Even an Introvert Needs Regular Doses of People
About 4 weeks into no human contact, I started to lose it. Introvert or no, I found out I need people, and not just once every couple of weeks when I make quick, low contact trips to the grocery store. I miss hugs, and couples dancing, and standing close to talk in someone’s ear because the music is loud. I miss sitting close at movies or dinner. I miss razzing my friend Bill at the gym. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
More and more I feel like I need to fill the silence. Either Pandora or the TV are my near-constant companions. Perhaps it’s a weak attempt to inject a little humanity into my world that Zoom, Facetime, Social Media and the telephone aren’t quite managing to fill. Yet there was a time I reveled in long periods of silence. Once I enjoyed the peace. Now, I find it oppressive and lonely.
Life as I knew it is changing. Who and what I was before COVID, while not entirely things of the past, will surely have evolved when everyone emerges from their personal cocoons at some as yet unspecified date. Will it be harder to give those unrestrained hugs that were such an integral part of the dance community? Or will we cling to each other like the lifelines we truly are?
How Quickly Will We Evolve?
I suspect the return to whatever the new normal will be is going to be gradual for some, and instantaneous for others. The more cautious will ease into it slowly. Those who missed human contact the most will likely throw caution to the wind and hug as if their life depended on the contact and connection. Maybe it does.
As I wilt a little some days, I wonder about those for whom contact with other people is necessary to keep them energized; make them feel alive. In many ways, I’m one of the lucky ones as I don’t normally need energy from others to inspire or uplift me. If I’m faltering after a few weeks alone, what of others? Is their absence from social media and Zoom gatherings a silent sign of their distress?
It’s becoming more evident I don’t truly understand how to help the extroverts who thrive on human energy. I suspect my efforts to motivate and uplift fall flat for them because they lack the one element they need nearly as much as the air they breathe. How can I provide that with the means I have at my disposal?
Contact While Observing Social Distance
One friend suggested meeting in the street at a safe distance from each other, but her neighbors are also her friends. Even if I knew more of my neighbors better, I live on a street that runs through the neighborhood so even in times of less movement, there are always cars passing through at some point. Public places are also not an option with parks, beaches, and trails closed. I suspect others are similarly limited right now too.
My mind is screaming You’re a creative! Surely you can come up with creative ideas for reaching out and helping people stay connected and mentally healthy! It’s all well and fine to be a creative person by nature (and frankly, I believe we all are, if we learn to get out of our own way), but as I struggle to get back on my blog-writing schedule, I know it’s not exactly a switch that can be turned on at will.
Creativity is a lot like feelings. It is at its best when we let down our guard and stop trying to control things. It’s also human nature to grab on and hold tight when your world is in chaos. That doesn’t mean the walls are tumbling down, or storms are ravaging the land. Sometimes that chaos is simply a major alteration to the neat, orderly life you’ve become used to.
Adjusting to Temporary Limitations
For me, neat and orderly meant being able to go to the gym 3 times a week, do my grocery shopping and errands on Wednesdays, and getting out for regular dance nights. In between, I wrote, cleaned house, and everything else that for me meant a well-rounded life. I ordered a lot of things (but not everything) online, and usually got it within a day or two. Now, it’s a week or more, and I often find some of what I ordered is cancelled in the interim. Stock dwindles as others are ordering more and more of their necessities online rather than venturing into stores which may not even be open any more.
Meals are another area I’ve seen altered. I’m now eating almost exclusively out of my refrigerator and freezer which, while well-stocked, gets somewhat monotonous after awhile. A couple of attempts at ordering in yielded unsatisfactory results, so I’m settling into my own cooking for the duration. I have gotten a bit more creative, supplementing my usual yogurt and blueberries breakfasts with oatmeal, proznick (basically cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, eggs, and spinach), and pancakes. Lunch and dinner have become one meal as I often get busy and don’t feel hungry until late afternoon.
Coffee consumption has increased (OK, so I’ve only gone from one to two cups a day) as I spend many of my waking hours in front of the computer which I moved to the dining room to better accommodate the Zoom dance nights. But I also throw the blinds in the living room wide as soon as I move to the front of the house in the morning. There’s something about having natural light (even filtered through heavy clouds and rain) that raises my spirits and makes me feel more connected, if not to people, at least to the world outside my four walls.
I’m learning the best way to maintain my sanity is to remain flexible; to adjust and adapt to the many things I can neither control nor change right now. It doesn’t mean I keep it together every day. I don’t even feel obligated to make every post; every article airy fairy and upbeat. Instead, I allow myself to be real, though even at my darkest, I somehow manage to find a ray of hope, or at least a lesson in my struggles.
When my daughters were young, I did everything in my power to remain strong and stoic around them. I never cried in front of them, no matter how bad things got. But in hindsight, I realize I wasn’t as loving and giving either because I kept everything bottled up inside. One night when they were about 10, I had a meltdown on my office floor after several unsuccessful attempts to refill some inkjet cartridges. Jenni wrote me a little letter telling me it was OK to cry in front of them, and though I still tried hard to remain strong, her words had a profound effect, made more poignant as they came from a 10-year-old.
Finding a New Kind of Balance
Years later, I still vacillate between being strong and positive, and being real. Real wins more and more often, even if I do my best to inject a note of positivity or inspiration into my low times. If nothing else, it’s my way of refusing to ever be the miserable, angry, pain-filled woman I once was, and not because I disavow my less attractive feelings.
In truth, I’m pretty terrified of going down that dark hole again, as I never, ever want to follow my mother’s example and let it consume me. I try to trust that I’ve healed a lot of wounds in myself she never even addressed in herself, but two suicides in one immediate family are one of the harshest lessons life can give. I know I’ve healed and forgiven a lot of things, not only in my parents, but in myself. But I also know there are depths I’ve yet to delve. As such, I keep protections in place to keep myself from falling too deeply down my personal rabbit hole. It’s a lot more challenging while in isolation, but I’m learning as I go, just like everyone else.
Using Gratitude to Remind Myself of All the Good Things
My gratitudes today are:
- I’m grateful for the people who check on me, and let me check in on them regularly.
- I’m grateful for the gift of line dancing. It’s always been one of the things that kept me sane, but right now, it and the people who keep it going are one of my strongest lifelines.
- I’m grateful for opportunities to learn new things, whether it’s dances, computer programs, or anything else. Keeping my mind sharp keeps me from wallowing.
- I’m grateful for an entire room filled with books. When all else fails, I can lose myself between pages wrought by someone else’s imagination.
- I’m grateful for abundance; motivation, inspiration, dancing, joy, love, friendship, community, kitty love, health, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a Holistic Ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward