Thursday, January 2, 2014

in quietude

I used to say that I didn't understand shyness, or what it meant to be shy. I used to think that there were shy people and not shy people and that as a 'not shy' person I couldn't really understand what it is is to live with a body and spirit that doesn't want to interact with other bodies and spirits. As a youth I minimized it, thought 'shy' people would get over it if they just tried, thought they just needed more confidence. 

I also, with a great lack of self-awareness, retreated frequently into the quiet of books and the nooks of trees and hidden spaces. I retreated into written words - words I could edit and manage and line up in tidy rows before people jumped in with their interpretations and messed with my words. I performed in life as 'gregarious me' - singing, acting, smiling and laughing, throwing a quick barb, joining in, and thinking that was the preferred me the world wanted, no matter how drained it left me. Sometimes I felt feel that there are two Shannon's fighting it out, dancing in circles as to who is the 'real me.' I forget, sometimes, that there is no 'real me' there is only who I am each moment. That I can choose. I can be both gregarious and quiet, though not at the same time, and neither one for overly long. 

We talk a lot now about introverts and extroverts. It's a very trendy subject about a (not that) old concept. Blog posts, including my own, on the subject are plentiful. But introversion and extroversion are not measurements of shyness - shyness is, I believe, something else, something more anxiety based. Perhaps shyness is an avoidance and introversion is a retreat. For me, the perfect introvert day is the house to myself; electronic umbilicus disconnected;  tea, chocolate and a book in hand. It is not about not wanting to be with others; it is about wanting to take care of myself. 

I am not shy in the traditional sense. But, like Harry in the video below, I live in a shell. It comes and goes. It gets thicker and thinner and sometimes I break out of it. But often, when things are not well with my soul, I live in a shell. It's January 2nd and all around me people are making broad proclamations to be more active, more adventurous, more more more. It all sounds so draining. What calls to me, for this new year, is somewhat less. Less striving and more resting. Less worry and more peace. Less doing and more enjoying. Less irritation and more contentment. And in the end, perhaps, a gentle dissolution of that shell. 

Set the physical brilliance of Harry Shum Jr. against the philosophical tenderness of Ze Frank and what you get is a beautiful, generous understanding of what it is to be shy.

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