The real story about an extrovert drowning in a sea of introverts

OK, so this is the real story about my trip to Gladstone’s Library…

Twelve days was too long. A short course or Gladfest would have been better for me.

Twelve days of sleeping in a library felt like I’d inadvertently slipped into a silent retreat with total strangers who didn’t want to be naughty.

Twelve days of trying to strike up conversations with people who really just wanted to read was exhausting.extrovert introvert

Twelve days of thinking you’ve found a like-mind only to find they are only there for the day or are B&B and off exploring all day and only going to appear again next breakfast is disheartening.

Twelve days of not having your own books and journals of quotes around you is maddening.

Twelve days of no music (except for the radio in my room – Please Respect Your Neighbours when choosing Volume) made me wish I’d taken headphones for my laptop.

Twelve days of whispering or talking in hushed tones (in the lounge, for heaven’s sake!) was a strain on my vocal chords.

Twelve days of no laughter was depressing.

Twelve days of rubbish church on Sundays was agonising.

Twelve days of not being able to talk about my project or show people pretty pictures was really hard.

Twelve days of not being able to entertain was like being bound and gagged.Extrovert Rooster

Twelve days was too long. Just too long.

Remind me of this next time, will you?

In which Ruth falls silent but two weeks too soon

silenceThe virus came upon me. The no-voice virus came upon me hard. For ten days now I have had no voice. Actually that is not strictly true – the voice has varied from Minnie Mouse on helium to Eartha Kitt (you have to be of a certain age to get these) after a pack of Gitanes to nothing but a squeak or a dry husk. Every morning I have woken and tried it out hopefully to the cats. “Good morning Lucy Pussy!” I scratch. “How’s my lovely Rita Kitten?” I mouth. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Of course there is a certain irony here. Over a year ago I had suffered several asthma attacks all winter long for which I was referred for a CT scan which showed up something on my lungs. Scarring, fibrosis, I was told. This meant a referral to the Respiratory Clinic. Now if you are a reader in the UK you will know that referrals on the NHS should happen within 12 weeks. Ha! I laugh at the thought of it. 11 months later I got my appointment with Forth Valley hospital and it was just a few days before the Lost Voice. So as I sat in the Consultant’s office I was able to say that I’ve hardly had any asthma, any colds or coughs, no lung or breathing problems at all, thank you very much. “Jolly good,” said he. “Some COPD, a bit of Fibrosis, some thick bronchi-whatnots so a wee bit of physio and we’ll keep an eye on you every year, dear.” And I was shown the door.

That was merely a week before the voice went. the lungs wearied, my temperature went up, my asthma-cough came back to haunt me at night. Oh pooh. Bloody typical. And the double irony is that I’m due to go on a silent retreat next week! That will be when my voice returns, I bet you!

This enforced silence has made me think, of course. Made me think about how noisy I am. How often I take for granted that I can pick up the phone for a blether, to ask a question, to have a moan. So that has been a salutary lesson for me and I’ve felt oh so lonely at times. What would I have done without Facebook, Twitter, Messaging, texting etc? Drama queen, eh? I wish I could say that I have used this enforced silence for good, of course. For some meditation or holy listening and mindfulness. (The subject of next week’s retreat, ironically.) But no, I have worked on using the time to get lots of computer and office things done. Can you hear my introvert friends scream now, can you?  But let me tell you it was not easy being an extrovert trapped in an introvert’s body. Oh no!

Of course I have much for which to be thankful. My little team who have rallied around and stepped in to say liturgies, preach my sermon, make phone calls on my behalf. Bless them. And yes it is very good for a control freak such as I to have it all taken away from me from time to time. But you know, the timing could have been better, eh?



Did I mention that I went to see the Avengers last week with Son #2? I think he misled me. There was no sign of Steed or Purdie, no high kicks, no wonderful hairdos. Actually there were a few high kicks from a bunch of super-heros in 3D which involved involuntary ducking from the older members of the audience. I was a bit disappointed with the 3D. It was a bit forced, I felt, and I actually felt that I would have enjoyed it better without it. Son #2 was terribly excited with it all while I thought it was okay. He’s owe me one now. I need to find a real slushy or religious movie to take him to.

What else did I get up to last week? Well there was the visit from the local S1 class for a romp round church looking for Christian symbols. I usually enjoy these sessions muchly but this one was a bit tricky. There was a lot of hostility and the teacher said that many of them hadn’t wanted to come because they were ‘scared’ of churches. Gosh. What’s that all about? One delightful child smashed a priest’s host (unconsecrated) into smithereens for a laugh. I was surprised at how angry I felt at that. I do know that I could never be a teacher, that’s for sure.

I finished the second in the Hunger Games trilogy: Catching Fire. Not quite as exciting as the first one, but good all the same and I just had to download the third to my Kindle straight away. I’m looking forward to discussing it at the book group next week. I’ve also been reading Take This Bread by Sara Miles… finally. This is one of those books which has been lying around for ages and I’d never got around to reading it. But when friends start to rave about her follow up then you just need to get down to it. Of course it is brilliant and is covered in pencil marks and I’ve put quite a few quotes into my Journal. It shall go with me on retreat, along with Jesus Freak.

The rest of the week seems to have been taken up with sickness and grieving – post funeral visits and hospital visits. These are some of the best bits of my job. Listening to stories and just being there.

And now we have arrived at departure day for the Clergy Silent Retreat. *sigh*  I know, I know, why do I do it? Why do I keep going on silent retreats when I know I am going to struggle so much? Well the thing is, that I do need silence from time to time. Even extroverts can cope with some silence. But that’s just it. Some silence. I need a partial silent retreat really so that I can blether too.  I often plan what form that would take but never get around to doing it. So I hover around outside having a fag and trying to catch people’s eyes just to make a connection. It was fine when a certain clergy friend used to go with me and we could scamper off in the afternoons to Melrose or some other such delightful Borders town for a look round the shops and a blether.

I shall be taking my phone and netbook and may blog, tweet or facebook. At least I can talk to someone that way. But I seem to remember that the wi-fi is not very good nor is the phone signal. Pray for me, dear friends. Pray for me and I shall for you.



The problem with extroverts

I love people. I really do. I have learned over the years that I also get my energy from being with people. I like listening to their stories and I love the banter of conversation.

(I was thinking today that maybe that is why I find silent retreats so difficult. There you are with a bunch of people and you can’t speak to one another. My idea of hell. People are there to learn from and be with.)

So this being off sick thing is really starting to get to me and we are only 2 1/2 weeks in with 4 to go.  The first week I was feeling pretty awful so lying around was okay. The second week was like being on holiday: reading books and catching up on TV series and movies. This week I had an outing to 2 shops and had to lie down for a day after. But I am really feeling okay. So I can spend my mornings doing pew sheets and cutting out angels for the crib service and the afternoons doing a little light reading or contemplating my tax return.

However… all I really want is to talk to people. That’s what I’m really missing. I’m sure clergy friends see my phone number and run for the hills. My little flock who visit look alarmed when I double lock the door behind them and offer them tea and cake and scintillating conversation which never draws breath.  And I’m sure poor Fr K thought he was just getting away with a quick ‘how are you’ phone call this morning only to find me still wittering on an hour later and holding up his busy day.

So there we have it. Spare a thought for the sick extrovert. It really is hell for them not the paradise you might expect.