Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul;
if you find it, there is a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
The traditional definition of introvert says that an introvert is socially inept, a troglodyte hiding in a dark musty cave all alone, afraid of interpersonal interactions. But a while ago I heard an interesting alternative definition of introverted and extroverted:
Introverted people can interact just fine with others people and in large groups, but such interactions tire them out.
Extroverted people are energized by their interactions with other people and in large groups.
I like this new definition because it resonates with me. I enjoy spending time with people and have lots of fun hanging out with groups of friends… but by the end, I feel tired. I need to go away by myself and do something alone. I read a book, take a bath, wash some dishes, fold laundry, take some pictures, or go for a walk or a bike ride. Particularly after a long day at work, my interpersonal interaction batteries are nearly drained and spending some time quietly by myself is crucial.
That, I think, is why last Friday and the weekend of the Fellowship Church women’s retreat didn’t go as well for me as it might have. Continue reading. The entire week leading up to the retreat was one of the most hectic, emotionally draining, and high-stress — both at home and at work — that I’ve endured. It reminded me of in March when Grandpa Sullivan died and then Colleen got married 10 days later. I felt wrung out and needed a long time by myself to process all the experiences and emotions. Instead, I took a half day on Friday and jumped into another situation I knew would be a strain for me: Spending the weekend with a group of women who I hardly know, many of whom didn’t know my name (one lady called me “honey” all weekend and eventually confessed she had forgotten my name, despite my wearing a name tag almost the entire time).
Even in the best of weeks, spending the weekend with a bunch of people I hardly know will always be difficult. I know some people would thrive in that environment and come out best friends with everybody at the end. That’s not me. Even so, I set my expectations low and decided to just see how it went.
It went better than my worst fears, but not as well as my wildest hopes. I got to know the names of the women in the group, at least, and chatted with many if not all of them at one point or another. The speaker, Jane Rubietta, was engaging, entertaining, and fairly insightful. She occasionally forgot a quote or Bible verse and had to borrow reading glasses from women in the audience, and those moments made her seem more human and less like a highly-paid motivational speaker. I very much enjoyed listening to her. She spoke about surviving and thriving in our hectic lives, and emphasized taking time to be with God and find time for him even in the “wilderness” of our lives. Being a mother speaking to mostly mothers, she frequently referred to her experiences raising her kids. Many of her vignettes centered around how she had no time, how busy she was as a mother and pastor’s wife, and what led her to set aside time for her relationship with God.
I’m sure that her discussion about making time for God in hectic, over-scheduled lives was wise and helpful, but it didn’t resonate much with me. Ian and I do not over schedule our time — if anything we under-schedule it — and I already spend time every morning reading my Bible and keeping a prayer journal. However, I’m sure that I’ll reach a point in my life when I have a couple of screaming kids and I need to be reminded of what Jane talked about. Hopefully at that point I’ll remember to go back to my copious notes and remind myself of what she said. By the way, all the comments about motherhood and having children were usually couched in terms of “surviving” having kids. I heard many, many comments about how tired women were all the time (Jane did an entire talk on tiredness and rest), and I came away wondering if I really do want to have kids. It sounds so miserable, based on what I heard, why would I want to do that? Hmmm.
Jane was the keynote speaker, but on Saturday after our her talk, we went to seminars. I went to two: One called Choosing Contentment and one called Fear Within and Without. The first one’s title basically says it all. I didn’t hear anything really revolutionary in that session, but it was a good reminder that we choose how we respond under stress. They talked about how every time we respond in a particular way, we’re building and reinforcing neural pathways so that particular response feels more natural next time. They also talked about how externals have little to do with our contentment, and used Paul’s attitude while he was imprisoned in Rome as an example. I found it helpful to have that reminder as Ian and I go into what will certainly be an extremely stressful couple of months.
The Fear Within and Without was interesting. The thing I really took away from it was that fear and faith are not opposites: Peter, when he walked on the water to Jesus, had faith — but he was also afraid, and when he let the external circumstances overwhelm his faith, then he foundered. The speaker pointed out that Jesus said, “You of little faith,” when He reached to rescue Peter, not “you of no faith.” I came away with an image of Jesus reaching out his hand to pull you up out of overwhelming situations, which is a very encouraging image to carry around with me.
After the second seminar I had about two hours until the next Jane talk. I could have made jewelry, seen eye makeup application, watched a food demonstration (I really wanted to do this; it was on pie crusts, which I do tolerably well but could do better), or go kayaking, canoeing, on a fast or slow boat ride, walk on a prayer trail, or do archery or shoot a rifle. I had spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do, but after the seminar, I got back to the cabin and nobody was there, so I threw my plan out the window and took an almost two-hour-long nap. People came in a few times and woke me up (there’s no sneaking around cabins that small), but I played possum and eventually they left me to my nap.
The evening involved another Jane talk, dinner, “tribal games” in which people made fools of themselves in the name of fun, and a “snack” of ice cream sundaes (!), and finally a choice of indoor volleyball, a bonfire (in either of two locations), or a showing of Joe and the Volcano (in keeping with the “Soul Survivor” theme). I watched the volleyball and retired to the cabin around 10:30. Lights out happened some time later, but I can’t say when because I forgot my watch.
Sunday morning involved one last Jane talk, breakfast, and packing up to leave. At the last minute one lady in our group decided to get baptized in the lake — it was a lovely warm day on Sunday — so we did that just before we hit the road. I also took most of the really great pictures on Sunday morning, thanks to the fog. We drove home and the talk was more interesting, I think because we all had something in common on the way back. The ladies were very kind and dropped me off at home rather than going right by my house and having Ian drive half an hour to pick me up from church. That got me home
The rest of the evening I spent pretty much by myself. Ian let me do some recharging of my people batteries before Monday, which was very kind of him. We went to bed and I slept very, very soundly, as I have every night this week. I attribute it entirely to the dramatic sleep deprivation that occurred Friday and Saturday nights.
I have thought some more about the retreat since we did it, asking myself if I would do it again. Most of the other women, when asked how it went, say something like “Great!” My response would certainly be much more heavily moderated. I certainly did get some food for thought from the seminars, I found Jane entertaining and an interesting speaker, the lake and area were nice enough, if not as remote as I expected, the women from our group were by and large friendly and pleasant; I wouldn’t say it was bad by any stretch. But would I do it again? I’m not really sure. Possibly not again for a long time, given the mixed experience I came away with, but then again perhaps yes if I had a closer friend to spend time with, or if the topic really sounded compelling. I hope this at least dispels the notion that I got nothing out of the retreat and that I look down on women who did enjoy themselves. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I guess my bottom line is that I came away feeling ambivalent about my experience at the retreat, which makes it difficult for me to say definitively whether I liked it or not.