Last weekend, I attended my first post-Covid party—a warm, summer night gathering held in a friend’s leafy yard.

I arrived excited. There were people–lots of them! And all seemed to be smiling. The collective vibe: Covid is over!

After grabbing a glass of rose, I launched into conversations with a swirl of different people. A chat about backyard bears with one person morphed into a conversation with another about teaching dance, which then evolved into chats about interior decorating, travel to Italy, and how to raise a baby parrot.

I talked too. At first. I’m good during the first few minutes of a party. But as the evening wore on (read: about 45 minutes into it) my enthusiasm and conversational capacity started to wane. I began listening more than speaking. I started enthusiastically interviewing people, which is what I always do when I feel uncomfortable socially. Really? Your kids are 13 and 15?! Wow! Tell me more!

See, I suck at small talk. I spend my days with clients talking about challenging emotional experiences. Grief. Trauma. Addiction. Abuse. I revel in the intimacy and raw honesty we share.

Tell me about your impending divorce and I’m all ears. Tell me about your experiments with tomatillo plants, not so much.

Ninety minutes into the party, the effort to converse had become excruciating and I remembered why I liked quarantine so much. There was no social pressure, no need to come up with a witty retort or dazzling tale. I could happily be the introvert I am, positioned behind a book where authors speak to me of emotional truths.

By the time my husband and I left the party, my cheeks hurt from the fake grin I’d adopted at some point during the evening. Worse, though, was the shame spiral I’d descended into for not telling interesting stories, for feeling like I didn’t belong, for grinning like a ventriloquest’s dummy, and for never even considering adopting a parrot. I had failed at socializing. Again.

Two mornings later, I did what I always do when confronted with feelings of shame and social incompetence. I started writing because the page is where I feel most comfortable.

The page wants to know what I have to say.

The page doesn’t care if I’m not brilliant or witty on the first try.

The page is patient; it will wait with me until I get the words right.

The page allows me to speak my truth without worrying about my audience’s immediate reaction.

In short, the page is safe. It’s the place where our thoughts, memories, ideas, and experiences can see the light of day. It’s the place where we learn that what we’ve done, how we’ve lived, and what we’ve survived matters.

The page—whether writing on it or reading from it–is an introvert’s favorite party and one I will happily keep attending for the rest of my life.