Don’t be in a rush to make sense of the COVID-19 worldwide shutdown. This is a fine time to leave some room for your essential self and acknowledge the truths about you that you can’t during “normal” times.
I am an introvert, and I am pretty much the most content I have been in a long time. My extrovert self was constructed in college when I realized that my career path required it. This costume has become easier to wear over the decades (some parts of it do grow into you) but too much extroversion at a time exhausts me.
Of course, I and my spouse and my family are well and I am employed but not in health care, essential retail services, or government. My governor has been an exemplary example of crisis leadership, the mayor of our largest city and the mayor of my hometown have both been cracking the social distancing whip while keeping a sense of humor. Right now, I am lucky.
But in the past few years, I have felt that non-native extrovert in me working overtime. Between work, chores, self-care, attention to spouse, family, and friends, and activities related to my side hustle as a writer (“hustle?” More like an Elaine Benes dance), I am often face down on the bed trying to stop the world. And, since 2017, many of us have had to add on #resistance work. (Why do we have to work so hard if we are going to have an authoritarian government? Don’t banana republics have nice weather and beaches?)
Pope Francis has said that the COVID-19 virus is the earth’s way of making us take climate change seriously. I believe that could be right. I am also hoping we take this lesson and Slow. The Hell. Down. The upcoming summer is a wonderful chance to do this.
In the Chicago area, it is being suggested that we will have to forego our usual Summer of Unrelenting Events that goes from Memorial Day almost until October, as preparing for them will be extremely difficult if no one can gather in person until early May. There is general sadness about the idea of cancelling Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, whatever Taste of Chicago is now, and every town’s SummerConcertTasteoFestoRama in the Park. I, however, am very much looking forward to this.
I spend too much time in the summer wondering what I am missing out on. On certain weekends, the attractive activities double and triple up, especially if you consider Chicago and the suburbs and your northern other state of choice. This Fear of Missing Out makes the introvert in me anxious and upset. Our summers are hard won, and I mostly want to stop and sit and enjoy warm air and sun, not create yet another calendar of things I could be doing.
True extroverts: I understand that this time is very uncomfortable for you. But the world lately has been geared toward you. Interaction has turned into currency, and what used to be sufficient as individual activities (museum exhibits, reading, time with loved ones) are now packaged as Events! With the crowds match! And, those of us who are trying to save our country from its downward spiral need to do it in large enough numbers to leave a mark. It is very hard to get out the vote from your porch swing, difficult to march in place in your bedroom.
Those of us who by our nature need to limit our public interaction to be our best selves don’t expect people who need people to bend our way. But I hope that some of the methods we turned to during the pandemic pause remain available to those of us who preferred them all along. Some of us would prefer more online interaction, fewer events to have to say no to, calendars with days that actually have no entries in them.
I do not dislike people, and I know that extroverts can actually entertain themselves. But more options is a more inclusive way to run the world. Let’s not wait for another killer virus to have to learn this lesson again.