Put Your Shoes On, We’re Going Out

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J_ClaireC

Growing up, I was the kid who hated group projects. I wasn’t a fan of team sports. I had no interest in running for student government. I was sure that conferences were the eighth circle of Hell.

I really liked reading. I studied hard to get good grades, practiced the flute religiously and was a two-time Physics Olympics champion.

I remember my parents pushing me to go to youth group events and telling my brother he could only borrow the car if he took me along. I think my parents could see my natural inclination toward solitude and were concerned I’d get lost in it.

I didn’t have a word for it back then, but I am an introvert. I love people but preferably in small doses. I genuinely like being at home. Give me a chair and a cup of tea and a good book and I’m good. Big social events, even really good ones, make my stomach twist with anxiety.

The scene often goes the same way. I’ll get an invitation to go somewhere and when the day comes, I cannot remember why I thought it was a good idea. I stand in the hallway, slowly putting on my shoes thinking, “Can’t I just stay home?” I am learning to put my shoes on anyway and head out the door. Because here’s the thing: introverts need community too.

It is so tempting to believe we can do this thing alone, but we can’t. We desperately need each other. There’s something powerful that happens when we come together. It can be scary and intimate but it’s utterly vital.

I love the way Joshua Radin describes it. There’s a line in one of his songs that says, “I sat beside you and became myself.” Isn’t that a beautiful image? Being with other people gives me the strength and the clarity to truly become who I am, to step into my gifts and my calling. We need to gather because it’s too easy to hide when we don’t.

I do need quiet time to recharge and it’s important to honour that need. But I need to say “yes” and show up too. I’m learning that when I make the effort, it’s always worth it. When I choose community, I get to hear a good friend perform stand-up for the very first time. I get to help feed families here in Abbotsford and I even get to sit on the red couch at SheLoves editorial meetings. It’s getting to be a little less of a fight to convince myself to reach out.

Turns out even conferences aren’t quite as bad as I thought.

A couple of years ago I took a big leap and signed up for the annual RelateWomen conference. Everyone seemed so excited. I was terrified. What if I couldn’t find anyone to sit with? What if it was all rah-rah and hyped up and nothing felt authentic? What if it was all just TOO MUCH?

I should have known better. The conference was incredible. There was someone to sit with and the people were friendly. There were speakers who spoke so well I still refer back to my notes from those days. I got to be part of a group that bought underwear so young girls on the other side of the world could stay in school. I could never have done that alone, but together we did it in a single afternoon.

That’s what I’m learning about gathering: togetherness is a multiplier. Together the dreams are so much bigger.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin
  • This speaks to me. I am an introvert too. An introvert with a bit of an outgoing side, but one who can easily, unconsciously get lost in solitude. That image from the song you mention is so gorgeous. My sincere thanks, Claire, for this persuasively written reminder ; I have a feeling it will be/ is already seared into my mind.

    • I find I have to be mindful of the balance. I don’t always need to be right in the middle of things, but there good things waiting when I’m willing to take the risk and stretch myself a little.

  • Saskia Wishart

    I needed to read this. Living in a busy city, you are constantly surrounded by people but not necessarily community. I get so tired, I just want to stay in with a book and tea, or my studies *happy place* but I KNOW I also need to put the effort in to show up and gather with my community because they are my people, and I do love them, and I am always happy I went in the end. That doesn’t make it easier to get out the door! Thank you for this reminder.

    • I keep thinking I should put a sign on the inside of my front door that read: Claire, you like these people, it’s going to be okay 🙂 It is hard when you feel drained and tired and I find it’s especially hard when I feel emotionally tired. Be gentle with yourself. (And in the meantime, I’m about to put on the kettle because tea, as you mentioned, is always a good idea.)

  • Kim Garbison

    It’s winter. It’s cold. I think I’m coming down with something. I hate going out in the dark. When I do manage to get myself (and hopefully my family), there’s an energy that I walk away with that hopefully gets me to go out the next time.

    • I so understand the winter/dark/cold/ let’s just stay in. We don’t get much snow here, but I grew up on the other side of the country where getting out the door in January was a 10 minute process of boots and gloves and scarves. It’s a little silly, but one thing that helps me is buying a really brightly coloured winter coat. Something about going out into the dark is bright pink makes it a little easier.

      • Kim Garbison

        🙂

  • Sandy Hay

    So glad you put on your shoes and went out the door. We would have missed your voice here Claire 🙂

  • Olivia Ryan

    I love this Claire! I’m speaking at a conference in February about overcoming social fears, and you put your finger on it beautifully “We desperately need each other. Something powerful happens when we come together.” Amen and amen!!! And who doesn’t love a picture of beautiful shoes?!? Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks Olivia! Conferences have always been a huge struggle for me. One thing that helped was something that a friend learned in therapy: I am adult and I can leave anytime I want to. Knowing that showing up at the conference didn’t mean I was trapped at the conference took away some of the fear. If I was truly uncomfortable, if it was really awful, I could quietly get up and walk out. There’s a loss of control that comes with gathering — suddenly I’m not the only one deciding– and that can contribute to anxiety. Taking a little of that control back makes the whole thing feel much more manageable. (And who knew they talk about social fear at conferences? That’s fantastic!)

  • Stefanie

    I love this, Claire, and can totally relate. I think I’m swaying more introvert over the years, despite the E in my Myers-Briggs type. Thanks for the lovely reminder that showing up can bring all sorts of good things. (P.S. Love the Joshua Radin line too – I met him in NYC after one of his shows and he was as sweet as his songs 🙂

    • I’ve never heard Joshus Radin live, but I’d love to. (And I’m definitely speaking to myself in this post. I needed the reminder too.)

