I often tease my husband about being an uber-social butterfly. It is not a title he claims, but the wing holes in his shirts tell the story. For example, when we arrive at church he begins looking around to see who he knows, who he might engage in conversation, and who he might give a hardy back-clap or handshake. When the minister asks us to take a moment to share the peace my husband ranges out beyond our row of chairs and practically arrives at the next church down the road. His meet n’ greet is serious stuff. Hmmm…sounds and looks suspiciously social to me. “So what?” you ask, “He seems like a great guy. What’s your problem?” Since that’s a fair question, I’ll give you my best answer. The problem is that Mr. Butterfly is married to me.
Shy isn’t quite the right word, but I’m simply less inclined to go searching for contact. I’m the kind of person who walks with her eyes down or focused on the destination. People have said they’ve passed me on the highway and waved but I didn’t acknowledge them. The truth is I never saw them because I’m lost in thought or intent on the road. My husband on the other hand can tell you what’s going on in the neighbor’s yard, if the eagle is in the nest by the freeway, and about the dress the driver in the other car is wearing. He’s looking for outside stimulation (this isn’t about the dress I just mentioned, but sometimes that happens too!), whereas I’m looking internally. Despite my introverted ways, I like people. I really do. It’s just better if I can talk to them one on one, or to meet them in casual ways. When the minister forces us to share the peace, I feel miserable. It seems insincere. My husband says we aren’t forced, it’s merely a suggestion. Yeah right.
It’s funny how opposites attract and add balance to the other. It was the same with my mom and dad. Mom is gone now, but she preferred to limit her relationships to a few meaningful individuals. My dad, now mostly homebound due to a series of strokes, was the butterfly. He was on numerous boards and committees. He gained energy and identity from being out and about. His current health limits his social interactions and has caused a bit of depression. Butterflies need to be floating around and not pinned to a foam backed couch.
My dad and my husband are the kind of people who always know somebody when we are out at a restaurant, airport, or movie theater. “Hey! There’s So and So! I’m going to say hello. Are you coming?” I trail along—slowly—because I don’t know So and So. It usually turns out they are someone who once sat in on a meeting, twenty years ago, for the friends of underprivileged turtles or some such thing. That’s wonderful, but what am I going to add to the conversation? Usually So and So and I give each other a smile and head nod when the introductions come, and then I start staring at my shoes. Meanwhile my dad or husband delve into animated conversation as they catch up on the last twenty years of news. In some ways I envy the extraverts…they have it easier. Their energy is constantly refueled by just being out and about. I have to work at finding ways to be alone to reclaim my energy.
My butterfly husband understands my preferences, but delights in bringing me into circumstances where I’ll be stretched out of my comfort. I wiggle and squirm, but survive. I’m not a butterfly, but when you love someone social you learn to wing it.