SoCS: meetings

Earlier this year, I joined the Madrigal Choir of Binghamton and was somewhat shocked but definitely honored to be offered a seat on their board.

I’ve never been on a board before, although I’ve been on lots of committees. Even though I don’t think being on committees is my strong suit, I did accept.

I haven’t had enough time to figure out yet if it was a mistake.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas to contribute. It’s more the incredible stress of trying to get them out.

I’m an introvert who finds talking to more than two people at a time really stressful. So a board meeting where I know almost no one is daunting. Add in being thrown into the midst of discussions that had been ongoing and for which I have limited background and the stress level goes up exponentially.

I am, however, determined and dogged and faithful, so I will try to do my best to contribute and be a good board member.

At least, for now.

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of my father’s death. After the months of having to deal with all the paperwork and estate settling, I had been trying to re-prioritize my commitments. I thought that I would be doing mostly solitary activities, other than poetry workshopping. Well, and rehearsing with Madrigal Choir.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Besides Madrigal Choir Board, I’ve been involved with the Creation Care Team at my church, which has now also morphed into involvement with the diocesan creation care task force. Dealing with anything on the diocesan level is fraught for me for more complex reasons than I could possibly tackle in SoC.

For sanity’s sake, I know I should scale back, but will I?

Probably not.

Well, not at the moment, anyway…
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “board/bored.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/08/26/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-27-2022/

upcoming reunion

Later this week, I will travel to Northampton, Massachusetts to attend my fortieth reunion at Smith College. We only found out on March first that our reunion would be on campus rather than virtual, so a lot of direct preparation was done relatively quickly and closer to the event than in prior iterations.

One unexpected task that fell to me was updating our class website. I was lucky that it was built on the WordPress platform, although it was still using the classic rather than the block editor. Fortunately, I have been blogging long enough that I had experience with the older editor, although it did take a fair amount of reaching into my memory banks to resurrect some of the particulars. It was also good that there were templates in place from our reunion five years ago so that I didn’t have to build from scratch.

I am fortunate to live close enough to drive, so I didn’t have to worry about plane reservations. I did decide to come into town a day early to see some friends who live in the area before reunion begins. Due to pandemic protocols, the campus is not open to the public as it usually is, so it made sense to see friends before and then stay on campus exclusively once reunion begins.

All alums and guests had to prove they are vaccinated and boosted to register to attend. Many of the activities and meals will be held outdoors with masks in use for indoor events other than while eating and drinking. Campus will be very busy because our reunion coincides with commencement weekend this year, so the seniors and their guests, along with students who are participating in or working for the festivities and staff members, will be thronging the buildings and grounds. (It could be worse. All reunions used to be held on commencement weekend. Now, only some are with the rest happening the following weekend.)

I’m working on final preparations for packing. I have to remember to bring an all-white outfit for the Ivy Day parade and ceremony, one of the very-long-standing traditions of the College. I’ll need to be prepared for the changeable weather of a New England spring. I also need to be prepared to deal with my new orthodontia, which is causing more than a little anxiety.

The most fraught thing is trying to decide what to bring for one of our class events. We are having an open mic-style reading of things from our student days. I’ve known for months that this was planned but I was in no mood to look back that far. Our class theme is “Writing Our Next Chapter” and I would have much preferred looking forward, but I recently decided that I should look for something to add to the event.

B helped me excavate some of my old memorabilia boxes. To my shock, I found some papers going back to elementary school, including a poetry journal that I had thought was lost long ago. There were some high school papers, too. I read an interview assignment that a friend and I had done in journalism class our senior year. The bulk of the papers were from college, though. Note books from some of my most important classes. Music I had written for theory and composition classes. Yellow books for midterm exams and blue books for finals. Final papers carefully typed on corrasable bond.

I had hoped to find some of my letters but their whereabouts are still a mystery. I did, though, find the one notebook that I thought might have something from my college years worth sharing – a journal that I was assigned to keep as part of an adult psychology course I took the fall semester of my senior year.

The journal was designed to be self-reflective, as well as responding to course readings and discussions, so I thought I might find something personally substantive rather than just academic to share. Something that represented who I was at twenty-one. Something that would be authentic but not totally mortifying in hindsight.

And I did.

Before I go on, I should explain what that semester was like for me. I was taking adult psychology and a course on women and philosophy, an early foray into what eventually evolved into the women and gender studies department. I chose these courses in hopes of learning things that would be helpful to me in my life after graduation. I was also taking a seminar in music composition and preparing for my senior recital, a full-length organ program on stage at John M. Greene Hall. B and I were engaged and our wedding was already planned at Smith a few weeks after my commencement. I was very much in a preparatory mode for my future “adult” life.

And then, things happened.

There were two unexpected deaths in October. The first was a classmate who was killed in a plane accident over October break. The second was B’s grandfather, his last remaining grandparent. Then, at Thanksgiving in late November, B had a bad car accident, as in, his car wound up on its roof in an icy, but thankfully shallow, river. He wasn’t injured but we were both traumatized at how close he came to disaster.

So, here I am, forty-and-a-half years later reading this journal…

I was surprised by how astute I was in my analysis, by how much of what I consider to be my core identity now was already there. The high school interview I found in the memorabilia box described me as “serious”; my college friends would most likely have used that word, too. The advantage I have looking back now is that I can recognize the role of my level of introversion, my need to ponder extensively before I speak, my discomfort at speaking in groups, my penchant for wanting to understand and integrate everything, what I now recognize as the gifts of being an INFJ and an HSP but what I thought of then as traits I could change if I just tried hard and long enough.

