A Pack of Friends or One at a Time? (2014)

A Pack of Friends or One at a Timeby Andrea Chilcote

There’s a saying I love to share, just to watch the puzzles form on listeners’ faces as they try to decipher the message. It goes like this:

“One dog, you have a dog. Two dogs, you have half a dog. Three dogs, you have no dog at all.”

The point, of course, is that due to pack behavior, the closeness of a human’s relationship with a companion dog depends on how many dogs there are. When there are several, you don’t have one-on-one relationships — you live with a pack. My neighbor observes this behavior in her husband and his two grown sons, with whom he is very close. When they’re away, she has a husband. When one son is present, she says she has roughly half a husband and when all three are together, she laments (but with a smile), that she really has no husband at all.

Even though I work with people day in and day out, am socially adept and enjoy interaction with others, I’m an introvert by nature. That just means I get my energy by being alone or with one very close, significant other. I expend energy in my work and in social interactions, and need time in nature or with one close (and quiet) friend to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being with people. I often tease a strongly extroverted colleague about the time she told me, in all seriousness, that she couldn’t wait to relax on a Jimmy Buffet cruise with 200 of her closest friends. “200 close friends?” I exclaimed. I could not imagine (though this was before Facebook) having that many friends, let alone consider being with them all at once “relaxing.”

This introvert/extrovert concept is complex, because we need different things from groups than from our one-on-one relationships. In this world of never-enough-time, I tend to covet and protect time alone with special pals, even to the point of (I confess), sometimes resenting when well-meaning others join us. As an introvert, I tend to let the “pack” do its pack thing, with me on the fringes as a lone wolf. I can easily lose connection and drift away into my own thoughts while they carry on as a unit.

Susan Cain’s new bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking  does a beautiful job of helping introverts understand themselves a bit better and nudges their extroverted friends, partners and colleagues to consider a different way of interacting with them. Take her quiz to assess your own preferences.

If you need the absence of connection, the solitude of your choosing, to build the energy to connect with important others in your life, consider the choices you are making. Do you go along with crowd, later feeling exhausted or even resentful that your bucket is empty? Or do you make time for quiet, alone or with a quiet confidant? Honoring these core needs contributes to the quality of our lives.

“One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others.”– The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Complete As Is

Arthur and Andrea ChilcoteAre you still in search of an ideal intimate relationship? …I had just returned from yet another date that took more energy than it gave in return. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting precious time with men with whom you feel no connection?”  The following post was originally titled, Do I Really Need A Marriage?

By Andrea Chilcote

Dining with an old friend and her significant other, a story surfaced that I have told often, though never written. It’s the story of how I met (maybe “recognized” is a better word) my husband, and it’s not even about how I met him in the tactical sense. I have no advice to offer as to the pros and cons of online dating vs. more traditional methods. It’s about the state of mind (and heart) that I believe enabled me to find him.

My friend recounted the story of how she and he became a pair. Her beloved husband passed away several years ago, and after several attempts at “dating,” she decided she really didn’t need a mate, and would proceed to be happy as is. Then, when she was not looking (or counting on finding him), he appeared, a casual introduction from friends.

I will never forget my own experience 28 years ago. I had just returned from yet another date that took more energy than it gave in return. I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting precious time with men with whom you feel no connection?” The answer shocked me. I was doing it because I thought I needed a mate. Didn’t every woman?

In that moment, I vowed that I did not. I decided that I would carefully discern my feelings and choices. Most of all, I decided that if I never, ever fell in love and married, I would have a happy life.

Arthur came along a month later. I don’t think I would have recognized him had I not made that declaration.

Arthur and I love one another without condition, though our human nature takes its toll on a regular basis. Our relationship has endured, in large part, because of the fact that we are both confident as individuals. The “secret” to our success is the antithesis of Jerry Maguire’s famous line, “You complete me.”   We were both complete before we met.

That is the truth I realized one evening 28 years ago, and it’s what my friend realized just

I don’t pretend to know the pain of loneliness or the distress that comes from trying to find a person to share your life. I’m certain that many others have the kind of confidence I describe, yet are still in search of ideal intimate relationships. But one thing I do know is this. Accepting yourself as whole, complete and loving is a prerequisite for finding a companion who will hold you in that same high regard.

And after all of this, the truth that holds me here
Is that this emptiness is something not to fear

                             – Mary Chapin Carpenter

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Choose to…

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

Last month in my post entitled Right Now, I talked about the critical importance of prioritizing what really matters and focusing on the task at hand. One’s health as well as success depends on it.

A reader emailed me with the following comment:

“Remembering to only focus on the one task at hand will certainly help me get all my tasks accomplished. And hopefully keep me out of the sick bay. Determining which task is the ‘task at hand’ is my biggest challenge.”

I can relate to his challenge and I bet you can too. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be pulled in multiple directions at once and become distracted by the ones that are the loudest or most compelling.

The next morning I reflected on the question of how to determine the task at hand as I began my day. I decided to let my experience inform me hour by hour.

I knew the first three hours of the day would be easy, as I had an extended session scheduled with a client. It was work I love to do, and work that requires the kind of focus that forces one to block out distractions, compartmentalize other pressing to-do’s, and be fully present. Plus, I had made a commitment to do it.

After that meeting, I got to work on the other items I had promised myself or someone else that I would complete. Not everything on the list was as fulfilling as the work with my client, though each seemed as though they “had” to be done. I was reminded of a principle called Have-To versus Choose-To. It’s infinitely more empowering to choose than to be obligated.

Commitments drive our calendars. Most of us follow through, at least eventually, on what we say we’ll do. The nagging question though (the real question the reader asked) is: What drives our commitments?  What drives what we choose to do?

When we’re fully conscious and aware, some greater strategic picture of life – purpose, values, potential – drives our choices. When we’re not, it’s dangerously easy to become distracted and rationalize “busy” as productive.

In their new course “The 5 Choices,” time and productivity management experts at Franklin Covey say our attention is under attack. Their research shows that now more than ever we are reacting to distractions vs. choosing to spend our time on what’s important. In their extensive survey, people reported spending an average of 40% of their time on unimportant tasks.

I’ve written before of the need to allow inspired, creative thinking to drive our deepest desires before jumping to action. I believe there’s never been a better time to ask and answer the question, “What’s important?

After a day of observing myself, I was satisfied with the choices I made. But my project was skewed by the study itself. Awareness of the choices I made, coupled with focus on why I was making those choices was, for me, the success formula. I might be onto something…try it if you wish.