Recently I had some time to reflect on the differences I see between myself and my wife and daughters. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m the more shy and reserved one. Haha.
Though I started to doubt whether I’d truly renewed my introvert card while during the stay-at-home period of COVID-19, I am pretty sure it’s still valid. I rely on quiet and solitary pursuits to recharge my batteries. I retreat when overwhelmed by the sheer volume of input presented by the world. And I’m more at home with my head in a book, movie, or music (with or without headphones) than anything else in the world.
During the pandemic, I was disconnected from a few of my more extroverted tendencies that I also use to recharge. I couldn’t go work out (which is as much a social exercise as a physical one). I couldn’t go eat at a restaurant or sit quietly in the corner of a coffee shop. I couldn’t go to the movies. And as a result, I fell even further inward. So much so in fact that I returned to extremely old habits like retreating into my work and letting everyone else do their thing.
As I collapsed into myself, I realized that it was a way to seek control over a situation I felt powerless to do anything about. I set up games I could play over the Internet via video chat and screen sharing so that I could share the one thing I know how to do… help people create stories. I’ll save that conversation for another day. But I minimized myself to save energy for the moments I wanted to expand again.
It’s a bit like breathing.
As an inhale, I exerted control over a very few things. I would work (I work from home and that didn’t change much) or putter around the house cleaning up or fixing meals, whatever needed to be done. I read books. I listened to music. I watched a LOT of television and movies. Things I could do by myself even if I was technically around other people.
As an exhale, I wrote. I created. I worked out a couple of blocks away in a friend’s garage. I set up and ran two hour sessions of a couple of role-playing games I’ve designed.
Some days it worked out that I inhaled just enough to exhale again. I was exhausted many of those long days. I crashed hard and would do my best to repeat the process again when I woke up — inhale, exhale, sleep.
My wife and daughters express themselves differently.
Expanding the Scope
Even as I was falling inward, they were letting it all out. Yelling at one another. Laughing loudly. Singing at the top of their lungs. Talking over each other while ostensibly watching something on TV. Speaking loudly over the phone or computer doing chat after chat.
Remember how I said I try to get smaller when the sheer volume of input became too much? Do you know how hard it is to do that when you can’t find a place to do so in your own house and you can’t escape? That’s what I felt.
As quiet as I tried to make myself, they filled the void. And I don’t blame them, but it was a bit like being in a pressure cooker. I’d look for a place to sneak away for 5 minutes of peace and quiet and inevitably I’d hear my girls, or my wife, or my dogs expressing themselves to the world. Move. Hide. Yelling again… on and on.
I fall inward. They expand outward. The world is a big place, but not big enough during a pandemic it seemed.
Trying to Hold Together
Slowly I seem to be hitting some sort of balance again, but for a while I felt like I was losing my mind. I’m hopeful that I will continue to stay on an even keel for a bit — maybe even make progress on some fronts I was stuck on before.
We shall see.