You could call me an extrovert. At least that’s what I always called myself. I love being with people, hate to miss a party, and am a master at filling up my schedule. The first inkling that I might be anything but an extrovert was revealed to me in a personality test I took a few years back that had me just barely on the “E” side of the scale – not even 60%.

Say what???

Interestingly, taking that test (which I did as part of a group dynamics exercise at work) gave me just a tad bit of freedom to explore my inner introvert. I didn’t realize it at the time of course, but as I’ve continued to walk through this mid-life experience, I have come to see that it was the start of a shift. The start of that shift started, as so many things in life do, with awareness.

Many spiritual teachings talk about the idea of awareness and how the mere fact of just noticing a thing/person/place/feeling can change our entire experience with that entity. And looking back, that’s how it happened with me and my inner introvert, which until that point had never really had a voice of its own.

Over the past couple years, as I’ve started walking with intentionality through this unfolding of my mid-life crisis, I have done something different. I have started to honor my inner introvert, this side of me I never really took time to get to know before (I almost feel like I should name it). It started by feeling almost a sense of relief when Friday night came around and we had no plans; something that before could have made me depressed. In fact, I started to look forward to a quiet Friday night at home with my husband. Who was this person? I didn’t recognize myself!

The idea that I could enjoy time alone didn’t come easily, quickly or painlessly, but it came with a deep understanding. My spiritual path has led me to many places, one that I wasn’t anticipating when I started – that of self-love. Nothing grandiose or narcissistic here, just the idea that I am a lovable person and worth getting to know. Having not really taken the time do that in the past, meant that I didn’t enjoy being by myself and in fact often took it to mean that others didn’t want to be with me; warped thinking I know, now that I have some hindsight and retrospective on it.

Slowly Friday nights took on a life of their own: Often I’d put together a nice little meal of fancy appetizers, some good wine, and we’d nibble on healthy chocolate at the end of it all. Some nights we would launch into a full on expression of joy and have what we call a “Friday Night Dance Party” (FNDP). Then other evenings we would just both do our own thing, reading, knitting, playing with our cats, a bit of yoga etc.

Then, a strange thing happened – I started to really go in. I found myself less and less inclined to make plans with friends, not wanting to spend the money or time to go to the symphony or a concert. I went to work, my yoga classes, and then pretty much came home and didn’t do as much. It seemed I was crossing a threshold and was bordering on isolating. It felt right, so I followed my heart, but it also seemed I would go to some hermit like place and never be the same again.

Well, that’s true – after the close of any given day we never are the same as we were before the start of that day. However, I did wonder if I would become some radically different person, one that didn’t really have many friends, didn’t socialize much, preferred just to be alone. It all seemed possible.

To date, I’m happy to report that balance does exist, and also that I’m not really worried about it anymore. My extroverted side is definitely dominant and needs love and attention as well. The nice thing is, now it’s more inclined to share that love and attention with my introverted side. In fact, the E side seems to understand that the more the I side is nourished, then the happier the E side will be when it gets nurturing and attention.

Ah balance – such a radical concept.

Which brings me back to awareness. The idea that I have a choice about whether to focus on the E or the I depending on how I feel. I have to be aware in order to know how I feel. And I must give the opportunity to myself to try new ways of being (either being introverted for a while, or extroverted) to see what the response is. The fact that I can be recharged from going within, from honoring my inner introvert, and from taking time for myself is a wonderful new learning that I have gained. I guess I’m a slow learner! Or I just never had the space to see this is such a deep way before.

Now I am committed to creating space for my introverted side to flourish, which allows me a different way of recharging. It is an ongoing endeavor and I don’t always get the balance just right, but giving myself permission to do this has truly changed my life. This has come as a part of my mid-life unfolding AND is a benefit/result of this same unfolding. As I have come to know and love myself more and more, and see myself for who I am and am becoming, the more I want to be with that person. Ultimately I know that this also makes me a better friend, family member, wife, and servant leader in the world.

All because I took time to get to know that entity inside me, that inner long-neglected introvert who is so awesome.

I think I’ll call her Irina, which means peaceful.