Introversion and Family Get-Togethers

Hey guys!  I think what I’d like to do occasionally is do a piece on being introverted and how that impacts my life because, well, there are a lot of us out there and many of us think we’re alone in these moments.  We’re not.  So, if you’d like to feel like part of the club, read on!

As you (probably) already know, introverts tend to not do well in large crowds.  I say “tend to” because there are actually times I like being in large groups.  I love concerts.  I love teaching.  And I especially love my big, wacky family.

There are over 40 of us aunts, uncles, cousins, and spouses on my mom’s side.  Yes, over 40.  My mom is one of 6 and I have 16 cousins on that side.  Now, add in the fact that many of us are getting old enough to marry and have kids, this clan is growing quickly.  And I love them, I really do.  But goodness, is it starting to get trying.

This weekend, we had our annual fall party.  It started years and years ago as a Halloween party, but when we got too old for costumes that part fell away and it’s basically just been a fall party ever since.  We do a final cook-out of the year, no matter what the weather is, and have fun talking and eating and watching football.  (We’re big on football.)

But for some reason, this year is particularly exhausting for me.  And I think I nailed it down: politics.  I am HUGE on conflict avoidance.  I don’t want to be in the middle of an argument and if I even suspect that you might disagree with me, I will withhold all of my opinions to keep from fanning the flames.  And with this political climate right now, I’m doing a lot of debate dodging.  I practically plug my ears and trill “la-la-la-la.”

At this party, no one really came out and said which presidential candidate they were supporting, which is just fine with me.  I’d rather not know.  But my slightly-redneck family still found ways to bring it up.  Racial charged language, courtesy of one of my more controversial cousins (there’s one in every family).  Senate candidate ads on TV that interrupted our football game and therefore became a topic of conversation.

Even worse, family politics became a topic of conversation.  My mom and her sisters tend to be somewhat high-drama, in that her youngest sister and sister-in-law didn’t bring enough food today and relied on the older sisters to bail them out.  I have cousins that dislike some of my aunts and uncles and I get dragged into that.  I have cousins (who are siblings) who actually beat on each other because the older one thinks it’s funny.  As an introvert and a bleeding heart, I just can’t get in the middle of this.  While my curiosity usually makes me want to find out what’s going on, I really don’t need to hear all the complaints about this aunt or that cousin.  Because, of course, they smile to each others’ faces and pretend nothing is amiss.  I can’t pretend that well.

Oh, and you know what the worst part of a family gathering is?  The conversations.  It’s always the same questions.  “How’s school?”  “Are you dating anyone?” and “What’s new?”  And once you get through those questions, there is literally nothing anyone knows to ask you next.  I feel completely antisocial if I don’t at least make an attempt to start a conversation, but then I feel so scared to throw a question out there in case it offends someone or makes me seem nosy.  I mean, this is my family.  I don’t want them to go home thinking, “Wow, what’s wrong with Holly?  She was a real witch today.”  Which is kind of dumb because A) they’re my family and know that I’ve been like this forever and B) I really shouldn’t care what they think.  But I also know how my parents and brothers talk about my extended family at home, so I am worried about this.

And on the flip side, I’m disappointed when I get left out of  discussions or jokes.  I do tend to be an observer at times, listening in on other conversations.  I mean yeah, I feel like a creeper when I do it, but I’m not the only one who does.  Plenty of my other cousins do that too.  It actually feels like a high school cafeteria at times, with all of us breaking off to eat with our own cliques.  The “cool aunts/uncles”, the “millennials”, the “kids”, and the “rednecks.”  We’re all in our own little space, and yet we frequently don’t know how to talk to each other.  It kind of weirds me out.

When I got home, I was tense and exhausted.  Normally I’m not this tense from these, but it’s getting worse.  (I think part of the problem is that nearly all of my cousins my age are settling down and having kids whereas I’m a lone rose in a barren field.)  But this is seriously tiring me out and I’m worried about how the holidays are going to be this year.  Thankfully, the election will be over before I see my family again, so maybe that’ll help?  We’ll see.

In the meantime, introverts unite!  Separately, of course.

~Holly

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