I’m a bonafide ninety ninth percentile introvert according to a test I once took. I didn’t argue with the results or the explanation because the comments appeared to be right on target when they came to describing me. The analysis made a point of explaining that my introversion has nothing to do with a dislike of people but rather a preference for how to recharge my emotions. In other words I’m a people person who sometimes needs to retreat from human contact for a time just to ease the stresses of living. When times get tough I prefer a quiet weekend inside the comfort and privacy of my home, alone with my thoughts rather than sharing them in a large group in public. Our tendencies toward introversion or extraversion are mostly determined by the extent to which we feel better in a serene understated setting or one that is filled with people and excitement. In my case I unwind best with a walk alone in an empty forest or snuggled in a blanket on my couch with a good book.
Once we introverts are feeling calm once again, which rarely takes more that a few hours or days to accomplish, we are fully able to return to the crowds and the noise and actually enjoy our interactions with the world. Our feelings for the people around us are often even stronger than those of our seemingly differently wired extrovert friends who find so much joy and comfort in raucous gatherings after a long week of work. Perhaps it is our intensely deep feelings for the humans around us that are at the root of our need to step back into our little cocoons now and again. We are often empathetic to a fault. We notice those who are hurting with little more than a glance at the pain in their eyes and then worry about them until we are assured that they will be okay.
As an introvert I tend to be content with little more than observing the birds in my backyard or time spent writing in my front room where I can hear the children playing in my neighborhood. So when we were asked to isolate ourselves in our homes for a time to prevent the spread of Covid-19 I believed that I had been preparing for such an eventuality for my entire life. It seemed as though being confined to my quarters would be an intensely pleasurable experience and one that would lead me to a kind of self healing of the soul that would feel luxurious. Sadly I did not count on the longings for purpose and social interaction that have always defined me. I did not seem to understand that my introversion is a healing mechanism, not a lifestyle.
At first I felt rather joyful staying home. After all I have virtually anything a person might want to keep myself busy and entertained. My husband Mike is my very best friend and I enjoy my conversations with him. We have food in our pantry, books on our shelves, flowers in our garden and interests to keep us occupied. I’m not someone who cares much about food so I honestly don’t miss eating out. I suppose I could go the rest of my life without entering a restaurant and be just fine. I used to enjoy shopping as a kind of sport but it does not give me the thrill that it once did. I can enjoy a movie as much and perhaps even more in my living room than at a theater. I politely put up with sports but don’t really miss them now that they are gone.
Nonetheless after many weeks of staying home I find myself longing to get back out into the swim of things while hearing people say that I am part of a group that should continue to maintain my now self imposed isolation. I sense that my patience with this situation is wearing thin and in that realization I see more and more clearly the true meaning of my introversion because what I long for most are intimate gatherings with my family and friends. I can see them on Zoom conferences or with a FaceTime call but I really want to hug them and see their faces. Just sitting next to them without saying a word would be glorious.
If things were still normal and Covid-19 had not entered my life I would have been as busy as the bees that flit around my yard. By now I would have spent time in the mountains of Colorado with my brothers and sisters-in-law. I would have celebrated with my grandsons on Aggie ring day and attended parties for a number of young people who are graduating from high school or college or medical school. I’d be packing and preparing for a grand tour of Scotland with a Rice professor as my guide. I’d be excited about taking our trailer out for camping trips and counting the days until the Elton John concert for which I snared tickets back in November of 2019. I would have gone to see my aunt on her one hundred first birthday and I’d get to spend time chatting for hours over lunch or dinner with friends. I would get to be with my mathematics students when I teach them the fundamentals of arithmetic and Algebra. I would sit inside my church again smiling and embracing the lovely people that I are there each Sunday. I would be out and about in my bustling city grumbling about the traffic but secretly enjoying that I live in a place so vibrant and filled with life.
I miss all of that so very much and I wonder when I will be able to feel safe enough again to join the world around me without a mask or gloves or hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. I have grown weary of feeling a profound sense of worry about the physical and economic health of the world. I sense an almost tectonic shift in the routine ways of doing things that is shaking all of us to our very core. I long for normal even as I fear that I will have to redefine what that means. I want to believe that we will be able to come together to make positive changes that will make the world an even better version of itself than it was before Covid-19.
On some days I am filled with optimism and on others I grieve. Perhaps my introverted tendencies are too much with me. I am overthinking and instead of comforting me, those thoughts sometimes lead me to conclusions that are terrifying. I see us humans attempting to avoid truths by showering ourselves with superficialities, but thankfully I also see instances of profound compassion and sacrifice. My hope lies in the prayer that we will ultimately make our way through all of this but this time we will watch and learn how to build a better world.
When the dust settles I will cast aside my self imposed shackles and literally dance back into the flow of life. I will be everywhere with everyone. I’ll still be an introvert at heart but I will grab the world with everything that I’ve got.