The martini arrives as I sit at the bar next to random people I’m not looking at. It’s been some time since I’ve written or posted something new. A few sips into what seems like a quart of gin in a glass, I start to relax. And then I feel I’ve got to hurry, as though I am glancing over my shoulder, afraid something will come along to take this all out of balance. I feel a bit queasy too.
A wife and a man in their sixties on my left. Were they there when I got here or did they just join? The man says to me, “Oh, party foul using a laptop at the bar!” I’m not sure what I say to him, something non-committal. And he says, “Oh that’s all right, ha ha.”
Locked in conversation with them: they tell the story of their children and his father who knew a famous movie star. At some point he’s holding his wife’s hand in his and says he still enjoys her company though they’ve been married 40 years. I enjoy their company yet also need something different and eventually leave. This may have been the thing I’d feared that would stop my writing…
In the moments after those first martini sips, but before the man beside me draws me into conversation, I’m outside the prison bars formed by my frontal lobe. Meaning I’m not doing my typical overthinking. In those first moments I’m unsure how long my body can tolerate having my mind in such a different space (it was just a cocktail, what’s the big deal?) I feel close to a place where I don’t overthink, just experience. Queasy for a moment, floating on the sense that there’s a couple farther down the way that may have a desire to connect as evidenced by their frank glances. A guy behind the kitchen counter meets my eye. This feels uncommon for me, noticing others’ glances. I’m so fucked up. And tragically I don’t mean at this moment — I mean the rest of the time. Because I fail to engage others as calmly and directly as I would like.
A personal goal is figuring out how to connect better. Is this the classic “I wish I were an extrovert?” Yes, it is. So what can I do? Here’s my approach: slow down and stop reacting. As an introvert I’m more reactive to others? Instead of the extrovert’s calm appraisal of what someone else says, the casual command of a situation, I have this snippy and snappy tendency to respond reflexively to others. No chance to take control: instead of taking control of my situation, I surrender to my snippy frontal lobe behavioral patterns. So the fix seems pretty simple; I just have to slow down.
If I slow my instantaneous reactions to others there’s the possibility a more real interaction can occur. Imagine that. An introvert caught behind the prison bars of his frontal lobe needs to stop offering frontal lobe reactions to everything anyone says or does, everything he sees. I have to slow down enough to allow connection instead of reaction.