Thank you, thank you for writing this book. I had heard about it, but it wasn't until I was about to check out and saw it on the library's "best picks" shelf that I picked it up. I truly believe an angel from heaven placed your book there just for me. I was headed out of town to a quiet (ironically) get away in a cabin with my husband for 2 days, and devoured your book cover to cover in the peaceful cocoon of the woods just north of Mt. Rainier. I always knew I was an introvert, but had so thoroughly bought into the extrovert ideal throughout my life that many of my acquaintances probably assume that I am most at home in the limelight.
I grew up in a pastor's home and now I'm a pastor's wife. The church world, as you eloquently explained in chapter two, is geared toward extroverts, like schools and the workforce. But, in my opinion, spiritually minded, church-going introverts are under a more powerful pressure to conform to extroversion because we have an added, extra special God-flavored guilt. If we don't attend Bible studies, community groups, or affinity groups, we are worse than just anti-social, we are sinning. Everyone knows that personal growth happens in community, and if you shun community, you are turning your back on God.
My husband and I are at the tail end of a 12-week sabbatical from church - the first real break we've had since we began the church 10 years ago. For the first few weeks of our sabbatical, I was elated; I mean over-the-moon, free-as-a-bird elation. I didn't have to do coffee with anyone, go to a baby shower, attend a retreat, go to book club or Bible study for three whole months! No one outside my family needed me for anything, and I could not have been more excited about the prospect of three quiet months. But almost immediately following these feelings of ecstasy, I was plagued by another emotion. You guessed it. Guilt. Did I really hate people this much? If the people in my church knew how relieved I was to not have to talk to them for three months, they would be horrified and hurt.
Thankfully we had three months off, and not just one. I needed more time to process these thoughts. After a few weeks, I noticed a change in me. My joy was returning. I was genuinely happy to hang out with my four kids and my husband. We had a summer full of engaging conversation and playful adventures, and I loved every second of it. I put the pieces together and realized that the reason I had often felt burdened by my husband and kids is that I was too sapped by all my other social interactions to enjoy my family. I made a note-to-self that I didn't want to lose this joy ever again. I needed to build social downtime into my calendar when I resumed my life.
But then I found your book, and it empowered me all the more. I understand now that my introversion is not a disability, but a wonderful gift that I am squandering the more I push myself into an extrovert mold. I don't have to feel guilty for needing just a few good friends to "go deep with". My extroverted husband understands me better and because of your book no longer rolls his eyes when I say I don't want to attend a neighborhood fire pit. (He was also becoming convinced when he saw how happy and engaged I have been with him & the kids this summer.) Our sweet introverted daughter is already benefitting from the book when I now allow her to play by herself for awhile to the consternation of her extroverted sister. And the biggest benefit? When I return to my life, I will no longer let guilt persuade me that it is more "righteous" to be around people.
Oh, and we'll be making changes to our church when we return too. Less pressure towards groups, more contemplative pauses in the services, etc.
So, thank you for following your gut and writing a book that all of America needs to read. I'll be buying my own copy, and re-reading it often, I can assure you.