Monday, November 15, 2010

Are we having fun yet? (None of your damned business.)

There are, it seems, two kinds of people in the world: those who insist that having a good time is a group activity, and those on whom the first group try to impose their will.

You've seen it (you may have even lived it - I know I have): at a sporting event, or concert, or even at a company party.  Some of the people are screaming their heads off, laughing, jumping around, and very obviously "having a good time".  Another group (the one I'm in) is smiling, talking, perhaps watching and listening to what's going around them, or maybe just staring at the loud people.  Thing is, I'm probably having as good a time as the screamers - I just don't show it.

The Extroverts (as I have chosen to call the screaming group) believe that you can't be having a good time if you're not showing the world that you're having a good time.  This is, for the Introverts, nonsense.  And annoying nonsense, for we keep getting asked, "Are you having fun?", or advised, "You should loosen up."  We're plenty loose already, thank you, we just don't understand why "fun" has to be broadcast.

Which brings us to those inevitable corporate, community, or even family events where someone (and they're usually an Extrovert) organizes a "fun" activity, where everyone has to participate.  Has it ever occurred to any of these people, well-intentioned as they may be, that this "compulsory fun" is, for many folks, no fun at all?  That is seems forced, and unnatural?  Fun should just happen, it can't be planned.  I mean, no one sits down and says, "I will have fun now."  You can't put it on your calendar - 1 pm to 3 pm: 'FUN!' - and you certainly can't put it on someone else's.

More to the point, if you make us do this supposedly fun stuff, that you enjoy - we don't enjoy it.  We stop having a good time, right there and then.  Screaming your head off might give you an adrenalin rush, but us - not so much.  We enjoy things internally.  Don't get me wrong, both are valid.  But let's respect our differences.

So, next time you're at a concert, banging your head and yelling, and you turn to the quiet, smiling person sitting next you and say, "You should try to enjoy yourself!", remember that we were - right up until you asked.

Monday, November 1, 2010

After the Fall - Is Autumn the most contemplative time of year?

In Spring, they say, a young man's fancy turns to, well, let's call it love.  The days are getting longer (at least, in northerly climes), the flowers are in bloom, and there's a reassuring warmth to the sunlight.  Everything seems possible.  Summer, all blue skies and beaches, is for living, while Winter, well, that's just survival.

But it's another story when evening comes early and fast.  The leaves relax their tenuous grip on the trees, and the wind blows with an increasing hostility.  Autumn is, indeed, a different beast, and it may be the season that invokes and inspires the most introspection.

The seasons are a stark, annual reminder of the cycle of life, birth through death, and the fall is that late middle age of recollection and regret.  Time to tally the myriad tasks you didn't accomplish in the glorious summer, the lofty goals of spring still unmet (that screen door isn't going to fix itself, you know), and to confidently, naively assume that there are things you can still do one more time before the temperature drops and the snow flies - a final round of golf, painting the shed.

It brings a greater appreciation, too, of things taken for granted only weeks earlier.  Who hasn't abandoned an otherwise pressing chore in order to take advantage of a beautiful fall day - a walk in the woods, a bicycle ride, an enthusiastic game of touch football?  We clutch at these moments because we can't be sure when we'll have another.

Of course, regrets and unfulfilled intentions aren't as easily dealt with as dead leaves.  (You can't, for instance, casually blow them onto your neighbour's lawn.)  There's always denial, but that's just a means of avoidance, not engagement.  It might be easier, for a while, not to look deeply into those regretted corners of our lives, but they must eventually be confronted - to continue the metaphor, they need to be bagged and left at the curb.

I've always felt that a thing should only be regretted if you could, with honesty, say that the person you were at the time could reasonably have made a different choice.  Otherwise, you're just wishing you had been someone else - and that's an entirely pointless exercise.  Better, then, to accept who you've been, who you are, and, if you decide you'd like to be someone different, or better, enact the changes necessary to make that happen.

Fall - in a year, in a life - is really just a time of transition.  And it's how we embrace that transition that defines who we are - and whether our autumn will be red, or golden - or just a yucky brown.