By Elisa Preston
As an introvert, showing up in relationships can be a struggle. Elisa gets it!
I’m so excited to have my hope*writer friend, Elisa Preston on the blog to launch our series, “I’d Rather Stay Home with My Dog.” Kick your feet up and enjoy her real and refreshing perspective!
The sun spilled onto the couch from the bay window in the most perfect way. It said, “Come, lay, rest.” So I did. My dog lay at my feet, snuggled right up to my toes. Perfection.
For about two seconds. Until my daughter came and sat on my belly.
“Mama! Let’s play a game.”
My dog jumped off the couch, walked to her favorite spot in front of the television, and plopped down. She looked at me with nostalgic eyes.
Mom, remember when you used to recover from your 9-5 all Saturday and Sunday? We’d just lay around, reading and watching TV? Go for a couple walks? No other human contact. Remember, Mom?
I remember, Bama. I remember.
Before we lived with a couple of extroverts who just want to talk all the time.
As I write this morning, my daughter is “talking” to her own pretend dog by howling. She’s cutting food for a Very Hungry Caterpillar project but she takes after her dad: must make noise at all times.
My challenge once my husband came back from flight school (that’s when I got my dog and we enjoyed quiet, lazy weekends) and then once I became a stay-at-home mom with an extroverted child, was to figure out how to love them well and to get the space and quiet I need.
I want to be myself, the one who thrives on quiet and is peaceful when it’s peaceful, and I want to show up for my family one hundred percent, all day every day.
Let me tell you: this took real, hard work.
Work that included many tears, a few arguments, so many exasperated sighs, some therapy, and the most important ingredient: the push-through.
I need time away from being needed, from being obligated to engage.
There is no one introvert who looks exactly like another introvert, so I don’t mean to generalize. I love time with my friends, I love playing games with my family, and I love throwing big birthday parties (because if I throw them I can be busy behind the scenes!).
I also know myself well enough to know that after each one of those activities, my deepest self needs time to recover. I need time away from being needed, from being obligated to engage.
A New Approach
So I did two things to start showing up as myself while loving my loud people well: I spoke up and I rearranged my own expectations.
Relationships are so rarely fifty-fifty, especially in marriage and even more so in parenting. I had to take the leap and trust that if I committed to explaining to my husband how different my needs were from his, he would help me. I had to commit, though. I had to be consistent in my needs. I had to be patient as he worked to understand why I didn’t want to talk all the time. I had to not take it personally when he mistook my quiet for aloofness. I had to remember that they were retraining their brains to understand introversion just as I was retraining my brain to speak up about my needs.
(Because let’s be honest, the introvert usually understands the extrovert because we’ve spent enough time in our heads just thinking and thinking and thinking about it).
Sometimes I need another twenty minutes of rest in the morning, and that’s okay.
Sometimes I don’t want to comment on scenes in a movie; I just want to watch, and that’s okay.
Sometimes I need to break our no tv during the week rule because I need to sit and zone out for twenty-three minutes, and that’s okay.
None of that will ruin the day or the kid or the marriage or anything else.
It’s all okay, and I can say that out loud and that’s okay, too.
We speak up, we stick with it until everyone learns it, and all of a sudden we’re getting more of what we need.
Now, we won’t always get exactly what we need. That’s true no matter who you are. So along with speaking up, I’ve learned to rearrange my expectations.
I have planted it in my brain and in my heart that this is life and it is temporary. The noise is temporary. The pulling at my arms and my obligation to engage is temporary. I can do anything for a little while that’s not forever. I can remember that my roles of wife and mom are two of the most precious, life-changing, world-changing roles God has given me because they invest in people, which is God’s love language.
I can do all those things because God put me here, in this spot, at this time. If he wanted me to stay comfy-cozy in my pink, purple and blue plaid pajamas with my torn college sweatshirt while I laid on the couch with my pup and watched Hart of Dixie reruns, he wouldn’t have brought Greg home from flight school; he wouldn’t have given me my daughter; he wouldn’t have ended my job so I could be a stay-at-home-mom/writer/podcaster/home chef/laundress/add your own role title here.
Worth the Cost
You want it quiet. I get it. Me, too. Most days, all signs point to Netflix under the covers. But as bright as that neon sign flashes in my brain, my family is louder. And thirty years from now, I’d rather look at the television and my blankets with fondness for all of our missed opportunities than look at my daughter’s picture with that same feeling.
Say what I need. Rearrange what I need and when I need it. And then say what I need again. And then rearrange my expectations once again.
The world won’t stop spinning, my people won’t stop loving me, my people definitely won’t stop needing me, and I might just get that little bit of quiet and rest my soul is longing for.
By the end of writing this, my daughter had moved to working at a table closer to me. She comes to me every four seconds with a question about her work (okay not really every four seconds, but it feels that way doesn’t it?!). She has stopped howling but I’m convinced she’ll begin again because that’s her way. And I love her way; I love her.
I’ll savor the clicks of my keyboard, the quiet in between the questions, and store up my energy for the noise I know will begin again so very soon. And maybe by the end of the day I will have snuck in five extra minutes with Bama. Me and her, the pair we’ve always been -- a couple of gals who relish sunny cuddles on the couch.
Elisa Preston is a writer, podcaster, Army wife of 15 years, dog mom of 8 years, and girl mom of 6 years. She writes and speaks about seeing the praiseworthy side of our daily struggles, especially when it comes to how God sees us, how we see ourselves, and how we see our closest people. She's written three small-town novels about love and family. She's an avid cookie baker and eater, and she'd spend every day in the sunshine if she could. Elisa lives in western New York with her family.