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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 4, Issue 2, 02/25/10

Introvert on the Road

A couple weeks ago I took a short road trip, solo, to visit my sister and my brother. A little under 400 miles one way.

I was leaving on Friday morning and as life would have it, Thursday was a very busy day, into the evening.

My plan was to get on the road by about 9 AM. I was pretty determined and pretty happy about my plan. But before I went to bed Thursday night, I had that familiar feeling of my plan and reality not quite matching up. To be out the door by 9:00 the next morning would be a small miracle and probably not very fun.

I remember reading an article a few years ago about the busyness of life in the U.S. It told about the comedian Ellen DeGeneres coining the term Too-Busy-Syndrome (TBS) and reported that before the 2004 presidential election a poll of swing voters had rated not enough free time as their biggest concern - ahead of the economy, health care, the war in Iraq, etc.

Thursday night I diagnosed myself with TBS, for sure. I woke up the next morning at 6:00, half determined, half pretending that I'd leave by 9:00.

After a few half hours of pretending and determination I noticed I wasn't having much fun and had a moment of truth. It was that I could start having fun if I slowed down and if I remembered that I was on a mini-vacation and that I was the one who'd decided to leave by 9:00.

So I slowed down and started having fun.

I let myself pack more stuff than I would probably use - including a cheerfully embarrassing number of books - to allow for freedom of choice and spontaneity and unexpected bursts of creativity. I let myself think about not just leaving - I thought about coming back, too, so I could be more ready for life after my mini-vacation.

I called a friend who's recuperating from surgery. He'd been on my mind for days but I'd been too busy suffering from TBS to call him. I even deboned a leftover chicken and put the meat in the freezer instead of throwing it away because I was in too much of a hurry.

I left at noon instead of 9:00. I was in such a state of "beauty and order" by the time the car was packed, it was almost hard to leave. And I was smiling.

Introvert bodies, as I'm fond of pointing out, are designed to operate most naturally at a slower pace than extroverts'. Our nervous systems like to take it easy. Too-Busy-Syndrome is not an introvert body's preferred syndrome.

I got on the road and realized I was on a roll with taking it easy. When I remembered I should call my sister to let her know I was three hours behind my original plan, I found myself pulling over instead of nervously breaking my intention to not use my cell phone while driving. I drove the speed limit the whole way without feeling guilty for going "too slow".

Four days later, on my way back, I reminded myself I was still on vacation and hung out for 2 1/2 hours during my lunch stop, reading, daydreaming, planning.

It was dark when I got into town, but I didn't mind.

End of food for thought, onto a practical idea:

A Practical Idea for Introverts and Extroverts

Diagnose yourself - are you suffering from TBS? If you are, take two aspirin and go straight to bed :-).

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