In the past month, I’ve done a flurry of maintenance. From home and auto repairs to dental work and updating my will. Although I enjoy the final results, the constancy and expense of nagging little jobs, stress me out and scare me.
The unexpected repairs give me the most panic. They interrupt my perfectly designed schedule of interactive time buffered by solitude — usually invading the time earmarked for deep solitude. My calm life-plan slips through my fingers one faulty water heater at a time.
Just as introverts often dislike speaking extemporaneously, perhaps we dislike making repair decisions extemporaneously too. I’m sure I had a deer-in-the-headlights look when my mechanic told me the transfer case in my car was leaking and I could fix it now for $1600; wait and possibly experience an even bigger expense when the inner-workings grind to a halt; or trade in the car before any of this happens. Wait… what?
One morning I had three different work crews converge on my house. Needless to say, there was not a lot of writing or coaching going on that day. I tried to make the most of it and read in between their requests for direction or approval, but my work momentum and pocketbook took hits.
Don’t sweat the small stuff!
I won’t. I’ll just curl up into the fetal position.
And those are the large, out of the ordinary, maintenance projects. The smaller, day-to-day tasks are a whole other monster. I care enough about appearance and everyone’s comfort to make sure our house is reasonably clean. I don’t like clutter and feel itchy when too many piles of mail and school forms invade our living space, but sometimes I just can’t keep up with all the detritus the kids and I bring home. Touching each form/magazine/bill/school paper that comes through the door is almost impossible.
Keeping up with the kids’ routine doctor appointments (pediatrician, orthodontist, optometrist, dentist, dermatologist etc.) has me reaching for an Excel spreadsheet and a Xanax.
As an intuitive thinker, this kind of detailed maintenance blows my big-picture, inner-voice led, mind. I’ve missed doctor’s appointments, not swept my kitchen floor for days (a week?) and have half-folded laundry on my couch right now.
I can’t do it all myself, but…
As I get older, I’m more about good enough. I still consider myself pretty together. I used to be more together but I give myself forgiveness points for managing a household and three children by myself. My perfectionist crown sits a little crooked on my head and that’s OK.
Slowly, I’ve built relationships with a cadre of specialists to cover all of my external repair needs. I can’t do it myself but damn I know a good painter, dentist, HVAC guy etc. I collect and treasure them like first-round draft picks. They are my anti-DIY team. In the process of repairing and maintaining, I’ve met some interesting individuals. They’re artists, Harley guys, musicians, world travelers, storytellers and perhaps a carnie or two.
“When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings.”
― Laurie A. Helgoe,
The above is one of my favorite quotes which is why I used it in this post too. It is the absolute truth for me. I enjoy connecting with others but a run down of their daily events will quickly lose my attention. I want to know what’s going on inside. What have they learned? How do they feel about that? What else do they care about and why? These areas of discussion will have me wide-eyed and engaged.
The everyday upkeep of a relationship — discussion of household responsibilities, listening to work details, providing physical gratification, attending obligatory social events and more— can numb the romantic heart and thirsty mind, but I’ve figured out in the last year, the importance of responsiveness in a relationship. When a person expresses a thought or concern, their healthy mature partner responds in a supportive manner, leaving the individual feeling heard and understood. It’s as simple as that, but difficult to find and consistently provide.
I’ll oil your gears if you’ll oil mine
As an intuitive introvert, it’s often difficult to find anyone who understands my spiderweb introspective thinking, let alone respond appropriately. For me, responding appropriately usually means emotionally conscious and empathetic. In return, it’s not always easy for me to give a steady stream of responsive reaction. A person’s need to be heard can feel like lots of little requests for attention, but I’m working diligently to make my people (partner, friends and children included), feel secure. I know what it feels like to reach out for someone’s hand on the trapeze of responsiveness and be left hanging. I also know insufficient maintenance now, leads to bigger problems later.
The trick is to know how many people I can meaningfully support with my maintenance capabilities. How many souls can I care for without causing my own inner-workings to break down?
How do I support others while maintaining my own well-being?
I say no and establish boundaries to guarantee my own energy and other’s ease. I use vision and long-term purpose and meaning as guides to help me choose where to put the most elbow-grease. I check my energy levels throughout the day. These kinds of self-maintenance lead to longer, healthier relationships.
How are you with routine maintenance of your home? Your relationships? Do you see your partner as too needy or too autonomous? Do you feel secure in your partner’s responsiveness? How could you add to your partner’s feelings of security?
If you would like help with the routine maintenance of your relationships and your well-being, contact me for guidance and action steps.