Getting from A to B can be so tedious. Having to be at B in the first place, especially if it’s some social occasion, can be tedious. Sometimes I’d rather stay at A and bask in the comfort of not making engaging conversation. It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I’m an introvert and sometimes I need to recharge. Indoors, away from humans.
It’s taken me a long time to understand that most invitations are good things – people are requesting your presence. They didn’t have to do that, even if they secretly don’t actually want you there. Not understanding introversion as much in the past, I’ve often seen it as a burden – “Ugh, can’t they just celebrate my birthday without me!” Of course I’ve never actually said that, a birthday without the birthdayee is basically a funeral without a corpse, but still, I’ve thought it.
Ironically, understanding introversion more has helped me be more open in terms of socialising – I know I need to recharge alone at some point, it’s just not my default reaction to every invitation now.
The problem I still have however is what happens after I accept the invitation to the party, wedding or office Christmas dinner. The anxiety leading up to an event. The getting from A to B. Part of the time between accepting the invitation and attending the event is frittered away with useless worry. There will be people there I don’t know. What will they think of me? I’ll probably say something stupid. What if everyone laughs at my dance moves? Why am I planning to dance at a funeral anyway?
Once all that starts to take hold the result is that I’m no longer looking forward to an event that most other people involved can’t wait for. And not just idly not-looking-forward-to either – my brain at times decides we’re not focusing on some specific task just so we have some uninterrupted time to worry about what’s ahead. I’m actively missing other things while my brain self-indulgently bathes in it’s own anxiety juices.
The travel time from A to B seems too much to endure. I just want to be there.
I was driving my car recently, on an unimportant A to B journey, and it occurred to me how similar this physical journey was to my mental journeys leading up to pre-agreed commitments. Negotiating corners, acceleration and gear changes with nothing but routine necessity I was zombified in the driver’s seat. Allowing the white noise of the radio to slowly swirl round my head without ever really entering an orifice, the usual procession of thoughts made their way through my mind in turn until it landed on one thought that caught my attention – it’s clear I’m not enjoying this journey.
It wasn’t the same premeditated worry of an introvert on the way to mingle with extroverts, but the result was the same – empty, wasted time.
Whether fretting over the opinion of others or just mechanically going through the motions of getting a vehicle from one location to another, opportunities are being missed to appreciate what’s happening in the present moment.
This is somewhere I want to go, why shouldn’t I appreciate how I’m getting there?
Driving a car in the countryside? Enjoy the view. In traffic that’s barely moving? Enjoy the radio, catch up on a podcast. The car behind is driving too close and you’re on the verge of Grand Theft Auto-level road rage? Tilt your rear-view mirror up. Do things that help you enjoy and appreciate the present moment.
In the hazard perception component of a driving test you’re shown short video clips of driving situations and you have to click the screen when you see danger emerging. You earn points based on how well you time your clicks. Click too late and you haven’t spotted a dangerous incident in time to prevent it. Interestingly though if you click too early you’re also penalised. In other words, it’s possible (and potentially harmful) to anticipate something too far in advance as you could be preparing to take evasive action when it’s totally unnecessary.
In the same way that clicking too early could cause you to fail your driving test, worrying about a social gathering or some other life event in the weeks leading up to it can limit how much you’re enjoying your life in the meantime. It stops you from seeing what’s right in front of you.
Keep your eyes on the road, there’s a lot to appreciate about the journey. Don’t miss out on it.
And if you make a mistake or someone doesn’t like your driving, accept it as a lesson and tilt your mirror up.