The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

08 June 2010

Introverts, Extroverts, and Agents of Chaos

I know what you're thinking: "agents of KAOS" are the bad guys in that 1960's TV series, "Get Smart". At least, that's what I would have assumed if I were you, but I'm a bit strange. I'm really talking about character.

As you might remember from my previous post, I've been busy helping with my husband's art exhibition. Opening night was last week. Since I'd organized this shindig, I couldn't hide in the corner and observe people as I normally would. This poor writer had to be in the thick of things and, you know, actually talk to people.

Some of my husband's friends from art school were the first to show up. The discussion was invigorating, covering everything from artistic technique to symbolism, culture, and even writing! I enjoyed myself and didn't want the artistic jam session to end. But some workmates arrived, and I felt obligated to give them the tour. I was talking and gesturing and trying to convey my enthusiasm for the paintings, and the whole time I felt my energy levels plummet. It wasn't late, so I couldn't blame sleep deprivation.

Finally, an old friend of mine showed up with her two children. It was great to see her, and I wanted to catch up, but her seven- and eight-year-olds weren't as interested in the paintings as she thought they'd be. I think they expected "finger painting". I volunteered to watch them while she fetched placating offerings of cocoa from the cafe downstairs. They headed straight for the stage, playing hide and seek in the curtains. Everything was under control, but then I spotted a gallery owner I'd invited. This was the important business end of things.

The kids looked fine where they were, so I darted over, grabbed my husband, and introduced him to the new arrival. My husband is a bit shy when talking about his work, so I had to get the conversation going, all the while watching the kids out of the corner of my eye. They'd discovered a keyboard I hadn't even noticed on the stage, one hooked up to the sound system with the volume on "high". I tried to ignore the first few notes, which were almost pretty, and I wondered if the boy had had piano lessons. Nope. A few raucous, jangling chords later, I had to excuse myself and charge the stage with a shushing finger to my lips. The boy paused at the intervention of adult authority, but then his sister joined in. I have younger siblings; I've babysat, but this was centre stage in the middle of an art exhibition. "Please don't do that. The sign says you're not supposed to touch..." Everything fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, I'm watching the gallery owner and my husband and hoping their conversation isn't too impaired by the cacophony.

Their mother was back, except she was more interested in the keyboard than the noise issuing from it. I think she's grown filters over her ears. She could read the "do not touch" sign, though, and in her arcane mothering manner managed to get them off the stage...but not before the boy almost broke his neck climbing a rickety stool. I think I need to do some child rearing research before my IVF treatment kicks in. The cats are well trained, nothing the threat from a squirt bottle of water won't fix, but the eight-year-old-agents-of-chaos are a bit more tricky. The girl even managed to spill her cocoa all over her mom, so my friend had to head home before we had five seconds to chat.

At least the gallery owner was oblivious to the circus (she must have kids), and my husband managed to line up an exhibition with her at the end of July. Whew!

But, after the art friends were gone, the evening really began to wear. I was stuck with people who left me feeling as drained as a blood bag in a room full of vampires. I recalled something I'd read about psychological traits:  Introverts (like me and the creative art friends) get their energy from quiet time alone and then give it away when they're in groups of people. Thus, the need for a solitary walk in the park later to recharge. Extroverts (like my co-workers), however, are energized by parties and interactions with others. I'd been vampirized!

I usually don't have to worry about energy-suckers when observing from the fringes, but being in the fray made me vulnerable. Still, despite the lack of observational/note-taking time, I did learn a lot about character types. In fiction, there should be introverts, extroverts, and, especially, agents of chaos around to make a scene more interesting!