I've been on a bit of a quest over the last year or so to update the artwork in my living space, which has hitherto tended towards slightly amateur block-mounting of random posters, some of which date back to undergrad and damned well look their age. This is something of a solitary quest: the EL's indifference to home furnishings of a decorative nature verges on the sublime, and his input stops abruptly at the heraldic shield over the mantlepiece. My own taste is very much towards pop art, often with a fan twist, and I have made merry hay with various internet art sites and the local framer, with results which would probably cause exquisite pain in anyone with actual artistic chops such as I do not in any way possess. However, I am deeply happy with my Ursula Vernon and Martin Leman cats, giant greeny-blue stylised owl, Firefly silhouette collection and those dreamy, alienated superheroes in the atmosphere above Earth. This particular picture is in my bedroom, generously sized and properly framed (the slightly small image is all I could include, because of the artist's completely legitimate protection of her work on her website). Noelle Stevens also produces Nimona
, which is possibly my currently favourite web comic; I adore the slightly spiky, faux-naive precision of her images.
I love her art, but I also loved the theme here: happy introversion, with that fascinating colour inversion which puts all the madly partying people in sombre blues and purples, and the girl/cat/tea/book ideal in warm orange and peach. It encapsulates everything that is currently true about my ability to interact with people, particularly at the moment with the merry gang of depression/fatigue/glandular fever/sinusitis having its wicked way with my hapless form. (Not nearly as savagely as a few weeks ago, but there are lingering traces).
See, the weird thing is that I am predisposed to quite like people. My job requires that I engage empathetically with a continual string of distressed students, and after six years of this I still like students and wish to improve their lives to the best of my ability. I'm good at empathy. My therapist, poor lady, spends half of her life hacking through the thickets of what I think other people are feeling in order to get at my own heavily-protected feelings, and we still have that argument about the extent to which it is ok to prioritise other people's needs over your own. (For the record: more often than she thinks it is). I love my friends, and stand firmly by my assertion that I have the loveliest friends in the known universe - and in that I include the bunch of you who hang out here and who I have never actually met in person, or who I see only every few years when we coincide continents. I love dinners with friends, mutual tea-drinking sessions, role-playing games, movie evenings. I have been known to cautiously enjoy parties. But, ye gods, it has to be at carefully spaced intervals, and on my own terms.
Part of the problem is, I think, crowds. Students are probably okay because they come through my door mostly singly or in pairs; they don't overwhelm me with input. I don't deal well with having to force my way through herds of gazelles in those mad fifteen minutes between lectures, and generally try to time any movements out of my office not to collide with them. But even if I have to navigate campus crowds, I know it's temporary - I can psych myself up for it, and pace my endurance knowing that it's finite. That's the other half of it - having, in the immortal idiom of the internet, sufficient spoons. Dealing With People is a finite allocation of energy. At the end of the day it tends to be gone, which is why I don't socialise much during the week. I can do parties, particularly if they're full of people I know, and alcohol helps, but I need to get a good run-up at mental preparation, and I've left a hell of a lot of parties very early over the last couple of years.
So, this giant chunk of introspection brought to you courtesy of the fact that I told my book club last night that I'd be taking a sabbatical from it for a while, because I can't do it any more. Part of the problem is that I'm not reading book club books, which sit in my bookshelf reproachfully and weigh on my conscience, but it's also about energy and groups. It's only six or seven people, but there tends to be lots of wine and chat, multiple streams of discussion and catch-up and laughter, and while I enjoy it in many ways, it also exhausts me. They're lovely ladies, but over the last few months I've missed several sessions, and have increasingly had to exert supreme mental discipline to persuade myself to attend the few I did make. I don't use socialising to recharge; it drains energy rather than bolstering it. It also, regardless of how much I like the people, makes me anxious, often only subliminally, but when I get home after any social evening I always require at least an hour of something solitary and soothing - computer games or reading fanfic the current favourites - before I can actually unwind enough to sleep. This does not work well with either insomnia or fatigue.
So, yes. I love that picture. It shows the happy introvert. Better still, it shows the happy introvert quietly recharging, so that when energy levels permit, I can leap out into the world and engage with all the people I really like. Because introversion is not misanthropy, and there's only so much you can get from cats.
Subject line from early Eurythmics, specifically "Savage", which is what was randomly playing off my MP3 player in the car this morning, but which is one of my favourites of theirs despite its possible slight dodginess. You can play with me there sometimes, if you catch me in the mood.