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Essays by Karen Anderson: Exposure and Sanctuary

Illustration by Kacie Brown

Wallace Stegner, in his novel, “Angle of Repose,” makes this observation: “Exposure, followed by sanctuary was somehow part of Grandmother’s emotional need, and it turned out to be the pattern of her life.”

When I read this in college, I knew Stegner was describing me, too. I didn’t know why I shared this need with Grandmother. I only knew that being with other people—although it was interesting and meaningful—was also exhausting. And afterwards I needed to be alone for a while.

My mother thought this was strange and would call upstairs in the evening, “Karen, come down and watch television with the family.” So, I would go down for a while and then escape to my bedroom and read. And, I grew up believing there was something wrong with me.

Many years later, I read a book called, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” I learned that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was born an introvert—someone who is often sensitive and creative, but can get overwhelmed in social settings and needs downtime.

That was it: exposure followed by sanctuary. It would turn out to be the pattern of my life, too—and now I knew why.

Now I knew me.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.