Volume 2, Issue 16, 9/29/08
Drained by Joy
I missed the last deadline for The Introvert Energizer. It
came shortly after I got home from a four-day wedding and I was
recuperating from being drained by joy.
The wedding was one of those experiences that defies easy
description. As a friend of mine said, hearing a short-version
report, "Wow, it sounds like a movie!" I agreed. (And I wish
you all could have been there or at least seen the movie :-)
It's not a new experience for me to be drained by joy.
Maybe a third of me likes that phrase "drained by joy". The
rest of me thinks it's a contradiction in terms and a flimsy
attempt to make feeling wiped out sound good.
Here's a snapshot of the wedding (from the "drainee's"
perspective): The setting for this four-day event was on the
shore of Lake Superior, in northern Minnesota. People in
Minnesota love, many even revere, Lake Superior, commonly called
"The North Shore." I'm certainly a member of that group.
The lake was one of my "drainers", so I came home and looked it
up on the internet. Here are a few good sentences from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency website: "The Great Lakes
Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario are a dominant
part of the physical and cultural heritage of North America.
"Shared with Canada and spanning more than 750 miles (1200
kilometers) from west to east, these vast inland freshwater
seas have provided water for consumption, transportation, power,
recreation and a host of other uses.
"The Great Lakes are the largest surface freshwater system on
the Earth. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water
Lake Superior is the largest in terms of volume. It is also
the deepest and coldest of the five. Most of the Superior basin
is forested, with little agriculture because of a cool climate
and poor soils. The forests and sparse population result in
relatively few pollutants entering Lake Superior, except through
From where I live, you jump in the car, drive a few hours north
(five in this case) and there it is: big, rugged, pristine
beauty. By itself, under the right (quiet) conditions, Lake
Superior gives me joy and it doesn't drain me.
But this wasn't quiet conditions and it wasn't simple. For one
thing, it was four days. I know that weddings in some cultures
go several days but what I'm used to is more like a few hours.
My introvert self knew ahead of time that a four-day wedding
would be draining.
The wedding celebration would take place in three locations:
the early afternoon ceremony, with 125 guests under a canopy right
on the shore of the lake (that feels like an ocean.) Music and
refreshments after the ceremony, up the hill in a large white
tent set up on the big lawn of the log cabin resort.
Then, through the resort woods and across the road to dinner and
dancing, in the town hall of the tiny rural village closest to
the resort. Virtually everyone attending this wedding would
travel a minimum of several hours.
Family and friends of the wedding couple began gathering on day
one, to form a crew that would transform the three sites into
wedding mode. One family, Irish east coast extroverts; the
other, small town Wisconsin introverts (interesting to ponder
in itself.) And a pack of miscellaneous urban Minnesota friends
(which included me.)
In the way a common goal can do it, we wedding workers turned
into a little community over the four days. We hauled chairs
and tables, folded 140 moss green cloth napkins into a fancy
banquet design, strung lights on trees, set up banners and
direction signs all over the wedding territory. We spread out
tables full of driftwood and beautiful Lake Superior rocks for
the "resident artist" to decorate the dinner tables with.
We helped unload the caterer's van and we carried big stones
from the lakeshore to make cairns (ancient Irish markers) down
by the ceremony tent. We prepared an outdoor rehearsal dinner
for 50 and hosted a post-wedding breakfast for the wedding guests.
All the while, the wedding couple fed us box lunches, made
evening campfires, took us on hikes into the wilderness, and
kept us moving with a remarkable set of spreadsheet do-lists and
a lot of lighthearted flexibility.
But what about me being drained by joy? To digress briefly for
a few key traits of introverts: our brains are designed to be
busy thinking about and processing what we experience, so we
can get over-stimulated by too many experiences in a short time.
Unlike extroverts, whose bodies are actually energized by lots
of stimulation, introverts get drained and need significant "down
time" in a low-stimulation environment to process and get
re-charged. Creating energy takes more time for introverts and
it flows out faster.
We tend to be observant, thorough, detail-oriented and like
depth and meaning. And because of how our nervous systems work,
our pace is slower, we tend to be hesitant in unfamiliar
situations, and it's harder for us to move our bodies than for
So this was a situation designed to drain an introvert: driving
five hours into the wilderness (with homemade rehearsal dinner
baked beans for 50 in the back seat :-) to spend four busy days,
stationed in an unfamiliar log cabin, interacting with between
25 and 130 interesting people essentially non-stop. (Including
offering a toast at the dinner, thrown in for added anxiety.)
And there was very little of the ordinary about this wedding.
Besides that it took place at the shore of the largest
freshwater lake in the world, far from everyone's home, this was
the marriage of two gay men.
The ceremony was very personal, carefully designed by the two
grooms and filled with beauty: a professional acappella vocal
ensemble (of friends), live instrumental music, poetry and
personal sharing read by friends and family, including the
couple's teenage son. And the wedding couple, beaming in their
elegant wedding suits.
After the ceremony, all 125 guests climbed out onto the mammoth
boulders on the shore for a group wedding picture. A bald eagle
showed up to circle above the big white tent as we had
refreshments on the lawn. And the town hall was a night of good
dinner, good music, laughter and dancing.
So I was drained by joy. By the time I climbed into my log
cabin bed that night with day four still ahead of me I knew
I wouldn't have a good night's sleep. My mind was entertaining
me with a multi-media slideshow of images and impressions and
thoughts and feelings that I put on pause only with great
effort, so I could rest for a few hours. And it kept playing
for days afterwards.
The moral of the story? Being drained by joy is worth it but
don't forget to recuperate.
End of food for thought on to some practical ideas:
A Practical Idea for Introverts
Think of three things that help you recuperate from being drained.
A Practical Idea for Extroverts
Have sympathy for the introverts in your life when you suspect
they're getting drained.