Miriam sat quietly, gazing out to sea.
Way below, she could see through the swirling mist, white wave caps on the dark sea. It was cold with the wind sweeping up the sheer cliff face. A song from her youth floated through her mind
Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
“The windmills of your mind” she murmured. Memories came flooding back to that summer of ’69, the summer that she had met Mike. It might not have been the original ‘summer of love’ but it had been their summer of love.
Mike…..she could clearly remember how they met. She had walked up from the beach to the bar that overlooked that small bay. The sun had been setting and its golden rays had emphasised his deeply tanned face. Smiling across the bar at her he had picked up his guitar and softly launched into ‘Windmills’. He had held her gaze throughout the song and she had sat transfixed by his soft voice and piercing blue eyes.
After the song he had strolled over, the guitar replaced by a bottle of wine and two glasses. It had seemed so natural. She had listened to the tales of his travels, his degree, his plans for his career and found in him an intense strength she had felt drawn to. Their love had been instant and intense.
Back home when the summer drew to a close, Mike had courted her with a determination and passion that she later found characterised his approach to everything he sought.
Mike was a man big in stature, ideas and personality. Warm and engaging he could walk into a room and within minutes have formed a circle of new found acquaintances. He was just so wonderful to be with, his views so interesting, his looks so intense, he simply commanded his environment. She found herself carried along in an ever-growing circle of friends and acquaintances. Soon after that whirlwind courtship they had married.
Mike’s career had blossomed, their home seemed forever full of interesting people and they always had dinners and parties to attend. She had soon fallen pregnant, given up her own nursing role and then became full time mother to Robbie, their son, followed later by daughter Fiona.
Both son and daughter, who she loved dearly, had inherited Mike’s outgoing nature. In time Miriam began to feel hemmed in by the constant buzz of conversation, the quest for new activities, places to holiday. She began to feel that she had to subjugate her thoughts and emotions for the needs of the family and the ever-growing circle of friends. Increasingly she felt that she had surrendered her values, her needs. She would lock herself in the bathroom or roam the garden seeking a few moments of precious calm for herself.
It was obvious that Mike still loved her with the same intensity as those early years and her growing children adored her. And she loved them in her turn. But she had begun to feel less an equal, more a treasured belonging, her needs, her very self, subjugated to their needs. When the pressure became too great she tried to speak to Mike about herself and her needs but she always seemed to lack the right words. Mike, so busy, so logical and rational, so convinced of the certainty of his views, would tell her she was being too bottled up, too closed; she needed to take advantage more of their many friends.
When she did, on rare occasions, attempt to speak to one or more of their friends, she would be encouraged to get out more, join the endless social gatherings of their circle, give more of herself. She would end up feeling more incidental than ever.
She became depressed as the years passed.
Finally, summoning up her courage, she spoke to her doctor. He listened carefully to what she managed to describe of herself, her needs and frustration with life. She feared the response would be the prescription of tranquillisers. But said that she should speak to someone he knew that, he was sure, could help.
The psychologist, she was referred to, transpired to be a kindly, middle aged man who listened without interruption to all she had to say, writing quickly on his pad. When she finished, he looked intensely at her and, she felt, with genuine sympathy and understanding. He said that he could understand how she felt but would like her to complete a questionnaire. She could do it online and when they met next week, he would provide full feedback.
The following week they sat together again in the relaxed atmosphere of his consulting rooms and she listened as he gave her feedback on her responses. He spoke softly and easily of differing types of behaviour, differing gifts he called them. He would introduce a characteristic of behaviour, explain how people differed in their approach. No behaviour better or worse, merely differing behaviour. He would then suggest that her responses indicated that she behaved in a certain way – did she agree?
Miriam found that she was being described easily and accurately; a true and, importantly, validated picture of herself. A picture that also allowed her to see how others might differ from her.
She listened intensely as he went on to explain how people differed in terms of extraversion and introversion. The extroverts, he explained, gathered their energy and focused on the outer world of people and things. Introverts, by comparison, gathered their energy from within, the world of ideas and concepts.
As he continued, Miriam began to recognise her true self before he had even turned to her responses. He then revealed that she had reported as an introvert and asked if she agreed, she sat silently and let the tears of relief flow down her cheeks. It explained so much and she could already see the clear differences between her & Mike.
Over the following weeks, she learnt much more about behavioural preferences and understood why she had loved nursing so much. With Robbie at university and Fiona soon to follow, her thoughts began to turn to restarting her own career. However, she promised herself, she had had enough of being forced into extraversion, she was going to live and enjoy life as the introvert she really was.
Later she had sat Mike down and told him what she had learnt about herself. It was difficult at first but he had actually sat and listened. When she had finished, and told him (yes, actually told him) she was going to take her first holiday on her own, he had smiled and said
She had flown to northern Norway and spent a week walking and enjoying her own company and her own thoughts. Looking up, she saw that the mists had cleared and far out to sea was an iceberg, large and majestic, with the late afternoon sun glinting off its surface.
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind
“Not windmills of your mind!” Miriam exclaimed to herself, “The Icebergs of your mind!”
She pulled her anorak closer around her.
“Great & secret depths lay concealed beneath an iceberg’s tip – just like the minds of introverts.”