I think I was one of the first if not the first, after the lockdown to post the following tasteless joke:
“We woke up this morning to an introvert’s paradise: no going out, nothing open to go out to, no sports events. We’re all supposed to stay in and socialize via the net.”
Part of the reason I posted something LIKE (I don’t remember the wording exactly) that on Instapundit was that I was furious at the lockdown, which was ordered AFTER the Diamond Princess numbers made clear we had nothing to fear, beyond “bad flu year.” (And the people who came here and bald faced told me that’s because the people in the Diamond Princess had the best possible medical care –…. on a cruise ship, i.e. the kind of environment where people routinely get killed by common viruses, cruise ships being sort of floating, fun virus buckets where isolation is impossible — can go and multiply with themselves.)
The other part of the reason is that I had something scheduled for that week which I had been trying to avoid. (I don’t remember what, after two elastic weeks to flatten that curve since March 2020.) And frankly, for an introvert, as scared as I was of what it would do to the economy and the society, this was a fine excuse to avoid peopleing, which is always, at best, mildly uncomfortable, even when it’s with people I like or love. (Except Dan, apparently. He’s not people. He’s part of me.)
What you have to understand is that every time there is a scheduled get together, I try to come up with excuses to avoid it. How strong the excuses depends on how uncomfortable it makes me feel. So it can range from really creative, up to and including all symptoms of illness, when it’s say an unfamiliar large con, or meeting with people I don’t know very well to discuss business, or other “unknown” situation; to I think up excuses, tell myself I’m being silly, discard them and go ahead and meet: when seeing the kids, or (when I had one) my writers’ group, or meeting a friend, or going out with Dan to walk in the zoo, say.
BUT I ALWAYS THINK UP EXCUSES. Always. And sometimes I find I just can’t people, no matter how hard I try.
Here’s the thing I’ve found, though, in almost six decades in this world: when I manage to avoid going out/meeting with people/interacting with strangers, it makes it harder to do it next time. It also makes me (and most of us, because introverted or not, we are social apes) slightly more depressed, and a little weirder, till we’re too depressed to know why, and too weird to pass in public.
So I try to people, every so often. Even if I’m one of those for whom “Being out, seeing strangers, and ordering coffee” is enough interaction for a day. (Kind of. without larger gatherings, I can still become more averse to those, which apparently are also needed, like once a month.) Which is why Denver’s insanity of closing the churches and requiring masks outside at the zoo and botanic gardens (As an asthmatic, masks — even face shields — bring on an attack fairly quickly) drove me nuts. Because they took away my safe “see lots of strangers.” once a week thing. They also took away huns’ dinner, my once a month “interact with strangers, so you don’t become a total weirdo” thing.
Yeah, things are more open now (though Denver is apparently mask-happy again) and I’m in a place where none of that applies, anyway.
But it’s been almost two years. And in many ways I’m not doing particularly well. For instance having bought a car I was comfortable driving, just before lock-down, I found there was no place to drive to. In fact, at that time, there were signs saying if you were out and driving about — by yourself, in your car — you were being bad, and should stay home. (The epitome of stupidity.) And while we were never stopped on the road, we had the papers for husband who had that coveted “essential” excuse to travel (though his job 99% of the time could and was performed from home, anyway.) Because we’d heard stories of the police stopping other people and being distinctly unpleasant, if not insisting people go home,a nd “escorting” them there. (And think about that. In a real LETHAL pandemic, stopping people who were not at risk in their own cars, outside, driving around, and interacting in close proximity would put the law enforcement personnel at risk for no good reason. Which tells you this was only a Statist Pandemic, not a lethal one (not that people don’t die from it, but most don’t. And most of the measures ostensibly taken to thwart it only thwart normal life and increase governmental power.))
So now that I can/should be driving, it’s like there’s this insurmountable step. I KNOW I can drive, but the back brain doesn’t. And it’s like…. I’m looking at a stairway with normal steps, but the first one I have to climb by reaching as far up as I can and scrambling up. And I can’t get to that first step. Which I have to get around. I just don’t know HOW.
And the same type of thing has set in for actualy going out/meeting people/doing anything.
For the holidays, I both have a strong need to get everyone together and gather the tribe and it terrifies me. Other tribe members seem to be having the same symptoms.
From a conversation with a friend this morning, we’re not the only ones with this issue. In fact, every family of introverts is suffering from this. Yes, it’s worse where one or more family members hold fast to the Covidiocy Cult of Fear. But almost two years into it, and not seeing corpses on the street corner, one must wonder if that’s what they’re really afraid of, or if it’s just “getting out and seeing people” even your nearest and dearest.
Because the covidiocy nuked casual social gatherings/going out to eat/strolls through parks and museums and such, this might manifest even in people who work outside the home. They’ve got their heads attuned to “go to work, come home” and can’t conceive of going out (or having people in) for fun. Even if they know they should be doing it, they find excuses, whether it’s Covidiocy or — the more rational ones — other things/other reasons the isolation must continue.
Here’s the problem: For introverts, excuses to hide and crawl in a hole, and stay by ourselves are like drowning in chocolate. You go from “Oh, this is fine. This is great.” to “I never want to leave this, though I know I should” to …. well, a state you can’t escape. By the time you’re aware it’s killing you, it will be too late to do anything about it.
BTW this is doubly apt to those of you who used to work in an office, or whatever, but are now working from home. But the curtailed/masked/distanced society we were plunged into by dictate of those who have reason to fear the wrath of We The People is doing this to EVERYONE to some extent.
You are a social ape. There is a reason the image of the recluse and shut-in is that of a half-mad person. In one of the few things Eric Flint and I ever agreed on, was when he was talking about how writers are always peculiar. “And if they aren’t before they become writers, they quickly become peculiar. More so as time goes on, because staying in the house, and working mostly with things from inside your head means you lose an external check on your behavior and mood. Until you become too peculiar for normal people.”
Note, this is true even if you go to an office to work, because there the interactions are limited/scripted/circumscribed. The spontaneous interactions we had before this insanity being gone, still makes us peculiar.
Look, it makes NORMAL people peculiar. Imagine what it’s doing to us introverted and Odd. (And yes, I know I can fake extrovert. It’s the panic before and exhaustion after that are a problem.)
As the holidays are upon us, remember that.
This enticing solitude can kill. In fact the “I’m fine, I’m great” till it’s too late is the introvert’s high road to suicide. You fall under your own peculiarities, and stop realizing they no longer interact with reality.
It might seem to you that making small talk with boring relatives is besides the point, but it is not. people need people, and with gatherings and watching faces (not masks) and all that, you’re receiving sensory data that tells your backbrain you have a tribe and are valued. You are not alone, on an ice-floe in the middle of nowhere, and might as well give up and die.
Listen to me. Please. Pay attention to what I’m saying. I’ve battled these demons a long time, and being a writer, and working from home, even back when I had “scripted” interactions with the kids’ teachers or the grocery store clerk, I had time to see the danger and be aware of it.
You think you like being alone. But we’re all susceptible to too much of what we enjoy.
Check whether you might be drowning n chocolate. Secure your (social) oxygen mask, before you secure that of someone you care for.
Get out, get out while you still can.
Because this isolated comfort is another word for suicide.