In the language of loving my family, I often get lost in translation.

I love people. I just happen to love them best in small groups or through the internet.

I was also born into a family of hard-core extroverts. There is one exception. My baby sister KC shares my affinity for people-avoiding (love you sis!).

Love in my family is comprised of three things: coffee, naps, and time with each other. I have the first two down pat. Coffee will one day outrank hemoglobin in my bloodstream. I also pride myself in being a gold medalist in the napping Olympics. It’s the time part that I get tripped on, every.damn.time.

Celebrating the holidays turns this up to eleven. For a long time I didn’t have the words to articulate that the pulsing chaos of holidays was sucking my spirit through my fingertips and toes. I stayed and dwindled into a ball of cranky bitchy nothingness.

At least at this point in my lifetime, we all know that we speak different dialects in the language of love. At least now I can say, ‘I love you all but I am peopled-out. Come give me loves before I run away.”

I want to love my family in the way they receive love. I want my efforts to be received and understood. I am learning the hard way that it all boils down to speaking what I need into spaces between others and myself, and knowing when to build a boundary.

I am new at boundary setting. There are still egregious holes in the fences I construct. There are also stone-cold bolder-block walls where smaller, gentler ones would suit. There are bruises in this business of learning to build boundaries. I need a fluffy nest and they need the disco ball laden dance floor to come together. I pay a heavy price to meet them at that disco. It takes days to recover. It can take weeks. I go because I love them. I also hide sometimes because I love them and I love myself too. It doesn’t make them less. Choosing myself sometimes allows me to choose them too.

I’ve spent much of this day in sweatpants, wrapped around a mason jar of coffee, cell phone off, and earbuds in, hiding from the world, and nursing one hell of a people-hangover from the holidays. Yesterday was the culmination of multiple holiday celebrations. My psyche is wearing the scorch marks of too many conversations, too many lights, too many sounds, too many deadlines, too many obligations made with good intentions.

I am wearing the sum of all that muchness.

A note to those who navigate the world along similar routes:
It’s okay to hide.
You owe your face-time only to yourself.
Boundaries are a beautiful thing. Have a little grace and gentleness for yourself as you learn to build them.

A note to those who navigate the world as an extrovert:
Hiding doesn’t mean we don’t love you.
This face-time, this dip into the disco-laden dance floor of social interaction is a declaration of how much we do truly care.

Love often gets lost somewhere in the middle of shoulds, and coulds, and dids, and dones.
We don’t have to speak the same dialect to find each other in all of the noise.

Jerusha Gray

Jerusha Gray is insatiably curious. This curiosity, coupled with a brain that never shuts up, drives her to paint and draw, read prodigiously, make music, write, and sing in grocery stores.


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