Why this isolation is working so well for me (and those like me)

At the start of this pandemic, I heard so many people talking about isolation and the negative impact it would have on people. There were online groups for people to talk to complete strangers springing up all over the internet. I even found myself in a chat group for an hour with a group of women I sometimes do critiques with. Women whose screen names I know, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge about them.

They were nice enough, and we were all of a similar age with similar interests, yet I struggled to find something to talk about. Even talking about myself seemed strained – not that I’m shy, really…it’s just odd for me to talk to people I don’t really know. I’m not a fan of small talk. I admit, I only went to the chat room because I wasn’t motivated to do anything more interesting that night and it gave me a convenient excuse to spend the night on the couch with the dog and not feel compelled to be productive.

So a few weeks went by and I was isolated in my nice little house – seeing only close family and one friend – all from a responsible social distance. I worked from home, taking a 15 step commute to my office and being engaged in my job until quitting time (and often well beyond quitting time). Around week two, something magical began to happen.

I realized I was sleeping 8 solid hours. I had no bouts of my occasional insomnia. My house was tidy, and even the mail that tends to pile up on the kitchen table disappeared. I didn’t feel tense, time pressured, or exhausted at night. I began to feel more creative, but without the pressure to produce something. I became the person I am – free from outside distractions or expectations – and I started to THRIVE.

Granted, I am very fortunate that my job immediately went to remote work – I didn’t have to face the financial stress and pressure so many people are facing. My point in writing this is not to diminish the struggles which are very real out there for so many people. But for some of us blessed with healthy families and some degree of economic security this time has been the ultimate luxury.

I’m an introvert – in a very extroverted occupation – and doing that for a lifetime has been exhausting. Being home and secluded has opened up a whole new world for me – a world filled with imagination, creativity, and a calmness I have never experienced on this level.

For years I have thought I’d be 100 percent okay all by myself in a cabin in the woods. This pandemic has taught me that I was completely accurate. If I find out tomorrow I can’t leave my house for two more years, I’m going to go take a hot bath, drink some tea, and order more cleaning supplies from Amazon. I’m not going to protest. I’m not even going to give it a second’s thought. I’m just going to snuggle in with the dog, breathe a sigh of relief, and get on with entertaining myself.

For those of you who are desperate for human interaction – I’m not without pity. I think it would be horrible to just want to see somebody and have a conversation and be unable to connect on this most basic human level. This isolation is very hard on most people, and I don’t deny or minimize that at all. But when the doors open and we’re once again all together there will be those of us who are struggling to reintegrate into our old lives and ways of behaving. Some of us will go home exhausted after a day of endless distraction and conversation and we will long for the seclusion, for the opportunity to be alone with our thoughts.

Being an introvert has advantages in times like these – so to my introverted pals out there we will adjust when this is over – but I know I’ll be taking a closer look at how I plan to continue to live after having been allowed this wonderful luxury. I know the creative spree I’ve been on will end, but I’ll have to find new ways of reengaging with my (exhausted) creative side.

Day 2: Is enough really enough?

So today is the day I really settle in to this self-imposed isolation. I have done what I could to prepare for this. I’ve started to take an inventory of everything I have on hand (and discovered an odd obsession I have with soap) and yes, I have decided I really do possess enough toilet paper to last me a month.

It strikes me as a wondrous thing that of all the items people were worried about, toilet paper became the number one obsession. Honestly, I would have never given that a second thought. I was more concerned that I didn’t have three bags of Doritos and my stash of Reese’s Peanut Cups were lower than I would like. Perhaps I’m just a hedonist – screw the basics of human comfort and sanitation, I just want my snack supply to be secure.

I did not make a panic run to the store. In fact, I haven’t seen the inside of a grocery store in about two weeks. I stocked up the best I could (mainly on dog food) and figured as long as I have a few boxes of pasta and some cheese, I’m pretty much good to go. I’m fortunate in the fact that I’ve never been food insecure – but it makes me incredibly sad that others are not so lucky. So this will be a true test of our ability as Americans (and as Humans) to look out for the less fortunate among us.

Have you heard about the Eight Oaks Distillery in Rural Pennsylvania? (Here’s a link to their site: https://eightoaksdistillery.com/). They saw a need for hand sanitizer and set about creating a way to produce and distribute it to those in need. It’s pivots like this that will make us come out of the crisis stronger. They’re not the only company using this time to make a difference – education sites are opening up their resources for free to help the nation cope with school closures (another link to a great site: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions/). So maybe this crisis has a chance to move us all toward a more collaborative society – one where those who have something can help those in need.

I guess we’ll find out in a few months if we’re evolved enough as humans to do this gracefully and compassionately. I think we are, but the fact that everyone seems to be out of toilet paper does put a dent in my optimism.

Never before have I worried about this…

My first day of Social Distancing

I admit it, the thought of social distancing appeals to me.  I’m not very social to begin with.  My idea of a perfect day is really being alone in my house with my dog and having the freedom to bang out a few chapters of my next novel or work on my graphic design projects.  The thought of not seeing people for a few weeks (months?) really doesn’t cause me any anxiety or sadness.  I know I’m probably in the minority with this, but I’m a true introvert, and being an only child prepared me well for times like these.

With that being said, I also know that at some point I’m likely to find myself stretched out on my couch binge watching some series or another.  In fact, last summer I devoted weeks to the entire Boston Legal series and I loved every moment of that.  In this current situation, though, the mere thought of engaging in slothful behavior causes me to feel a flutter of anxiety.  That could be because last summer binge watching was a luxury that I chose while totally in control of my life and secure in the knowledge nothing big was looming outside my door.

Times are different now.  Oh, how they’re different!  There’s economic chaos on a Global scale.  People are in real danger of hunger and homelessness.  At best, we will feel some minor discomfort from this.  At worst, we face loss, grief, and horrible sickness possibly of ourselves or our loved ones.  Yeah, binge watching isn’t on my calendar today.

I rolled out of bed at 5 a.m., made myself tea, told my dog that this was our “new reality” – and turned on the news for about an hour.  When I had taken all I could of the calamity that’s now our daily experience, I set about being productive.  I cleaned my kitchen.  I did two loads of laundry.  I changed my sheets.  I checked in at my office – via email – and did a few small projects that I had kept for this morning just so I could feel some sense of normalcy.

Then I sat down to write this post and after three different opening sentences realized that my need for productivity comes from a complete loss of control over my life.  I’m not unhappy being here with the dog.  I love having the flexibility to telecommute.  I feel very fortunate that I’m not worried I’ll starve over the next month.  But even I – with my love of solitude – feel anxious that I can’t control any part of this situation.  All I can do is sit tight and count my blessings – and be productive in the hope that when this is over, I have done something to make my life – and those of others – a little less stressful.

Stay safe.  Practice Social Distancing.  Wash your hands.  And do whatever you can today to help yourself or someone you care about feel a little more in control in these crazy times.