MY GRAY SPACE.
My insides scream as I sit in a crowded and noisy Chick-fil-a. I recognize the familiar tremor that begins in the deepest parts of my being. It rises and my stomach turns. I begin to quiver so much on the inside I wonder how it is possible for it to not be seen on the outside. I get short of breath and feel as if my legs wont carry me out the door. All my energy is drained. I fight back my instincts to run, thankful my order is to go. I’m beyond ready to retreat into to solitude that is my office.
Another day, I sit in the exact Chick-fil-a and the noise and crowds fuel me. I’ve intentionally chosen this place as an escape from the empty silence of my office where I was experiencing the same anxieties this crowd caused me earlier. This day, the solitude of my office is what depletes my energy.
This is a picture of my gray space. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to the gray. One day I am completely energized in a crowd of people. The next, this same crowd depletes me as much as it fueled me.
Other days, I am fueled by solitude. The quieter my space can be the better. On the days I withdraw into solitude, the sounds of normal life (forks clinking, clocks ticking, and people breathing) are as painful as the sound of fingernails on a chalk board. (Not very conducive for family life for sure!)
I am an Extrovert who genuinely LOVES being around people and involved in the activities associated with that.
I am an Introvert who genuinely LOVES time in silence and being alone.
I’ve often wondered how I could be both. Attempting to live well in both the Extrovert world and the Introvert world creates a place I have dubbed “My gray space”.
This gray space consumes me when I spend too much time in either world. It can be a painful roller coaster of emotion and stamina. I’ve spent years believing the gray space was episodes of depression.
DEPRESSION OR SOMETHING ELSE?
Sweet friends, I always strive to be honest with you–so here goes.
I had a very good reason to think the gray was depression. I have spent my life battling its darkness. Through the years I have been on and off of medication as well as been hospitalized once because I was suicidal. I know the darkness married to depression!
Since I equate depression with darkness, I assumed that this gray space was depression trying to find a place to take root. I’ve lost count of how many times I have waged war against depression. After a bit, the gray would subside and I would once again submerge myself into which ever world (Extrovert or Introvert) was energy giving at the time.
It never occurred to me that there could be another option.
ANOTHER POSSIBILITY: AMBIVERT?
While it may be true that there is an element of depression laced in my gray space, it probably has little to do with what I am experiencing.
Recently I was at a conference where I heard the term Ambivert for the first time. As the host spoke, I realized I have spent years giving depression credit for something it has no control over.
Acccording to Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
Definition of ambivert noun am·bi·vert \ˈam-bi-ˌvərt\
: a person having characteristics of both extrovert and introvert
Once I realized there was a third option, i was able to look over my life and examine the gray in a different way. I’d look for triggers or causes for the gray to arrive.
THE KEY TO LIVING THE AMBIVERT LIFE WELL:BALANCE
Balance may as well be a curse word because it is something I don’t do well. I tend to be from one extreme to the other. Either I’m super busy and productive, or I’m at a dead stop and can barely get out of bed. I recently wrote about how I am learning to rest. Click to read “For the Weary Woman who Doesn’t Rest”
In the past I have not been a person who would slow down and rest. I would push past tired and become weary. The gray space always seems to be tied to weariness. I am beginning to wonder if the gray is God’s way of letting me know its time to either retreat (when I’m saturated with people) or engage (when I’ve been alone for a while). This is a new way of looking at my Gray. Instead of being something to fight against, maybe its something to cooperate with.
HOW DO I COOPERATE WITH THE GRAY?
I’m thinking rest is the key. Tiredness leads to weariness. The gray never arrives until after I am weary. I sense there is a fine line between responding when my body needs to rest and pushing through to get things done.
That fine line still exists for when its time to move forward after rest. I cant stay on either side too long or else depression truly does set in.
JESUS WAS AN AMBIVERT: HOW DID HE DO IT?
Jesus had to be an ambivert. He was able to be a part of crowds and pour in to the lives of people for long periods of time, but then He would pull away from them and spend time alone. He kept a balance.
Jesus rested after working long hours.
“Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”, Mark 6:31, NLT
Jesus balanced being with crowds and being alone.
“But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:15-16, NLT
Jesus rested during difficult circumstance.
“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Mark 4:38, NLT
We can attempt to rest on our own, but true fulfilling rest comes only from the Lord.
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Psalm 127:2, NLT
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”, Matthew 11:28-30, NLT
“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalm 23:2-3
After seeing all of this, I realize that rest is a reason to make sure we spend time in the word and prayer with God. You can’t rest is you never take the time to go to the One who gives restIf Jesus found a way to have balance being an Ambivert, I can be encouraged knowing that through Him I can find it too.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? I’d love to hear from you…
Are you an Introvert, Extrovert, or an Ambivert?
How do you find balance?
Dianne Thornton says
Good words, Tammy … as you know … I live this as well … the balance between people and solitude … between rest and productivity … but then again … in order to be productive, we must SHARPEN THE SAW! (which often means rest!) Beautiful post, today.
Thank you Dianne. It helps to have co-travelers who “get it”. I’m blessed that God sees fit for us to be on this journey together. I pray we each SHARPEN THE SAW and get much needed rest.
I recently became familiar with the term ambivert and it resonated with me too.
I am finding that rest is the key to my ebbing and flowing levels of energy and also loads of self-care and kindness.
Thank you for this post. I hadn’t thought of Jesus in this light, but I love thinking of him as an ambivert. He’s even more relatable now! xo
Julie, It was a freeing revelation to see Jesus as an ambivert. Praying we both find the balance to rest when He leads us to that place, and follow when He leads us in to activity.
SUSAN SHIPE says
I love this post. Jesus was very much an ambivert – doesn’t that make perfect sense? He understands ALL; been tempted on ALL counts as we have – an ambivert. So interesting. I shared because there are many who need to read this and once and for all understand who and what and why they are!
Thank you Susan. Your comment helped me see more clearly what “Made in His image” represents. He knows weary too…but He did an excellent job of honoring the balance. He protected both sides- activity and rest. I honestly wonder how many of us have been medicated for depression because of the gray. Oh that God would give us more words to bring hope and freedom to His hurting children in this area!
Oh yes, my friend! You are speaking my language here! For more of my life I identified as an Introvert as well. But I definitely can see the other option! I head someone recently say, “In the flesh, I am an introvert. But in the Spirit, I am an extrovert.” and that rang so true for me! But you are so right… it IS all about rest and balance! Loved this!
Thank you Karrilee! I’ve never heard it put that way before…“In the flesh, I am an introvert. But in the Spirit, I am an extrovert.” That is beautiful! I’m glad it resonated with you. Praying Rest and balance for each of us!