I am feeling angry, frustrated, anxious, exhausted and powerless; it is my worst nightmare; I am stranded at a wedding; it is 3.45 am; I have no transportation; we have only one key for our condo between five of us and trying to get the others to leave is like herding cats. My niece Amy comes out to see how I am doing and suggests I should be more “Zen”. My response is unprintable. I can see my anger; I feel shame and embarrassment about the way I am behaving, but despite the beauty of my surroundings there seem to be nothing I am able to do.
In hindsight it was like the perfect storm; I could see it developing but thought I had it under control. You see I am an introvert. Now when I use that term I am not suggesting I am unable to function in a social situation, I am using it in the Jungian context. An introvert derives energy from within, an extrovert generates it from outside of themselves. All the extroverts at the wedding are getting more and more charged up by the activity around them. The introverts have either gone home, got drunk or are noticing a massive depletion of their energy reserves. My internal batteries are not just depleted but are in the red zone.
I knew the wedding would prove a challenge. We had arrived at six, the ceremony was after eight, the cocktails lasted until ten when dinner started. Dinner did not finish until after midnight. Then there were speeches, dancing, live music in the courtyard and finally disco. I had prepared myself for this by drinking moderately, taking occasional breaks on my own, engaging in conversation whenever possible and working towards a 3.00 a.m. finish. The one thing that normally saves me in this kind of situation did not happen. As an introvert if I can meet up with another introvert and engage in a meaningful dialogue, this will begin to recharge the batteries. It just did not happen – I think the other introverts had left. However, as the clock approached three, I was feeling smug. I was still intact and whole, my energy was disappearing but the end was in sight. Then disaster struck like a tsunami, the groom announced an extension to 4.00 a.m. I felt myself visibly sag. I tried soliciting my group for an earlier departure; individually they agreed in principle but then disappeared into the party. Somewhat frustrated I made an attempt to join them but the onslaught of light and sound in the ballroom felt like a painful sledgehammer and I retreated outside to stand lonely, furious and depleted, and powerless to change. Only as the bus departed at 4.20 a.m. did I begin to recover. The good news was that everyone else was so inebriated that they hadn’t noticed my hissyfit. Regardless it seemed a sad way to complete such a joyful event.
My commitment is to find meaning in life’s experiences but I placed this on hold until I returned to Vancouver then I searched for my copy of Marti Olsen Laney’s remarkable book The Introvert Advantage. This book had helped me understand the nature of my introversion and to learn certain skills to help me cope however I wondered what I had forgotten that had caused me to succumb so pathetically in the last hour of the wedding. However after reviewing the final chapter, I realized there are a number of simple ideas that I could have tried:
1) Quick calm your inner irritations. The moment my anxiety started I should have stopped trying to solve it externally i.e. by attempting the fruitless task of persuading others to leave; I should have taken a time out, focused on my breath and appealed for support from my higher self.
2) Taken a survival kit: my iPod, ear plugs, something to raise blood sugar could have helped.
3) Doing some recharging exercises. Olsen suggests some ways to compensate for energy decline: run cold water on the wrists, misting the face with water and lemons, bend at the waist and hang relaxing and breathing, nod the head and rest in the nod, sit in the dark for a while, let your mind wander and also reflect on previous fun times.
4) Make yourself laugh, (not easy when you feel so angry) however she suggests carrying your personal laugh kit. I guess I could load a Fawlty Towers CD on my iPod!
Her book contains many other ideas for helping introverts but these now comprise my personal grab bag. My next big wedding is at the Tapely Park stately home in Devon next April – I am ready; bring it on!