How I Exercise my Introvert/Extrovert Status

If someone says, “She’s high maintenance” referring to me, I’ve got one thing to say: You’re damn right.

I don’t understand low-maintenance, high-functioning folks. Sometimes I see people maintaining themselves by sucking on other people’s energy.

I sustain my own energy by tending to the two sides of me.

I envy extroverts who get revved up by hanging with others.

For me, these are my required maintenance procedures:
1. Writing—morning pages, journaling and writing with purpose for publication.
2. Yoga or stretching. My body gets physically knotted up and I’m in pain if I don’t find a way to untie the knots. (Massage works, too.)
3. Walking in nature. It’s the act of movement, and nature kisses my skin and whispers to my soul if I go it alone.
4. Reading—expands my mind and heart.
5. Prayer—to God, angels, guides, Mother Mary, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, and my loved ones on the other side. It can take a while.
6. Meditation—without it I’d come undone.

These are solo pursuits. When I take these steps I’m better able to connect with the world.

Also, I love being alone. I’m not bored. I’m not lonely.

Extroverts, I love you with your eager invitations and how you can’t fathom my time alone is your competition. It is.

Introverts, I’m with you in the magnitude of solitude, silence drawing out peace and presence for ourselves in order to invoke any magnificence we may hope to possess.

Extroverts, you drag me from the dark depths of myself—beyond the blackness. Some days and nights, I stand at death’s door begging for entry into something beyond. You entertain me and keep me awake to others’ laughter, dancing, voices and stories.

You make me come out and live. Thank you.

Introverts, we know our time alone can be where we feel most alive, authentic and valid. They may think we’re hiding, but it’s here where we face life head on. We’re not afraid of darkness. Or light. The sacred ignites our souls. We see stars intimately. We speak poetry as if it’s our first language. We dance with music because it becomes us. Alone, we’re more than we care to explain, show or present to the great pretenders running the world we run away from.

Extroverts, I adore your laughter and our connections. Yet, I can’t comprehend your apprehension toward solitude. How can it not soothe you?

Don’t you dare to dance with your one true soul mate—you?

We introverts don’t quite understand the loneliness you speak of, for others tend to engulf us in emotional claustrophobia.

Me, I dance between the world of people and parties and my full-on presence. Too much out there invites pretense, lest I speak truth most don’t care for.

Truth—I kiss her and let her seep inside my soul alone on quiet nights and precious days. She allows me to return full and ready, capable of conjuring words, not to hurt but ideally to awaken and elevate.

I’m two sides of the personality coin: introvert/extrovert. I must spend them equally. And so I dance—in the world and in my kitchen.




Every time grief washes over my sister’s face, I feel it like a slap. I want to fix it—the way she’s fixed me up and put me back on my feet.

My sister doesn’t yet see her reflection as the butterfly she’s becoming. It’s still sticky where she lives, in a cocoon of grief. But, the sunshine is bursting in and someday soon she’ll realize she has wings.

Right now, she’s remembering all that went wrong and why can’t it just be yesterday? From the sidelines, it’s almost too much to endure, like watching a teenager attacked by hormones screaming hatred and then melting into a hug like only the innocent and broken can do. But a grown woman does it all with poise.

My sister was broken when I arrived to live with her. Now, she’s spiraling up in life. She’s loosened her grip. Sure, occasionally she trips. And no, she’s not there yet. And yes, grief’s shadow haunts her every step.

Still, sometimes I stand a few steps below. The vision of my sister is radiant. She turns to look at me, always looking out for me. She sees me beaming back at her and gives me undue credit. She can’t see all the light shining from behind or the team of angels assuring, “We got her.”

My sister can’t see her ocean-blue eyes are alive again. She stands oblivious to the formation of her wings. Perched at the edge, just a little bend and the right whiff in her direction, this gal’s going to fly.

The Widow Cries Alone

The widow cries alone

After company leaves

And doors close.

Even those who

Share her home

Cannot carry her grief

As she does like added pounds

Piled on by yesterdays

That can never be folded

Into tomorrows.

Dreams that died the day

The disease was born and

Buoyed itself into their lives

Like the blackest sheep

A family could bear.

Husband had to own it,

But wife pays the price

In tears.

In smiles that feel false,

A life that doesn’t ring true, and

A direction that always heads wrong.

