I'm an extroverted introvert. These are the things I can do:
- Have a give-and-take conversation with a person I know. For quite a while, if it's not small talk.
- Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
- Listen to anyone. For quite a while, if it's not small talk.
- Mediate and facilitate conversations among other people, in conflicts or otherwise.
- Speak before a group of hundreds of people.
- Write a blog which is read each week by many people, some of whom I know and some I don't.
These are the things I try to avoid:
- Potlucks, unless I know everyone in the room, and sometimes not even then. Unless they are at my house and I can't get out of them. That happened for years at holiday parties for Art's very large family.
- Parties. Same as potlucks.
- "New member" gatherings intended to welcome me as a new member.
- Dances, unless I have come with a partner.
Now Art and I are on a road trip. We left our home near Seattle for a week in Oregon. Our first stop was Roseburg, a town of about 20,000 on the interstate that runs through Washington, Oregon and California. We were there for two days and I had a good time.
I lived in Roseburg for six years in the 80s. My kids went to preschool and kindergarten there. My older son Russell lives there, working at the local hospital as a nurse. My ex and his very nice girlfriend live there. My very good friend Jeanne lives there; we stayed with her for two nights.
On Thursday night we went to dinner with Russell and his girlfriend Amanda, my ex John and his girlfriend Shirley. I knew everyone at the table pretty well, and conversation was easy and fun.
We spent a quiet day on Friday with Jeanne. Art mostly read and Jeanne and I mostly chatted. Jeanne was my counselor when I was going through my separation and divorce and we became friends after that. We've probably stayed at Jeanne's house 25 times in the last 30 years - my granddaughters were born in Roseburg and lived there for the first 12 years of their lives, so we've been here a bunch. And when Jeanne comes to Seattle she stays with us. There is an easy comfort between us. We can do silence as well as conversation.
On Saturday we made the three and a half hour drive to Bend, on the other side of the Cascades from Roseburg. Art's daughter Melissa and her husband Scott had organized a family gathering at the Mt. Bachelor Village Resort: blocked the rooms, found coordinators for one or two events each day plus an evening meal each day. This year three of Art's children - Melissa, Laura and Peter - plus his ex-wife Nancy - came to the gathering. And Scott's daughter Samantha, his sister Lauren and her husband Bryon, mom Marcia and stepdad Jack and his Uncle Dick and Aunt Cheryl.
That's a lot of people. I have met most of Scott's family before, but only once. They were all excited to see each other and I was glad Melissa and Scott had been successful in gathering so many of their family members to Bend. On Saturday we met up with the group at Melissa and Scott's large three-bedroom rented condo, chatted with everyone, ate a simple meal and left shortly afterwards to return to our own one-bedroom condo, where we spent the rest of the evening reading in silence.
On Sunday most of the family went rafting on the Deschutes River. We spent a good part of the day visiting my best friend from high school, Linda, and her husband Jim. I've only seen Linda about three times in the last 50 years, but we always "pick up where we left off." We had lunch at their place and went for a two-mile walk in Shevlin Park in Bend. We invited them to join us for a few days next winter in Tucson. We went to Safeway, came home and read and watched three episodes of "Damages" on Netflix.
Today, July 4, most of the family loaded up into three cars for a day trip to Crater Lake. Art and I have been there before, so we didn't sign up for the outing. There's a fun parade and holiday festival in downtown Bend, but parking is pretty limited so we will probably pass. We'll mostly likely spend the day reading and maybe doing a load of laundry. Art's daughter Laura and son Pete are hosting Taco Night, so we'll go over for that. I expect that sometime during the evening I'll have quiet conversations with a few people.
Tomorrow is our turn to host the evening meal. We're doing Italian Night, but it will be at 5 - a little early - so that we and five other people can leave at 7 for a moonlight canoe outing on one of the lakes above Bend. We've done that once before and it is worth a repeat trip.
And on Wednesday we leave for home.
There are a few small disadvantages to being an extroverted introvert this week:
- If Art is cranky - as he can be if he has allergies or some kind of ache or pain or is spending too much time with chatty women - we are kind of stuck with each other. Especially when we're in the car.
- If someone wants to talk to me, they won't find me around much at the large gatherings. I hope to have good talks with both of my stepdaughters before we leave. I expect that will happen, as it usually does when we're together.
- People may think I'm not being friendly.
Most likely, though, everyone at this family gathering is spending time doing what they want to do. Isn't that how it ought to be?