Back when I was in college Jeff Foxworthy and his famous “You might be a redneck. . .” routine were all the rage. I have no idea if he was universally appreciated or if his popularity in my neck of the woods was due, much like country music, to where I went to school. Regardless, he was the first comedian I ever saw live and I loved it. I think his jokes were especially hilarious to me because this Jersey girl was still trying to acclimate to life in rural Virginia and the many self-proclaimed “rednecks” I found myself living among. It was a classic case of culture shock.
I was impressed by how spot-on Foxworthy’s observations were, and equally impressed by how many of my classmates were comfortable laughing at themselves as he poked fun at them. It was a very different time.
Now, about a month into quarantine, I seem to have his familiar tagline running on repeat through my brain, only instead of thinking about “rednecks” I keep thinking ‘You might be an introvert if . . .”
- “You might be an introvert if life during quarantine is too much togetherness.”
- “You might be an introvert if venturing into public spaces only once every two weeks still feels like too often.”
- “You might be an introvert if you think that online classes are better than going to class in person.”
- “You might be an introvert if you happily packed away all your jeans and pants with buttons to make room for sweatpants, joggers, “fancy” leggings” and pajama pants.
- “You might be an introvert if you don’t miss going out to eat or hanging out in bars.”
- “You might be an introvert if “solo running” is the only kind of running your’ve ever done.”
- “You might be an introvert if you want social distancing guidelines to remain in place indefinitely.”
- “You might be an introvert if you are anxiously awaiting the end of quarantine so your family can back to school and work.”
- “You might be an introvert if you are looking for ways to opt out of zoom “meetings” and FaceTime calls.”
- “You might be an introvert if you don’t have any friends to miss hanging out with.”
- “You might be an introvert if all the thinking about coronavirus is making you need a nap.”
- “You might be an introvert if you cringe every time you hear one of your kids’ bedroom doors open.”
- “You might be an introvert if you’ve started hiding food in your closet for when you need some alone time.”
- “You might be an introvert if you are terrified of the prospect of venturing into public again.”
Yup – after thinking about these I think I might be an introvert.
Just kidding . . . .
I know I am an introvert.
Only I didn’t realize just how much I craved my alone time until it was gone.
Let’s face it, as a working mom of three kids who have thirty-three different activities I didn’t get a whole lot of alone time before quarantine. A couple of hours on the treadmill or trail each week, which doesn’t really count as time to recharge but is critical to my mental health, and some time in the car while running errands over the weekend, was typical. And every couple weeks I’d sit out a concert or a game just to be at home by myself for a little while. I was lucky to average a couple of hours of solace each week.
Now I am never alone. And I know I am not alone in my lack of alone time. Millions of people around the world have been staying home with their families, friends and partners for weeks now, and the introverts among us are trying not to go insane.
I think a lot of people expect introverts to be flourishing during this quarantine. And while there are benefits – no social engagements, no busy calendars, no need to think up creative excuses to stay home, no large gatherings of people, and at least six feet [hopefully] of personal space at the grocery store – there are also drawbacks.
For me, the biggest difficulty is the constant togetherness. During the last four weeks there has be no time to work or read or write or think uninterrupted. The very thing I need to feel peace and calm and revitalized has been illusive for over a month now, and I have no idea when I will ever have the freedom of space again.
My personal solution to this dilemma has become hiding in my closet – it’s on the other side of the master bathroom so no-one can find me in there. The other day I took my iPad, a cup of tea, a magazine, my AirPods and a candle and I just sat on the floor for about an hour. It was reminiscent of when the kids were little and I’d go to the bathroom and turn on the shower while I sat on the bathmat to read for about twenty minutes.
Oh gosh, speaking of which, I am so grateful I don’t have little kids right now. As much attention as my kids need, as tweens and teens they capable of entertaining and [occasionally] feeding themselves.
But still, as their mom I feel enormous pressure to be “on” and to be available to help get them through this uncertain time. While each of my children is in a different place on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, I know that adolescents need their friends. They thrive on togetherness and connection. And while social media helps, it is no replacement for cruising around with your buddies, making music with the band, having slumber parties with your besties or bonding on the baseball diamond. My kids are hurting and I know it.
To help them through this difficult time I try to organize activities, play games, pick shows to binge-watch, make their favorite snacks and dinners, and most of all be available whenever someone proposes that we do something together. I encourage outdoor time everyday, even in the rain, snow and wind, and find myself happily engaging in activities that I thought were well in my rear-view mirror, things like coloring with sidewalk chalk, and playing red light/green light, and Huckle Buckle Beanstalk to name a few.
I’m not complaining about this. On the contrary, spending time with my family brings me joy and laughter and even a brief respite from the dire situation of the world. Furthermore, it’s my job. Just as it was my job to read stories and build with blocks and play countless games of checkers or Candyland when my kids were young to stimulate their little minds, it is still my responsibility to look after their mental and physical health – to make them think and move and laugh and love and find the good in each day. I signed up for the long haul and I feel lucky to have this extra time with them. But, man, it is exhausting some days.
As an introvert I think and feel deeply. And sometimes enormous weight of this pandemic is crushing and I just want to sit and cry. But there’s no time for that because I am ALWAYS surrounded by people. I do try and get up early for a little bit of quiet time each morning – but between disinfecting the house daily, a process that takes about 90 minutes each day, and trying to get some work done before the first child wakes and begins demanding food or attention or help with homework, I purposely don’t allow myself to see any news or process any headlines. I simply can’t risk losing the 60 minutes of quiet time I might get each day to a mental breakdown.
And yet – I know I am one of the lucky ones. Although it drives me crazy when someone runs down the stairs calling, “Mom” when I am deep in the flow of writing or bangs on my bedroom door when I am trying to squeeze in a quick Pilates workout, my family does have the space to spread out. We can all retreat to our corners and regroup. We can close our doors (or hide in the closet) and get a few moments alone. Many people quarantining right now do not have that luxury.
I also recognize that the grass is not greener for my friends who are living alone. As much as I complain about the mess and the constant cooking and cleaning and talking – oh the incessant talking – I can’t imagine being home all day, every day by myself. I’ve made it a point to reach out to my family and friends who are riding out this pandemic solo. The sense of loneliness and isolation they must feel – even the ones who generally love living alone – is something I can’t honestly relate to.
Finally, I know the extroverts are struggling too. How do I know? Because they are looking to me for constant amusement, conversation and companionship (lol!). Certainly being forced to stay home and maintaining social distancing is hard on them as well.
But, if you are an introvert and you are struggling right now – that’s okay. You are not alone. (Never alone). We get through this together.