As we head into Christmas…

This isn’t my time of year, various posts in my archives all around this time show a common theme. While I generally don’t get excited or drunk on the Christmas spirit, that doesn’t mean I Scrooge on others that do. My approach is to establish clear boundaries with people so they know that I don’t share in their enthusiasm and that, if I were to be forced to get involved, the consequences aren’t pretty. For the most part, everyone in the family knows this and isn’t too bent out of shape anymore (there are still moments). They know I get “that look” at a certain point and it’s a signal to just leave me alone for a while. Counterproductive to a non-introvert, almost frustratingly so, but a necessary moment of time for me.

 

thislook

This is sort of how I look when I get “that look”. ¬†Best to steer clear.

Although I’m Scrooge to most outside observers, I do value the fact that it’s a time set aside every year to be around family that you normally wouldn’t see otherwise. I have my issues with family, we all do, and I do my best to accommodate as best as possible so as not to make my Scrooginess contagious. I focus on Christmas as a time my daughter can enjoy and we have never made it about gifts. Our family uses a modified version of Santa, where my wife and I get the bulk of gifts to help him out and he delivers one special gift to her. We have, the three of us, made Christmas about volunteering at the local department store to wrap gifts for families in need (department store donates gift cards, we wrap what they pick out). As this is the first year we’ve been involved with the local volunteer fire company, we rode around with them to hand out candy canes to the children in the neighborhoods Santa on the fire engine visited. We’ve also made it a family affair to one weekend go nuts with baking cookies that we hand out to family, friends, neighbors, etc. I put my foot down that the Snickerdoodles were NOT to be shared, they’re way too good a batch this year ūüôā

 

leglamp

May Santa bless you with many sexy leg lamps to put in the front window, LOL

It’s going to be a rough weekend coming up. Christmas Eve (Saturday) dinner with my family, brother included. Christmas morning (Sunday) just the three of us, then breakfast with my wifes and my parents. Then Christmas Day dinner at my wifes families house, usually chaotic and stressful, but strangely enjoyable. I have consistently taken the day before Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas Day off so that I can prepare (before) and recover (after) that has typically worked quite well. If I don’t get time at the house to myself for at least a few hours, I just head out somewhere that I can. I’m anticipating this year to be a little rough with my parents and brother as they’ve picked up on the distance I’ve created. I can only hope that they respect that Christmas Eve isn’t the appropriate moment to have “that” conversation and it’s left until after the New Year.

 

It’s my wish that everyone who reads this has a wonderful Christmas holiday (or quiet weekend if you don’t celebrate) and that we all take a few moments to review the year behind us and hope for the best for the coming year. I’m heading into the final weeks of 2016 with an optimism that 2017 is going to be a good year and my life will continue improving as I increase the understanding of myself and learn about our political, financial, and governmental systems.

See you on the other side of Christmas (next Monday basically).

Music assistance for my brain

If you’ve been following me for a while and reading the Three Things Thursday posts (thanks to Emily at Full-Grown Nerd for that), you’ll have noticed the full album recommendations at the bottom. Whether you actually listen to them or not is not important, it’s the reason I’m doing in the first place¬†that is important. In my acceptance with introversion, I’ve discovered that music is not nearly as much of a distraction as I had one thought, and in fact, helps me focus and concentrate on processing thoughts and feelings almost as much as writing does.

Since finding Spotify, which I now pay for (small indulgences), I’ve been finding all kinds of new music that I never knew existed thanks to watered down commercial radio. Never having been one to be offended by explicit content, I find that the music that contains it has an undertone of emotion you don’t get with edited or censored content. The service is truly something remarkable in how it uses the music you like, save, and add to playlists to then suggest similar music from various artists around the world. Just today, I found the band Hyper through their Discovery function on the desktop application. It isn’t my typical angry new metal rock that I typically listen to, but it has a very unique type of cadence to it that is mesmerizing. A running joke a few of my readers and I have is that anything we like is actually Russian propaganda disguised in normal things that shifts our mindsets subliminally. I’m onto it and just like the band, LOL

This is the first time I’ve written about how music plays a huge part of my life, but I keep coming back to it and attempt to put it into words that make sense and adequately express how it makes me feel. With my fairly wide tolerance for most music styles and genres, Spotify get confused sometimes so I’ve made playlists that are focused on one type of music and then use the “recommendations” at the bottom of the list to expand to new discoveries. When I see a lot of repeats after refreshing the list a few times, I move onto a different list and come back a few weeks later. It’s crazy how much music is actually out there and each time a song is played, the artist gets a little cut.

