I recently survived 6 days of guests at my house! If you’re thinking, “Um, I fail to see the difficulty in that feat” — then you’re most likely an extrovert and you are going to want to read this to gain perspective on your poor, introverted friends. If you are an introvert — well, you get it already, but I’m going to share my tactics for surviving and actually enjoying (yes, it is possible) houseguests from time to time.
I have to begin by saying that introverts are a thing, and I’m making that point right up front because my husband tries to insist that introverts don’t really exist. If you fall into that line of thinking, than you are most definitely an extrovert. Please, please don’t try to tell an introvert that they don’t actually need to escape to a quiet, dark place (preferably with a snack and mindless show) after a social event — they really do need it!
And introverts have to plan their social calendar wisely, or they will get burnt out very quickly — so don’t be offended if you’re introverted friend isn’t always asking you over to her house. She really loves you, but she just expresses it differently than extroverts.
At a party, you won’t necessarily be able to pick out the extroverts from the introverts — both can be engaged in multiple conversations and enjoying themselves — but it’s the afterwards that is a telltale sign. If you need to retreat to a quiet place in order to regain energy and perspective, you’re probably an introvert. If you can keep going for days–definitely extrovert!
My point is that there isn’t a “better” here. I honestly believe that introverts and extroverts complement each other and it takes both to make the world go round. As an introvert, it’s important for me to realize that if I go from one social engagement to the next, I will end up feeling like a shell of the person I once was– but I can’t use that as an excuse for shutting people out — I just have to dig deeper and prepare myself.
So how is an introvert to survive and actually enjoy her houseguests when her natural disposition is to prefer the life of a hermit? Here’s my top three tips:
- Build in times of quiet or you won’t survive this time with grace! It’s much more effective to excuse yourself after breakfast and say, “hey I’m going to go pray for half an hour” than to be counting the hours down to the time when you’ll have your house to yourself again. Prayer is a great way to be filled up so that you can enjoy your guests again. Just let them know prayer is a part of your day, no apologies. Also, if you’re nursing a baby, use some of those nursing moments to go to a quiet place and regroup.
- Create a separate sleeping area for your guests. I know this is not always possible, but for me, it’s the key to surviving. We don’t do the “sleepover” with all the kids sharing rooms because it’s far too exciting and nobody sleeps as well. And to be honest, if my kids are up laughing and squealing, then I’m not sleeping — and being exhausted makes enjoying your guests that much more challenging! Even my kids appreciate a chance to get away to a quiet place, and they are better rested and ready for fun in the morning.
- Know when to say when. You need to be honest with yourself and your guests and not let the visit last too long, or else it will end up sapping you of all the life you have left! I mean this sincerely. Yes, God gives grace in the moment, but sometimes He expects us to humbly accept our limits an not put Him to the test.
Recently, my pregnant sister, her husband, and 7 kids decided to come for a visit. Now, I love my sister, and she is one of my dearest friends; we grew up as roommates, even shared a bed for a while, so this is the easiest of guests to have. But I just had to admit from the get go that 14 kids in one house was going to be exhausting. So, we had to be realistic. We set the maximum number of days that we knew we could handle without absolutely losing our minds and we stuck to it.
Those days were full of awesome, wonderful memories, but by the last day, the littler kids were getting sick (always happens) and they were starting to turn on each other. The bigger kids could have easily lasted a few more days, but you have to think about the entire family dynamics and be realistic in your goals.
But this begs the question, “why host people at your house at all, if it’s so draining?” Trust me, I have asked myself that question, and I think that the answer might surprise you. Frankly, it’s not really living to be in your comfy little cocoon all the time, where everything is the perfect temperature, the perfect environment, and you are all alone with your thoughts.
Loving people is hard, but love can only grow when it’s tested –not when everything suits you. When everything suits you — that’s self-love, that’s selfishness –that only leads to misery and shutting out life. I want a life of adventure and love and happiness, and that takes getting out of my comfort zone and saying yes to life in all it’s messiness. It’s absolutely worth it, and that’s why I do it.
So let’s get out there and enjoy the messiness of our crazy, Catholic lives! The real beauty of our lives is often found in the midst of that messiness, so don’t be afraid to stretch yourself and get out there and live the life God meant you to live!