In the beginning of the pandemic, my life went upside down just like everyone else, but the opposite way. I went from mostly working from home to mostly going out to work. It was great, though because traffic was much better. Yes! Space on the highways during rush hour! I had lots of space and could go fast enough to get home quickly where I could be by myself. And now that things are opening up again, at times I’m just dying to spend some time at home!
The pandemic lifestyle really fed into my innate desire to hide under the bed (but I was going out to work, so I didn’t do that). Don’t go out? Okay! Stay in and read books or watch movies? Fine by me! Stop going on awkward first dates? Sounds great! Leave lots of space between myself and someone else because it’s the law? Finally!
Now that people are out of their pandemic house arrest situations, I’m getting a bit nervous. They’re going to be getting in my personal space again! And people that I used to hug, then stopped hugging because of pandemic worries and protocols…well, how do we get into hugging again? These questions and many more have come up as I have been ruminating on the subject.
Even though some of us have been vaccinated, and the government says it’s okay to hug other vaccinated people, we may be hesitant to do that, even if we know them. I recommend that we still don’t hug or kiss strangers. They may be vaccinated against COVID, but who knows what else they’ve got? There may not be a vaccine for it, so be careful.
Since I have been thinking a lot about this, as you can see already, I have a lot to say about it, and a little bit of advice.
Getting comfortable while still being safe
Practise – start slowly, and go a little bit at a time. Increase your comfort level step by step. Start with the easy things first. You don’t need to go crazy and run down the street naked, not even wearing a mask (for some reason, I think this is what some folks will want to do with themselves when that sense of freedom washes over them). So as much as you might feel like operating with reckless abandon because of your new-found freedom, maybe don’t start with the nudity.
Ease into it – Many of us introverts don’t tend to like big crowds even when we’re not in a pandemic, and there’s no need to change that. So that means that you can continue to be an introvert. Just because retail stores, bars, and salons are opening up again doesn’t necessarily mean you need to.
Maybe challenge yourself once in a while by going out with one friend to an outdoor patio or for a walk in a park where there aren’t many people (good luck with that one). During the pandemic, there are a lot of people who have found “the middle of nowhere”, the “path not taken”, and areas that are “off the beaten track” because their usual haunts have been closed. This situation leaves many of us introverts with a tendency to isolate just to avoid those crowds of people. I mean, how dare they be in the places I used to go to when I wanted to be alone, and be outside! I think it’s great that people are getting exercise. It would be great if they could also leave some space and not do their heavy breathing so close to me. Aaaaannnd back under the bed I go.
Coming out of a pandemic, we should act a bit like a famous groundhog on February 2nd. Poke your head outside of your borough and if you see your shadow (aka, you get scared), go back inside for a little while longer, have a nap, work on you pandemic-only hobby, and try again later. There’s no need to rush this.
If, however, you don’t see your shadow, feel free to linger for a while. Maybe hang out with a friend or take your mask off and breathe a few breaths (normally, and not on people of course).
Since easing out of a pandemic can be a struggle, let’s take some more advice from the lifestyle of the introvert. We know how to ease into social situations, and suddenly leave them when we’re done. And believe me, there isn’t a whole lot of guilt we carry about it. This advice may or may not be things introverts do during non-pandemic times. To start with: it’s okay to limit your social interactions to what you’re comfortable with. Always. No matter who you are.
It’s also okay to:
- Have a personal space bubble and make sure strangers stay out of it.
- Leave the bar long before it closes.
- Stay in on a Saturday night.
- Go Outside. Walk around a bit.
- Hang out only with people you know and like.
- Take some alone-time.
- Act like you’re engrossed in reading a book (or actually read the book) in order to avoid talking to a stranger or neighbour you don’t want to talk to. Just because you’re sitting out on your front porch getting fresh air doesn’t mean you need to get up close & personal with everyone who walks by that you might know (or not know).
- Interact with someone who walks by, if you want to.
- Say hello to people as you’re out and about on your walk.
- Have a drink on your home patio.
- Call people on the phone if you want to stay in and talk.
- Take it slow, and don’t feel like you “have to”.
- Go to a store when it’s not usually busy. It’s okay to just go and look around.
- Feel a bit scared, and go out in a small group anyway, just this once, and see what it’s like.
- Say “no thank you” if you’re not ready.
- Keep washing your hands.
Pandemic or not, please, wash your hands.
As we get into opening things up, more and more people are vaccinated, and the government is telling us that in certain situations it is okay to interact with others as we used to (i.e. hugging), we may still feel uncomfortable. At that stage, it could be that we now get to decide to be comfortable. As the ground hog pokes its head out of its borough, it can still decide whether it wants to go back inside or not.
That means you still get to decide how you want to interact with people.
I think it’s important to remember that we get to choose for ourselves how we want these interactions to go, and how much we want to engage. Listening to trusted advisors, experts, and factual information means we’re armed with knowledge to help us with that decision. Introverts are good at this gathering and assimilating of information. This means that if we see our respective shadows or not, it’s because we’ve gone over the information and did mock scenarios in our heads, and then made our decision.
So if you need more advice, ask an introvert. And for my fellow introverts: go with your gut feeling and trust yourself. It’s going to be okay. Truly, it is.