There are a great many things in life I’m unsure about—aliens, ghosts, and the origin of Donald Trump’s hair to name just a few—but when it comes to God, I know one thing for sure: God is an extrovert and He wants us to be, too.
Three times a day every day, we’re supposed to pray in a group consisting of at least 10 people. In my community, there are daily classes and one-on-one sessions of Torah learning where attendance is strongly recommended. Having Shabbat guests at your table is considered a must. Mind you, this is just during the course of a regular week. The holidays—especially the eight-day ones—barely allow for breathing space between parties.
To an extrovert, the High Holidays are awesome. For me, it takes everything I’ve got not to jump into my Toyota, find some forsaken tundra in Montana, and remain hidden until Sukkot is over.
People have the tendency to burst into hysterical laughter whenever I mention that I’m an introvert. This probably has to do with the fact that when it comes to parties, I tend to be in the center of them, cracking jokes, laughing loudly, ribbing my friends. When I meet new people, I waste no time inundating them with a series of probing questions, such as what do they do for a living, their biggest life’s regret, and on a scale of zero to 10, how satisfying is their love life.
Basically, I’m not shy.
And yet… I’m an introvert. Given the choice of going out or staying in, nine times out of 10, I’ll choose staying in. When my perfectly nice neighbor emerges from his house the same moment I do, my reflex is to dive into the nearest bush and hide. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve dropped to my living room floor when my dog alerts me that the mailman is walking past just so I don’t have to wave to him from the window.
It’s not my fault, though—it’s my mother’s. It’s in her DNA as much as her brown hair and green eyes. Funnily enough, her nickname in high school was “Sparky” due to her sparkling personality and vivacious nature. But if you’re an acquaintance of ours and you run into either one of us at Target, don’t be surprised if we suddenly careen our shopping carts into the adult diaper aisle, studiously comparing different brands in the fervent hopes that you’ll pass us by unnoticed.
It’s not that we don’t like people, per se—it’s just that we like people on our own terms. Our homes are our sanctuaries, our safe nets, so when a surprise visitor shows up unannounced at our door, it’s akin to how Will Smith felt in the movie “Independence Day” when aliens invaded the planet—a mixture of sheer panic combined with pure, unadulterated horror.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I had several friends at our house for a Shabbat meal—each couple brought their kids, so there were a ton of people. The first few hours I was passably cool, calm, and collected, but by the time the fourth hour rolled around, I was ready to have a nervous breakdown. Actually, I’m pretty sure I did. I turned to my husband with crazy, mad-woman eyes and said, “I can’t take it anymore.”
My husband, a real bona-fide extrovert, was literally glowing. “Isn’t it great?”
Everywhere I looked, there were people. Our two-story house plus basement was full of noisy, messy, wildly unpredictable children and their seemingly unconcerned parents. Toys were scattered, books emptied from shelves, food mushed into the carpet, and most disturbingly, the smell of dirty diapers permeated the air because the adults were too engrossed in a discussion to notice or care.
The house seemed to close in on me and I couldn’t breathe. My survival instincts kicked in, urging me to get the hell out of my own house. I opened the back door and took off running down the alley (to avoid the neighbors, obviously). My husband yelled, “Where are you going?” to which I snapped, “Far away from civilization.”
So please, remember the introverts this holiday season and give them credit for hosting meals and going to synagogue and not walking in the alley to avoid seeing you. Take the time to praise and encourage your introvert friends—preferably in a non-confrontational way such as an e-mail or text, as opposed to showing up at their door unannounced. And may all extroverts and introverts alike be blessed with a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year.