I had forgotten how painfully aware I was of these things about myself and how I congratulated myself when I managed to cover them in social situations. Over the ensuing decades, I would get more practiced at this but my core has remained the same. Just in the last few years, when introversion has been more in public view with books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I’ve come to understand that there isn’t any shame in being who I am. As I’ve weathered the final years of my parents’ lives and the pandemic, it’s become more evident to me that I need to take my inherent nature into account as I plan my “next chapters”. While there will always be some situations in which I need to make myself heard in a large group discussion or react quickly to an event, I will try to tailor most of my activities to play to my strengths and not waste energy on pretending to be someone who is outgoing and quick on my feet.

I am comforted by knowing that I had the same core at twenty-one that I have at sixty-one and that I understood more about myself at that age than I expected. I suppose that some people might be perturbed to discover such resonance with their younger selves, as though it meant that they hadn’t learned anything or grown over the decades. For me, though, I recognize that I have grown and changed and learned from my experience, all while staying true to my authentic core as a person.

I look at this journal now with what I hope are wiser eyes than the somewhat bleary ones of a college senior scrawling long-hand in a notebook, getting ready to graduate, marry, move to a new state, and deal with any number of unexpected things.

I hope I’m wise enough now to choose a passage to share at reunion that gives a sense of who I was then and still am today.

How Does JC’s Mind Work? #2

For months/years, I have threatened/promised to write about how I got to be who I am today and what shaped me along the way. This sporadic series will try to unpack my personal history and influences and, I hope, set people to thinking about their own.

When I posted the first installment of this series and used the word sporadic in the intro, I didn’t think it would be almost a year before I posted the second installment, but here we are. Of course, I didn’t know last February that 2021 was destined to see my father’s final decline and death, which, along with the necessary estate work, occupied so much of my time and mind last year.

What I’ve decided to write about today is how my natural introversion impacts how my mind works.

Any personality assessment I have ever done shows the largest deviation from the centerpoint on the scale toward introversion versus extraversion. I’m not just a little bit introverted. I’m very introverted.

I find crowds overwhelming. When being in groups, the smaller the better. I much prefer an in-depth conversation with one person to small talk with ten. I am also content to be by myself for long stretches. I can function in larger groups when I have to, but it is very tiring and I’m not able to participate in discussion very well.

This is partially a function of not being very good at inserting myself into ongoing discussion and partially another introvert trait, which is that I need time to think through issues before I can formulate opinions and put them into words. If there is a discussion on a topic that I know well, I can participate almost as well as the extraverts in the group, but, if the topic is new, I usually can’t make my brain work fast enough to participate before the discussion has moved on to something else. This is especially difficult for me when workshopping poems that I haven’t studied in advance. I always feel that I am not as helpful as I might be to the other poets in the group.

Introverts often have a preference for writing over speaking. I’ve always loved to write. I find it helpful in clarifying my thoughts. I think part of the reason I’ve been able to sustain this blog is that writing posts organizes my thoughts in a calming way after I have been mulling something. That I can then share those thoughts with others is not as much the primary goal as a bonus.

And introverts are definitely “mulling” types. Decision-making is very deliberative and often involves research, time, and depth of thought. I am not a snap-judgement type and like to take time in forming opinions and action plans. I know this is frustrating for others who are quicker to come to positions and decisions. I can seldom see things in a this-or-that way; everything is a spectrum for me and it takes time to think through where on the spectrum I will land – and more time to adequately explain it to someone else.

One of the things I have learned recently is that introverts’ brains work differently than extraverts. I find this knowledge comforting. There has been pressure on introverts to become extraverts, as though introversion was a choice rather than an inherent part of one’s personality. Knowing that my brain works in the distinctive pattern of introverts strengthens my acceptance of myself as I am.

I am also part of a particular subset of introvert. In Myers-Briggs-speak, I’m an INFJ, which is considered the rarest personality type, so my brain has a few extra quirks going on, but that is a post for another day.

With luck, it won’t take me a year to get to it.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/18/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-18th-2022/

JC’s Confessions #14

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

After all the safer-at-home pandemic protocols, I’m afraid that it will be difficult for me to resume going back out to church, meetings, events, etc.

The truth is that I am both introverted and shy. It takes a lot of energy for me to be in a group setting and even more for me to actively participate. I much prefer one-on-one interaction, the exception being among family.

I wrote yesterday about the explosion of Zoom and other virtual meetings. I’m finding that these are also very draining and even more difficult to navigate than in-person meetings, because it is harder to gauge how/when to break into the conversation when we are each in our own little box.

I wonder if some of the group activities I used to do will even exist after a vaccine makes social interaction relatively safe again. While I had been mourning my lack of a chorus with whom to sing, now no one has a chorus available and may not for a long time, given that singing in a group is an especially dangerous virus-spreader. The spirituality group that I have facilitated for years at church is almost entirely people in high-risk groups and we don’t have the option to go virtual due to technical limitations.

Some organizations, like the Binghamton Poetry Project, will eventually have to decide if they go back to in-person meetings or stay in Zoom, which allows people who don’t have transportation or who live outside the area to participate.

It’s possible that there won’t be many groups expecting my physical presence when we get to the post-pandemic world, but there will no doubt be some. Will I be able to muster the energy to venture back out on a regular basis or will I just stay home?

I don’t know.

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