Though she tries. Hard. Every day.

Without him.

Wants to shout to him.

About him.

Beg him.

Hold him.

But, he’s gone. So,

The widow cries alone.

Even on days when the sun shines

And music plays

And friends surround.

Even then.

Sometimes, especially then.

Strings on Gifts


When your sister’s husband dies

You drop everything

As if you could do anything

About the thing that’s kicking her ass.

Damn, if it don’t make you ache to

Watch her brave it, and badly.

Because there’s no good way to do this;

Grief doesn’t look good on anyone.

Oh, it might make you wise.

Sure, someday, some way

The thing that takes you to the brink

Will bring you back with compassion.

Yeah, soon my sister’s life will

Feel like a call to action.

But, today, this moment,

It’s like a girl—if she had any—

Getting kicked in the balls.

A girl I grew up with.

A girl who stood up to life

When it told her to play it small.

She shouted, “Give me something big!”

It did. And took it away.

A high price to pay,

What she was asking.

Unprepared, as we all are

For gifts and their strings.

Having a Friend in Witness Protection

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I have a friend who says our circle of friends is like family to her. Yet, she keeps parts of her life, like if she’s dating someone or whose car is parked in her driveway, private. Are you kidding me? We’re girlfriends! If we can’t tell each other about the men, mess and mistakes, who can we tell?

I try to tell myself, “That’s just Janet.” I’ll call her Janet because she’d be horrified if I exposed her actual first name (which is as common as Janet), the same way she freaks out if anyone tries to take her picture.

If you ever did and put it on Facebook (which she’s not on), that would be a serious breach of boundaries. So, I doubt she knows that once her picture—taken with another friend and a koala bear when we all went to Australia—was up on Facebook for 24 hours. It’s not like she was tagged or anything, but she would’ve considered that exposure beyond bad.

I try not to push Janet because she’s truly my friend in a step up, be there, invited to our family gatherings, damn, I know how much she cares about me, and more importantly, my sister way. They were friends first and Janet acted as a sister to Jayne (my sister’s real name) throughout her painful journey into widowhood.

Maybe Janet’s in the witness protection program. That’s ridiculous because she and my sister have worked together and been friends for at least a decade, sharing that same circle of friends Janet claims are like family. So, I have to let the idea that she’s in witness protection go.

It’s unfortunate because that idea makes it easier for me to forgive Janet for hiding behind her fortress of it’s none of our damn business if she’s seeing someone or gets a promotions or if her dog dies, which it did a few years back, but Janet considered that her private pain.

Janet will tell us everything about work and talk about sports and…well, that’s mostly what we’re privy to. No religion, although I know Janet’s Catholic and attends regularly.

No politics. I agree we probably disagree, but I consider politics to be societal issues and all of us to be mature, compassionate, intelligent women. We’re in our fifties, for God’s sakes!

Janet doesn’t go to movies that might make her cry. She holds her emotions in like tears are a form of terrorism.

But, a few weeks back when her other dog was lost and I came to help her look, she fell into my arms and cried big, sloppy tears. I love my dog with that intensity, so I get it. I wonder if Janet knows, although it hurt to see her in pain in that moment, I felt honored she exposed her humanity. The dog was found and Janet’s walls resurrected.

I used to be private like that. I kept my personal pain protected. I didn’t trust people not to judge me or still honor me if I wasn’t my happy-girl identity.

Fortunately for me, everything broke—my heart, soul, illusions of security, and wishes for financial stability. I lost it all and found myself. I didn’t find myself hiding my pain and tears behind closed doors as I’d done for decades.

Yet, I’m not saying my way should be Janet’s. I survived the darkest depths because friends and family pulled me out of life’s water when I was drowning. They helped me in unimagined ways that humbled me and allowed me to accept my vulnerability. In years past, I might’ve been tempted to say, “Me? No, I’m not drowning; I’m swimming!” Finally, I was so helpless I accepted help.

I do not wish that situation on Janet. I do wish she knew that we women, her friends, will never judge her for her mistakes, fears, insecurities, or failures. We’re old enough to know our best intentions can sometimes land us on our ass.

I wish Janet knew how much I wish I knew her better—the real her, all of her. I wish she knew how cleansing and healing tears can be and the connection that comes from shared vulnerability. I wish she knew if it was up to me, I’d bulldoze her damn walls and plant a garden with flowers just for her.

