Essays by Karen Anderson: Exposure and Sanctuary
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.