Reader, if you are an extrovert who’s lived through the past 15 months, I hope you are feeling great post-C0vid joy (LOL, I said “post”—I mean, who knows?) of gathering again, of public life, of simply reading the facial expressions of other humans. Especially if you were forced to quarantine alone, or with incompatible companions, I really hope your isolation is a fading memory.
On the other hand, if you (like me) tend to introversion, and you are finding that all this re-entry is happening a little fast and furious, I want to offer a bit of solidarity.
Obviously, there has been so much devastation that it is nonsensical to speak of silver linings. Catching up on our reading, or mastering tricks like a nice sourdough loaf cannot make up for even the least loss.
And yet. The unprecedented experience of a global pandemic carried, for introverts, an extra embedded novelty: The whole world’s new normal was our normal normal. Our measured approach to social contact: wow, suddenly not abnormal! I’m not saying the introvert’s pandemic was a walk in the park to get soft-serve, but some pressure was off, wasn’t it? Maybe we didn’t even see the scope of that social pressure until it was removed, by necessity.
So as much of the world returns to the old normal, I find that along with some of the other indoor cats and other neurodiverse folk I know, I want to hang back a bit and review the options. To proceed at a mediumish pace.
Ironically, the need to be thoughtful became super-obvious when I jumped on a plane to Colorado to spend a week in my hometown, with my family, lodging at the ancestral manse (actually, a typical 70s split-level in a boring, typical Western cul-de-sac). In my actual childhood bedroom ←which, haha, that was not weird at all.
Here’s what I got to see: For me at least, basic self-care just gets a whole lot harder around other people. I have so much early conditioning around putting myself last, hurrying up, staying out of the way, not being a nuisance, preparing to be disappointed, and not burdening others with my little whims and preferences. We so often needed to “get this show on the road.”
So like the people who’ve been living on their own for years but still walk into their dad’s house and go straight to open the fridge, that don’t-be-in-the-way programming came right up again for me. It suddenly seemed hard to find the time to do a few minutes of stretching, the stretching without which I currently cannot walk. It suddenly seemed more embarrassing to be writing in my bujo (core self-care!), even though my life is kind of in there. Little things, some of them, but it was so natural for me to push my own needs aside.
(I’m making it sound like being home is a hardship, and it is great. Boulder, Colorado is delightful, full of happy nostalgia bombs, including every hippie touchstone ever. It’s … home!)
I imagine that if you were ever a child, and you weren’t raised by a village, but by ordinary working humans under ordinary modern-day—i.e. extreme—time pressure, you probably have some of this conditioning too. Which may mean that a part your lockdown experience was the freedom to attend, without judgment, to whatever little whims and preferences could be addressed.
Kind of like what we imagine, as children, adulthood is going to be—and it turns out: mmmmm, not. Wants and even needs do have to be balanced with those of others, and with natural limits.
But the pandemic was a true Everything Must Go! moment. So while things are still a little spacious, I want to resist hitting the reset button, and be a little deliberate about what I add back in. Family, yes. Travel, yes. Yes to hugs! Yes to bookshops! Yes to some group events, and of course yes to considering the needs of all and mutual care.
But NO to thoughtless self-squishing simply because I’m in the presence of others. I’m grateful to have seen the remnants of that social programming, and I hope I won’t get fooled again. If it took a pandemic to see it, I don’t want to un-see it.
So, dear readers, I don’t have a handy step-wise solution for this self-care situation-of-the-month—just vulnerability and a few observations. But I sure would love to know what you’re seeing in your lives, whether introvert, extrovert, or neurodiverse, as we move forward. Please add your thoughts in the comments below.