Perhaps the best feature that I’ve used extensively is the ability to play music offline without the requirement to have an Internet connection active. I’ve loaded up my 32GB micro SD on my mobile device with lots of offline music that I rotate on a monthly basis after adding my favorite songs to the appropriate play list. All this is done right through the app and its the same experience on the desktop, mobile, tablet, or on the website directly. They’ve done a fantastic job at making the service as seamless and spot on (pun intended) for the user.

As this wasn’t an attempt to sell you on the use of Spotify, it has become that unfortunately. I don’t get paid for referrals, I don’t even have a referral link to share. It’s up to you if you want to spend the $10/month for the service, but when Pandora is only $5/month, its hard to justify if you’re only looking at the cost. Pandora and Spotify are two completely different services. Spotify is like a jukebox you have all the control with and access to tens of millions of songs, Pandora has the same library but you’re at the mercy of their “playlist” and have only partial control with the thumbs up/thumbs down feature.

My brain is happier with me for providing it distraction free background music, sort of like my brains theme song for when it does its thing to keep me sane. I even picked up a set of premium noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones recently that set me back a bit more than I was comfortable spending, but I saved more than I spent, so it justified the purchase. They’re sitting under the tree at home awaiting me to open them on Christmas as a gift from my wife to me. It’s easier for us to do that, really, we both just “get” what we need when we need it.

How does music fit into your routine? If it doesn’t, what does?

Holiday season relief for an introvert

It’s no secret, yup, I’m an introvert. I prefer long stretches of time where it appears to an uninformed person that I may in fact be catatonic and unresponsive to external stimuli. I’ve never drooled on myself and why should I, I’m actually rather quite busy inside my own head. I’m a calm lake, windless night, snowfall silence on the outside. I’m Grand Central Station at rush hour, a mosh pit at an Avenged Sevenfold concert, an erupting volcano on the inside. For someone who isn’t an introvert, it is hard to understand just how busy it is inside our heads and how a common affliction like Misophonia can rattle our thought process like a California earthquake (noise cancelling headphones for the win!). This will be my 40th holiday season on this great planet, 22 of which have been spent as a bonified “adult” in the eyes of the law. I can’t say with honesty that all 22 years I would have described myself as an adult, but I digress. I’m going to share some of my tried and tested methods of relief, ranked in order of effectiveness (at least for me).

Solitude

This is often hard to find during the holiday season as its typically a time when you see family that you normally would never want to see under normal circumstances. I love my family, but taken in all at once, in the same house, with kids added into the mix; its pure torture and a Hoover Dam spill way in terms of an energy drain. Anyway, solitude is the most effective, yet most time-consuming method for me to get back to a comatose exterior and a New York interior. While its first on my list, during the month of December it’s shocking to everyone that you’d rather spend time alone over spending time with that Aunt that makes that one dish you mentioned as “good” 10 years ago and she continues to make because she thinks it your favorite….. A man can only have so many Spinach Parmesan squares before it’s “No sir, I don’t like it.”

Passenger Staring

This is by far the easiest thing to find especially when family is 1-2 hours away from your home. My wife already knows that either I drive TO our destination or FROM our destination, but not both, so she decides upon leaving which it will be. As a passenger, I can slip into a self-imposed hypnotic trance where it feels like I’m looking outside windows that really are my own eyes. The trance doesn’t need to last long to be highly effective, but can be troubling to someone witnessing it as it sometimes appears I don’t blink (but I do.) I’ll get the tap on the leg paired with “Are you okay?” even though I’ve been like this for many years. Making sure I’m alive and dashing the hopes of an insurance payout, LOL. Depending on the time of day, this can be a highly effective recharge.