      • Stefanie

        I’ve seen him in Vancouver too…and he’s back playing on Feb 28th at the Rio so maybe that will be your chance 🙂

  • This is the perfect wrap to our Gather month, Claire. Thank you for being honest and giving a glimpse into how an introverted mind works. I am an “I,” but I’m also a Type 7 on the Enneagram, so it propels the introvert in me to go out and not miss anything. 😉 But I know you speak for so many. We need our introverted sisters to fill up and take the time they need, but we also need them to show up, because we need what comes from the depths of how introverts see the world. (Ok, speaking to myself too.)

    • Thanks Idelette! More and more as I get older I’m learning how desperately we need to hear ALL the voices.

  • cjdeboer

    Great piece Claire! I’m an introvert at heart too, but through showing up and gathering with the right people for me, I have discovered a hidden extrovert. It’s pretty amazing 🙂 So pleased you have decided to “gather” with us! Xo

    • I am delighted to be part of this gathering! Thanks for being so welcoming 🙂

  • Laura Shook

    I am learning this lesson too, thanks for the reminder to get my shoes on and get out there!

    • You’re welcome! Here’s to being a little braver in 2015.

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Hi from Toronto, Claire. As an old feminist it cheers my heart to hear that you’re accepting that honourable, problematic label. And as an introvert who marches in protests I still feel the same twinge of social anxiety before sociable occasions and love being at home alone. Thanks for describing so well our mixed bag. And, oh yes, with grandchildren and a daughter in vancouver, I too wish the world could fold up like a map

    • Donna-Jean, it has surprised me how hard a word it was to pick up. But the longer I carry it, the more I am convinced it is an utterly vital word. Even in the last week or so I read the articles that were going around about “Christian cleavage” (what on earth could that be?) and I had a response on my tongue, and I caught myself holding back, worried about the backlash. My challenge this week is to write that post anyway. Feminist should not be a hard word to say out loud. Thank you to, all the women who went before and started making a way where there wasn’t one.

      • Donna-Jean

        Love.

  • HBurns

    I so loved reading every line as you shared with us who you as a beautiful introvert are… and then of course I became teary when you mentioned the Relate Women conference -*sniff*- what you experienced is SO my heart. Thanks for putting your shoes on and coming to the party. All of our lives are so much richer for it. xoxo

    • What a lovely thing to say Helen, thank you! I was so scared walking into that conference but the moment I got to the doors I felt so welcomed. The whole weekend was incredible and it was real. I’ve shared my notes from Dr. Robbie’s talk with so many friends. The following year I had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t make it but I’ve already got my ticket for this year. I can’t wait. You can feel the love that goes into that event. It’s like sending your heart to Disneyland.

      • HBurns

        ‘It’s like sending your heart to Disneyland” – I love that! Especially since our family are Disneyland addicts and we are actually all heading there tomorrow morning. xoxo

  • cheriwhite

    Thanks for stating this so clearly and beautifully! I relate to so much of what you shared. Being a Pastor’s wife, I had to learn to gather whether I felt like it or not. The bigger problem for me was to authentically “show up” when I was in a group. Often I found myself gravitating to someone in the group who was down or needed help. Over the years, I discovered I was actually avoiding letting others see the real me. In recent years, I’ve taken off the mask while gathering and it has brought great freedom, as well as given me a greater desire to put my shoes on and go out!

    • Oh I can so relate to this! Being seen is such a powerful and vulnerable experience.

  • Johanna

    Yes, Claire, thank you! I really resonate with this as a fellow introvert. I’ve been learning to honor my need for quiet time, but I’m also learning to not use my contentment in solitude to hide from my need for connection and community. It’s so much easier to stay home, but putting my shoes on and walking out the door is so worth it.

    • This is exactly what I keep learning too. That balance is important — burning myself out with togetherness is not the answer either. I’m also learning which kinds of gathering are a good fit for me (which makes it a little easier to head out the door).

  • Oh Claire, this is lovely. I was so excited to read your piece here! Beautiful. Can’t wait to read more.

  • A Alexander

    Claire thanks so much for writing and sharing this particular message. It was so timely especially in this season of my life where I much prefer the solitude rather than soaking in the community and companionship that I really need. I’ve been hiding and hibernating for a long time. I’m going to “put on my shoes” and “show up”…and every time I feel like doing otherwise, this posting will remind me to grab my purse and get moving. Many thanks.

    • It takes a courage to admit when you’ve been hiding (I know from experience). Sometimes we do need a season to heal, or to mourn, but hiding is a different beast. I am delighted to hear that you’re reaching for your shoes. The world needs your voice and your presence.

  • pastordt

    Well said, Claire. Keep puttin’ those shoes on, honey. Cuz we need you — and you need us, too.

    • “Cuz we need you — and you need us, too.” That’s so true!

  • Sara

    I’ve just encountered this lovely site, and this is the first article I’ve read. I relate to it completely. My whole world could be right inside the walls of my house, and that would be perfectly fine with me the vast majority of the time. Of course, once I will myself to venture out to be with friends, colleagues, soul companions, and sometimes even strangers, I’m usually glad I did. Community is so important. I almost always kick off my shoes at the door when I come home, so they’re right there, waiting for me to put them back on. Just gotta do it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.