Janet doesn’t ask me. When I ask her anything beyond her safe zone, she makes it clear in her eyes and tone, or cold silence, there’s a line we don’t cross. If it was just me, I’d understand, but others in our circle of “friends like family” feel the same.

Still, Janet loves us all. She’s shown up consistently in her words and actions. Lately, I’ve seen her dancing, both literally and with light in her eyes. It makes me wonder if she’s met someone. It makes me sad to think even her joy is private.

Because I love Janet and consider her a true friend in spite of the walls, I give her space. I tell myself, “That’s just Janet.” Besides, she’s in the witness protection program.


A Widow’s Purse

She carries her private hell

The way most women carry a purse.

Grief stays with its owner. It

Could creep into conversation,

But what’s the point in

Laying out the contents?

What’s she to do—spill it

All over the grocery store counter?

Across the boardroom table?

Her private hell, like a purse,

Is always close at hand.

It’s become a part of her.

She may leave it for a bit, but

She won’t get far without it.

Someday, maybe she’ll invest

in something new.

But, it will never be the same.

This private hell, this grief

Opens to her alone.

Friends and family

Have their own, but

This one seems to grow and

Pull with weight upon her shoulder,

Distracting her from basic tasks and duties.

While other women claim to have similar

They slip hands inside, pull out

Lipstick and smooth it on, but

The widow’s private purse,

It’s scary to look inside,

Nothing pretty to apply.

Yet, she’s desperate not

To leave or forget it.

That purse once held



When a Student Threatens Murder

A couple of years ago, I taught technical writing at a community college in Minnesota. What I’m going to tell you about is a rare event for any college instructor. So, of course it happened to me and now I’ll always wonder what happened to that boy.

He leaned in on the second night of class after not showing up for the first. He got too close and told me too much, about his older brother who was mentally challenged and then died while they were both just boys. Andy mentioned living in a half-way house for a while. He mentioned drugs and something about the law. His vague, random, rambling, uninvited words glued my eyes to his, needing him to know I was listening. I cared.

The next day I called the school to get Andy some help, counseling I hoped, but he didn’t show up in class the following week. I worried a bit, but frankly, I wanted to forget.

On the following class meeting, I told him I wanted to get him help. “Let’s just walk downstairs and see if there’s somebody you can talk to.” There wasn’t. It was a night class at a community college. The walk afforded Andy the opportunity to reveal to me that he thought he might be the Messiah, who was definitely coming he said, even if it wasn’t him. Andy then told me he was going to have to murder “those people,” referring to some of his neighbors who weren’t taking him seriously. He told me he didn’t want to kill them but he had to; it was karma.

“Yes,” I said, “That may be true. They might even deserve it as you say, but I’m concerned about you. You’re going to school and improving your life. If you do what you’re saying, you’re going to be living in a cell for the rest of your life.”

“Do you think I’m insane?” Andy asked.

“I think we’re all a little insane at times,” I said.

“Well,” Andy said, “I heard there’s a fine line between insanity and genius.”

“Exactly,” I said. “If we get you some help, maybe you can get to the genius side.”

I didn’t know how to help him that night on our 15-minute break, other than to beg him not to kill anyone, at least for a couple days. I promised him someone would call him tomorrow.

Just to be safe, I slipped a note to one of my students who I knew had firearm and military experience, asking him to walk me to my car after class.

         The following day I called the school counselor. She asked me, “Does this student know if he mentions murder to me I’m obligated to call the police?” It seemed an odd outlook, but Andy said the word to me three times. I encouraged the counselor to try to get Andy to come in and talk to her.

The next thing I knew, the police called me, searching for Andy. I wondered if it was good or bad that they couldn’t find him. He seemed so lost and the image of police swarming him could freak him out even further.

Then, I received a call from the dean of the college. “I understand you have a religious zealot in your class?” What had I brought down on this boy? The dean reminded me of other scenarios like Virginia Tech where security and police hadn’t intervened, the way they would at Andy’s next accounting class. I hadn’t gone too far in calling the counselor. I didn’t stretch the truth. The kid was talking murder. Hopefully, I helped divert disaster. But, could somebody please help the boy?