Toilet Time

I struggled with a title for this section, cut me some slack. Finding a bathroom, whether you have a requirement or not, is always a good way to get in a quick reset. In a house with only one bathroom, this is obviously harder as it almost certainly means you will be interrupted. However, in a house with more than one bathroom, the chances you can get 10-15 minutes of decompression is much more likely. While this isn’t ideal, and similar to plugging in your phone for 30 minutes, it can give you an hour or two more of energy to deal with the holiday party or family get together. The success or failure of this method will be determined by how practiced you are at micro-meditation.

Alcohol

My least favorite and often least effective, it does have an almost guaranteed benefit of making time go faster when it really hasn’t. A mildly intoxicated brain isn’t as sharp or aware of its fatigue (energy drain) and of course it’s called “liquid courage” for a reason. I’m not a drinker, so when I do partake in some bourbon or beer, I make sure to carefully monitor my intake in relation to absorbing foods to ensure that I don’t go too far down the road to drunk. This might not work for others, but for me, it does help when there are a lot of people and things going on around me that demand my observation and sometimes, my interactions. I had a few at my parents house over Thanksgiving before dinner, I’ll most likely have a few at my parents house for Christmas Eve dinner, and I’ll definitely have a few at the family get together planned for after New Years. Other than these few times in the year, I rarely have more than one drink per month, if any.

Last Resort

Throw an angry tantrum and demand that it’s time to go. While this works in 100% of the cases, the residual effects can linger for hours and even days afterward. This method is to be used as a last resort, hence the title, so use at your own risk. There is always the tried and true “I’m not going” demand that, if accepted, could potentially leave you at home with an empty house for several hours, see Solitude.

What works for you to help keep your sanity during the holiday season?

What #Introverts Want You to Know about the Typing Indicator

Yesterday I was trading tweets, DMs, and Facebook messages with my friend and fellow INFJ @TaraSkurtu. She had expressed that the Facebook typing indicator (not to be confused with the Myers-Briggs…

Source: What #Introverts Want You to Know about the Typing Indicator

I’ve been following @INFJoe for a while and have enjoyed seeing his cartoons that frame introverts perfectly in real life situations. ¬†This one resonated with me in that I’ve kept my distance with some apps that show when the other person is typing a response. ¬†There are times when I get a message, read it, start to respond then delete it without sending anything. ¬†In a few cases, I’ve received a follow-up message asking why I didn’t respond when it showed I had indeed started to respond. ¬†That indicator had forced me to reply when I hadn’t wanted to and put me on the spot. ¬†It wasn’t comfortable, but my close acquaintances understand for the most part.

Living in an extroverted world is difficult sometimes.

A year later and I’m a happy introvert

I’m working from home today and I’m already on my fourth cup of coffee. ¬†My Keurig isn’t the newest and the coffee has recently not been as hot as it should be, so I tend to drink it down rather fast. ¬†I have my personal laptop playing Spotify in the background. ¬†It’s playing the new Flaw album that came out only a few weeks or so ago and I’m amazed that they’ve kept the sound they had from 2001, yet making the new music relevant and fresh. ¬†I’m in my basement office despite the house being entirely empty; daughter is at school and wife is at work. ¬†Only the dog and cat are here to keep me company, but neither of them like the basement if I’m honest. ¬†Like they know it’s a hole in the ground with a heavy two-story house sitting on top of it.

A basement is where you put the things that you don’t want normal visitors to see in your home. ¬†The place where things are taken to be forgotten or stored for the next time it is appropriate for them to be taken back out. ¬†The place where you can hide from the normal stresses and problems of the world if only for a little while until it is time to ascend up the steps. ¬†I often see the basement as a pretty damn good metaphor for how my life is lived and conducted. ¬†The basement is the place I go to remove myself from normal life and descend into a world of my own making, where my decisions are my own and thusly, I own the decisions I make. ¬†Normal problems of life don’t follow me down here and in most circumstances, they don’t return until I’m ready to face them again. ¬†In the past, I’ve spent hours and days in a figurative basement I created in my own mind shutting out everything except the most critical of things.

