I’m an introvert in a pretty extreme way, and the older I get, the worse it seems to get. I mean, I can function when I have to, and for nearly twenty years, I stood in front of a classroom as a teacher. But it’s hard.
And, as an introvert, I always find it interesting that I both love people and feel drained by being around people. From my perspective, it’s definitely a myth that introverts don’t want to be around people. I’m so interested in people and love to hear their stories, but I get so nervous on the inside when I am around people that I end up being worn out from trying to pretend like I’m “normal.”
Interestingly, there are some people who can, somehow, actually add to my energy levels when I am around them—people who are warm, safe, and highly interesting to me. I wonder if they know who they are, if they know how wonderful they are to me. And, since I am not drained from being around them, I always wonder if I am draining them.
Anyway, since human-to-human friendships have been difficult for me, I have always been a good friend to animals. I remember loving animals a little more than the average kid when I was younger, but I was mainly just a dog person. As I have grown older, I have found great joy in just hanging out with animals and a greater variety of animals. It started with our first cat we adopted.
I’m allergic to cats, so I have never been around them too much, though I have always had a great admiration of them and always wanted one. When we moved to Maine and I learned that Maine Coon Cats are a little easier on people with allergies, I knew this was my solution to my conundrum. Then, I found out how much Maine Coon Cats cost, and I realized I had not really found my solution.
So, we just decided to find a cat that had some Maine Coon “leanings” and hope for the best. I was willing to take allergy meds if necessary. I really wanted a kitty.
One day, pretty much out of the blue, my husband said, “Let’s go see what they have at the Humane Society in the way of cats.” I was surprised but ready—and nervous. I didn’t know how to be around cats at all. My general impression of them was that they were more aloof than dogs and could be grumpy and less forgiving. That, plus my allergies, made me a little nervous, but I didn’t want to admit this to my husband. I had been considering a kitty for a long time. I thought this might be my chance.
When we arrived at the Humane Society in Bangor, Maine that day in February, they had one cat available for adoption. One cat! The rest were not ready for homes yet. I was like, “Well, let’s see this kitty!”
In the cage sat a beautiful but skinny kitty who definitely had some Maine Coon leanings, at least I thought—big feet, tufts on her ears and feet, and she was super soft. I decided to give her a test: I would give her a pet, and if she responded well, I figured she passed the test. I reached in to pet her, and she leaned in so hard to my petting that she fell off of the ledge she had been on. This was my cat! Love with gusto, even if it hurts sometimes!
In the days after we brought her home, my allergies flared horribly, so I had to go on allergy meds. And, sadly, our beautiful kitty I named Sophie seemed terrified in our house. She hid in the basement a lot. But we hung in there, and we found that Sophie and I have one key thing in common—we love, love, love soft fuzzy things.
Enter my robe. Since it was February, I was wearing my robe around every morning and every evening. It’s a thick, soft, fleecy robe, and I soon realized that Sophie loved it. She would stay in my lap when I had on the robe. And, soon, she was kneading on my tummy and purring. It was a process, but Sophie and I fell in love with each other.
In the last year, I have also learned how to be friends with my chickens. I like to hang out with them and watch them do what they do. They are always busy and have so much personality. Now, I don’t want to give a false impression: We have 17 chickens, plus 8 baby chickens. Not all of them are sweet little birds. Some really are. Some are pretty ornery.
There’s one girl, the smallest of our original 17, who escapes the run, even when it’s not time for free range, runs around like mad, won’t let me pick her up in my arms like many of the others, and generally just drives me crazy. One time, I yelled at her that she was going to the chicken stew first, but then I felt really badly and decided this would not be true.
If you have been following my posts, you know that I hang out with animals a lot, maybe too much. I have found that even just watching the squirrels and birds at the feeders brings me great satisfaction. I’m convinced I have made friends with one of the red squirels in our yard. I still love people, but animals are way easier for me to hang out with. There’s no judgment, real or imaginary. At least I don’t think so.
And, hopefully, my kitties and my chickens are good with being my friends as well. Of course, I don’t know what’s going to happen when my chicky girls quit laying eggs. I’m not sure how I’m going to separate friendship from farming. I have been reading about it and trying to prepare myself. I think I can do it when it’s time, but I’m not sure.
For now, I have some really good friends to help me get through the days, to help me feel happiness and joy. In fact, this week, we added 6 animal friends—baby Indian Runner ducks, and they are hilarious. Already, I can’t wait to write stories about them! And, in the meantime, I think we should all take a lesson from Sophie–love with gusto!