An Introvert in an Extrovert Family

The central subject for one to understand in Stoicism is oneself, and I think I know myself very well; yet knowing my lover and her family has, unexpectedly, provided insight on myself that I never truly grasped when I was solitary. As I am drawn towards a more philosophic life (ie stoicism), I find that it both illuminates, and is illuminated by, my daily life; particularly, my relationship with my lover and her family. In three years of matrimony, our greatest struggles have been in regards to how I treat her family, especially her parents (who are currently guests in our house for several months).

I am an introvert. I enjoy friends, and had numerous as a bachelor; yet it was never a necessary or consuming part of my life. I have sometimes considered myself a recluse, but such an extreme definition is, perhaps, too extreme; so let me be content with reclusive. Now that I and my lover are married, and have two children, I am quite content with them as the limit of my social life. Sure, I try to be friendly with those at work, and social as expected of my rank and position, yet I have secluded myself (and am content) to the social limits of the nuclear family.

My wife is an extrovert. Her entire family (parents, six [living] siblings, 19 nieces/nephews, etc…) is extroverted. From a distance, it was generally easy for me to interact with them (minus the discussions resulting from cultural and linguistic differences); however, I now, and for the previous three months, find our home filled with my lover’s parents. This is amicably tolerable at best, and on the precipice of separation at the worst moments.

Why? Because I find myself instinctively more passive-aggressive and malcontent; like a caged beast lashing out at a bewildered audience. The lion’s share, perhaps all, of the blame is mine. I am neither accustomed nor happy with such enduring invasion of privacy and convivience, which, through my in-law’s gracious and servicial behavior, has shown me how not only an introvert can feel when necessarily in the world of many extroverts but also how different people can, talking about the same actions and virtues, come to polar opposite judgements and definitions of said actions and virtues.

Recognizing the perilous and unpleasant situation this is for everyone, my meditations have driven myself to those of Marcus Aurelius; and his Meditations have illuminated my recent past and show a very stoic (and it seems successful so far) way for an introvert to live in a world with extroverts.

May you understand yourself and those around you,

May you seek virtue, harmony and well-being for all,

May your actions be guided by calm reason and love,

Always adapting to circumstances, always true to virtue.

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness was one of the most important ideas agreed upon by the Founding Fathers. Yet as a society, and especially as a professional military, our way of life reviles that pursuit, even if our words say otherwise. Happiness is not playing Angry Birds or staying up-to-speed with your favorite show. For some it may be, and if that is there truth then those who disagree, like myself, ought to tolerate such a benign happiness as the free choice of people. We are so caught up in more stuff, more money, higher positions that I think the pursuit of more has replaced the pursuit of happiness.

It’s not that more can’t lead to happiness, or enhance it; but when you continually bypass current amenities (whether it be a walk in the park, leisure reading or a light but enjoyable conversation with someone) for another hour at work or the gym in order to make yourself more competitive, then I suggest you are no longer truly pursuing happiness; but, instead, have placed progress and producing over happiness. I am not espousing a lazy attitude, rather I am suggesting that while one must work hard, we must remember to play hard, as well.

I am a hard worker. I enjoy working hard and figuring out problems at work. But I also enjoy spending time with my lover; and in reality, she is the most important in my life, so work should be secondary. Not only is she the most important, but she is also my happiness; I enjoy her company and making her happy and being happy with her. That makes me less productive at work because I don’t like to work past 5, unless necessary (to the operational effectiveness of the unit). While at the office, I work hard as a professional Soldier, but I see no reason to be one of those Soldiers who is always one of the last ones to leave. My tombstone will not say “I wish I had worked more.” If it says anything, it will say that I loved my lady and want to be with her always, even through eternity.

I can say whatever I want; but words are meaningless if they do not guide our actions. I have consciously made life, liberty (tempered tolerance) and the pursuit of happiness my guiding ideas in life; my lover is my happiness, not draining my life in the pursuit of the next rank or assignment. I bear no ill will against those who do. For them that may truly be their happiness or the most important thing in their life, for which I applaud them fulfilling their life’s goal. So I ask you to slow down for just long enough to think for yourself about what is truly important to you, and then to see if your daily life reflects that.