Fifth coffee down.

It is only now, while I’m sitting in a literal basement, that I finally see the potential for damage that my own descent into introvert holes can create. ¬†There are people in my life that need me to be present in both physical and mental capacities, people who depend on the idea that I’m engaged as much as they are in the circle of life we’ve created together. ¬†This was something that I did not truly understand until I wasn’t a member of the circle we created, where I had to be invited and even ask if it was okay to enter again. ¬†A personal journey into my own life, as I now understand, required that jolt to the system that not being at home last year forced me to take. ¬†At first I was a reluctant passenger, not wanting to admit that I was the cause, not wanting to admit that I had a problem. ¬†In reality, I did have a problem, I was the cause, I was to blame.

After a few weeks, I knew that something had to give. ¬†I had to learn that in order to get what I needed to stay out of the introvert hole, I needed to force myself through situations where I was uncomfortable. ¬†Force is such a strong word. ¬†Perhaps instead of force, I needed to choose to be in situations where I was uncomfortable in order to get into situations where I could retreat into solitude. ¬†The people around me, the closest ones, needed to understand from me why this was a necessity. ¬†That is exactly what I did, finding all sorts of online blogs that I could share with my wife to help her understand my introverted nature from her extroverted point of view. ¬†We were, from the beginning, like oil and water, but I know now that is okay. ¬†It’s okay to not be the same and see the world differently because that is what makes us unique and complimentary to each other. ¬†We’re suited for different situations that, in turn, makes us together prepared for every situation that one or the other shares taking the lead on.

I’m okay with what has amounted to a continuous journey of learning. ¬†Nothing is absolute and nothing is ever a problem that can’t be overcome. ¬†The amazing thing about all of this is that not only had my wife given me another chance last year, but, together we have worked to get to a mutual level of understanding we can both be happy about. ¬†We have started to, through actually talking (go figure), recognize the signs in each other when support is needed vs. solitude; taking charge vs. just observing; talking vs. listening. ¬†We are by far not the perfect couple. ¬†I’m scared of the perfect couple, it’s not natural. ¬†Perfect couples, to me, are like sleeping volcanoes that will at some point blow up and decimate everything and everyone around them. ¬†My sister-in-law is the Queen of bottling things up, creating pressure, and then to explode suddenly over something that essentially is trivial at best.

Sixth coffee down.

After a year of discovering with my wife at my side helping, I’m now in a good place where I feel that problems are recognized and talked about before they end up causing a larger problems. ¬†We both talk a lot more now than we ever have in the past and it took us almost losing our marriage to understand why this is so important. ¬†In a time where people get married and divorced at ever-increasing frequency, I’m happy with the fact that we decided together to work through our differences and adapted to our marriage at 16 years and stopped treating it like we were at 1, 5, or 10 years. ¬†Marriages fail, in my opinion, because one or both participants failed to adapt to the change that marriage demands. ¬†People get older, wiser in some instances, and therefore, it is logical to assume that a marriage needs to change in order to accommodate and stay strong.

I will always be an introvert. ¬†My wife will always be an extrovert. ¬†We understand that somewhat now. ¬†We are cognizant of the fact we’re different people who need different things; sometimes not at the same time. ¬†She gives me the time I need when I need it to regroup, collect, and process my thoughts. ¬†I give her the time she needs when she needs it to connect and feel included to our lives. ¬†We decided together to put the effort into our relationship despite the bumps and road blocks that life inevitably throws our way. ¬†It wasn’t an easy lesson for me to learn personally as I have lived my life for more than 35 years clinging to a mindset that avoided life. ¬†Enlightenment, to me, is understanding how you want things to be around you, but knowing that you’re not in control of anything other than your own actions. ¬†The acceptance of that fact is what makes us choose to do things that aren’t what we want to do, but rather what we need to do in order to live.