When Jonathan and I went on a cruise to Bermuda with my family several years ago, the piped-in, controlled voice of Cruise Director Carlos drove me crazy.
Now, this was a lovely cruise. It was a privilege to relax and have my towels folded into animal shapes every night.
However, the oft-repeated, overly-enthusiastic announcements just did not work for me. (I’m an introvert who jumps like a startled deer at the sound of a ring tone.)
Several times a day, Cruise Director Carlos would blast over the loudspeakers, reading the rundown of social events with forced good cheer. After a few days, it really got on my nerves.
Here he was trying to make sure we didn’t miss a single opportunity for happiness, when we were so much happier left to our own devices.
By the end of the trip, I’d clench my fists at the sound of Carlos’s voice. But why was I ticked off at this upbeat guy who was just doing his job?
Feeling Judged and Controlled
Because I’d interpret his announcements as judgment. Because I thought he was implying that I wasn’t having enough fun, or the right kind of fun.
In short, I thought he was trying to judge and control me, and I resented him for it.
It’s amazing what our minds come up with, isn’t it?
In hindsight, my anger was never about Carlos at all. All he did was hold up a mirror – or rather, a microphone – to the voice in my own head. All he did was bring me face to face with Cruise Director Caroline.
She’s the part of my ego that wants to manage everybody’s good time. She’s the codependent who tries so hard to “make people happy” as if that was ever in her power.
For example, I used to think that it was my job to make sure that Jonathan’s and my weekends were “fun”.
More accurately, I used to think it was my job to plan activities that would sound cool, so that when people asked, “What did you do last weekend?”, I could give an answer that would meet with approval.
As though there was something wrong with saying, “Oh, we just read books and took naps and enjoyed ourselves.” As though what actually made us happy wasn’t good enough.
When I let Cruise Director Caroline run the show, I felt anxious about how we spent our weekends. I judged our quiet Saturdays even though I secretly preferred them … and I got frustrated when Jonathan didn’t try to “fix” them with me.
Yes, now and then I like to put on my shiny tank top and party. But mostly I prefer to curl up on the couch and read or go to a yoga class. (Yoga is great for introverts, as you get to share meaningful experiences without talking.)
Controlled Cruise Director Caroline finds these true preferences very threatening. She thinks that I need to become a better me, preferably by putting down my journal and joining the group activities on the Lido Deck.
But what if I just let myself be who I am?
Question the Painful Thoughts
Recently I questioned the thought, “I need to make sure that Jonathan and I have fun weekends.” As a result, I discovered that it wasn’t true.
There was no need for me to “cruise direct” our free time. Whose business is it if I have fun? Mine. Whose business is it if Jonathan has fun? Jonathan’s.
And so what if our version of fun isn’t the same as other people’s? We’re certainly not the only introverts out there. I love the way Martha Beck describes her experience:
… My personality is more cat than dog. For years, I’ve pushed myself to be more social, more tail-wagging, more ingratiating. When I’m really honest, I wander off by myself almost all the time. I turned down several delightful New Year’s Eve invitations and went to bed at 9:00, not because I wasn’t in a festive mood – I was – but because a peaceful, restful new year was far more enjoyable for me than a noisy gathering. If this makes me the most boring human being in the world, I do not care.
Lately I’ve been having great weekends, in part because I’ve questioned the painful thought that I need to be different. What a relief it has been to make one small change with integrity.
What a relief to drop the story and embrace reality instead.
Ever questioned a painful thought? Join the conversation in the comments.
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