feel more motivated :)

Susan said...

Alex in Leeds: I am so happy to have this book! I was reading Boneland first, which was also very good.

Trish: Thank you! I've been cheered immensely by the numbers of us who are introverts and understand perfectly well the limits on energy we have. It helps to know that this is what it feels like for others, too.

I hope you enjoyed your bbq. Have you found that having a child makes it easier to talk about something? And also an easier reason to leave early, often! :-)

Kim: So many of us feel the same way!! I wonder if the internet makes socializing easier for introverts? Someone somewhere should run a study on this....

Nan said...

I so get it! And of course you didn't blog when you were all tied up socially. Your 'quiet' energy had been sapped, and even 'talking' this way was more than you wanted to do.
I am quite sure that a lot of bloggers are introverts. It is a relaxing way to communicate because it is in our own quiet way- not talking back and forth.
Since Tom retired, and because summer is generally busier, we've seen friends and gone places several times a week, and I just haven't felt like 'talking' via my blog. I'm all talked out!
All this is just to say that I understand completely. I took the quiz and had only two false answers - I'm not particularly 'mellow' nor do I always think before I speak. That may be that I think and speak almost simultaneously. :<)
As I read your post, and as I think about it, I realize this is why I am not on Facebook or Instagram or any 'social' media. It is too social for me. I prefer the slower, quieter communication of blogging. I can sit down with one blogger at a time, and really pay attention to what he or she has written and then write something back if I feel I had something to say.
Thanks for writing this. I loved reading it. And I loved reading what several of my blogging friends wrote to you.

Susan said...

Nan: Thank you so much for your lovely thoughtful answer. I agree, I think many of are introverts here in the blogging community. I didn't realize quite how so many! lol it makes sense, though, doesn't it? You also said that we can take our time with each blogger, taking in what they say and responding, and that's one big reason why I like blogging so much. I certainly don't have a twitter account, or much of anything else - I have a cell phone, and barely use it. I have discovered I like to text. No talking! lol

I think and speak simultaneously too. It gets me into trouble sometimes! As I've gotten older I do less of it, thankfully. Or I've just stopped talking as much!

I really enjoyed reading what everyone had to say about being introverts too. Thank you, Nan.

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