I’ve been attending CSUN this week, the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. It’s the 17th or so time that I’ve attended the conference. It’s Friday and I’ve been here since Tuesday.  I may finally understand how to do a conference in a way that works for me–as an introvert and as a woman with PTSD.

I have routines and I have mastered the art of recharging in my hotel room (almost) guilt-free. People have asked if I’m hiding. I say, “yes.” I am “hiding” not because I am afraid of anything or anyone, I am recharging. I have worked hard–through meditation–to listen to the signals my body gives me that I’m tired or triggered or anxious. I now realize how quickly my reserves are drained. This conference is particularly draining because every 50 feet there is someone else I can’t wait to hug and catch up with. This is my family. I am home.

Previous years, I would have pushed myself to go to sessions, I would have berated myself for not having the stamina of my colleagues, I would imagine people being angry with me for missing their sessions. I would spend the following week in bed, completely spent. As a busy professional and a single mom, I can’t afford to do that anymore. I need to pace myself this week so that when I return home, I will be present for my son, for my job, for myself.

So, this year I’m doing things differently. If I am feeling tired, I return to my hotel room and lie down. I do feel sad that I am missing some of the great sessions and discussions, yet twitter helps me have a sense of what is happening and who I can check in with later. I have learned the art of one-on-one discussions. If I were a Vulcan, a conference would be a series of mind melds.

This conference has been a smorgasbord of possibilities for conversations and breaks–like I’m running my own unconference in the midst of this larger conference. Lots of breaks…to recharge, to integrate new knowledge, to think, to write, to meditate…and then it’s back to mind melds and hugs.

This week I’m meditating on the phrase, “I am.” Each time I feel a tinge of insecurity or guilt, “I am” with a big breath.

I am, Wendy. I have PTSD. I am enjoying myself at my pace in an ocean of amazing people. I am here, being myself, healthy, lucky.

Please forgive me if I’ve missed your session or a great discussion. Find some time with me in a quiet corner so we can mind meld. I’m here. I’m listening. I’m participating. I’m just going at a slower, less crowded, quieter pace.

18 Replies to “I am”

  1. Thank you so much for this post. There are many reasons why it resonates with me. I’m glad that you are here and happy for even the brief periods of time we get to talk to each other in person.

  2. Love that you are operating so well from your own center! It seems the more we are authentic – honest – as ourselves, the more society can function as a healthy system. The dominant values that drive so much of our behavior contribute to being not-conscious and stressed. Authenticity is so needed and you exemplify it.

  3. There are conferences going on all over the world all the time, so what matters is not the sessions we miss but the conversations we have.

    My best memory from the last TPAC (in China) is a long conversation with someone who was sitting alone, blind, yet full of insights for anyone who made time to listen to him.

    So find time to listen, as I know you will, and if people are angry because you didn’t give them attention it’s their own need for attention that’s to blame, not you.

    1. Thanks, Liam. I appreciate that you are a good listener and seek out voices that may not always be heard. It’s a good reminder that other folks anger is more about them than me. Still, I was disappointed to miss out on some great presentations and discussions. Yet, I know it was what was best for me.

  4. i feel the same a lot of the time at CSUN, i have spent a lot of time in my room this week, as I find being around so many people overwhelming. i always have the intention to be social, but it doesn’t always work out. Whatever time I do spend with the people of CSUN is positive, and CSUN gives me the opportunity to be with those I hold close, but who are too often separated from by distance and time zones.

    1. Steve: Yes, CSUN feels like a family reunion for me. Or a meeting of the tribes. I feel so recharged after being around folks of like mind.

  5. Wow, I didn’t know this about you. It also does resonate with me on so many levels. I am very much of an introvert as well, and always feel intimidated when I’m around you guys, which is why I tend to stay close to some of my friends whom I lovingly refer to as my “human shields”. They help with the social aspects. Part of it for me is the language barrier, part of it is feeling like I need to be entertaining and spark great conversations, both of which I am not particularly good at. ;p

    It’s funny to learn about this from you here and then find out that Karl and Steve are pretty much the same way. We all have a lot more in common than I thought. Makes me realize that I shouldn’t be intimidated at all.

    I’m still not smart enough to manage my energy while at CSUN, and dearly pay the price the following week. I’m barely recovering from this year’s madness and it’s been what, 10 days now? Not spending as much time as I’d hoped with the three of you together or individually was a disappointment, one I hope to fix in the future. 🙂

    1. Denis: Welcome to the club! I didn’t know this about other folks as well. It’s the funny thing about “coming out of the closet,” whatever that closet may be. I hear you about recovering. My recovery time was better this year–I didn’t get as drained as I usually do because I was pacing myself better–but I still needed the following weekend to hibernate away from folks. So yes, more time with the other introverts! (Although…not too much time. :P)

  6. I’m late to the party because I just saw the link to this post…

    And like Denis, Karl, Steve, and the others, I’m also an introvert who requires my downtime in order to recharge. I’ve gotten much better at it…it no longer takes me as many days to recover as I spent at the conference. But it means that I do go off by myself at times because I need to be alone.

    So you do what you need to do. Because you need you more than we do.

  7. Thank you for being brave and sharing this Wendy. I can’t believe I missed this when you initially wrote it but am glad I have found it now.

    Safe to say I feel the same way and have the same struggles. We all look so polished on the outside don’t we!

    Dealing with the guilt and putting ourselves out there is never ending but as I watch my 6 year old girl grow up I am learning to acknowledge my vulnerability and boundaries so I can bring up a strong woman. And be present, as you say.

    It’ll be good to see you at CSUN this year. Hugs.

  8. Thank you for sharing this, and ever more so for doing it in a way that’s so authentic, sincere, and productive. In my work with certain clients, a quiet room/area is one of the practices we discuss, and I was wondering if folks think that’s something CSUN should offer? Given the wide variety of people who attend, I feel that could be incredibly helpful? There’s all the logistics of it itself not getting too crowded, etc., but is that something that could help such that one doesn’t have to feel as if they are “leaving”, but rather simply partaking from a quiet area where it’s acceptable to “not be on”. Thank you again for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Sina. “Authentic” is one of my favorite words, so it means a lot for you to feel that about this post. Yes, I absolutely believe CSUN should offer quiet spaces. OSCON–another large conference organized by O’Reilly–has been very thoughtful about providing meditation and quiet spaces for people throughout the conference. I’m particularly worried about that this year as I wasn’t able to get a hotel room in the conference hotel. Which means I’ll need to walk 1/2 a mile back to my hotel to take breaks. It would be great if you proposed that to the CSUN organizers. I’d be happy to put them in touch with the OSCON folks to discuss logistics and what not.

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